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In the 1970s, discipline became a dirty word. It was popular to let kids grow up "to be their own person, to be what they want to be." And we're paying the price for that today with broken homes, high crime rates, illiteracy, and large prison populations.

Obviously that theory didn't work. A child must be given direction because he's immature physically, emotionally, and spiritually. He needs discipline because he doesn't know what's best for him.

Discipline involves establishing requirements for your children, supporting them to meet those requirements, and imposing consequences when they fail to adhere to the standards you set.

For example, if you have a family devotional time, you should require your children's presence and participation. Depending on their age, you can assign them responsibility for organizing or leading part of the devotional.

In addition to family devotions, you should help your children schedule adequate time for private Bible study as well. You may need to outline Bible study goals for them. Take time to answer their questions and discuss what they're learning.

Also make sure your children have time in their day for prayer. You can't pray for them, but you can pray with them and make sure they're at least going through the motions. The Lord will show up to lend a hand.

As your children meet your requirements, encourage them with your attention, affirmation, and affection. Continually express your delight at how they're growing in the ways of the Lord.

Occasionally, when they're disobedient or rebellious, you'll have to use the rod of discipline. I realize a lot of parents have avoided spanking their children because they experienced abuse at the hands of their own parents. Or maybe they listened to some so-called expert who told them spanking would be harmful to their child. But you have to decide. Are you going to believe the Bible or what the world says?

I'm sorry for the abuse which has occurred but don't let it make you turn away from what the Bible says is necessary if your family is going to become what God wants it to be. The fact is, spanking, done in the appropriate manner, can be a useful tool in enforcing the standards you have set in your home.

But there is a way you need to do it. You must administer punishment in love not anger. The Bible says if you discipline in anger, you will provoke your children to wrath. They will become angry children and later on, angry adults. So if you're boiling mad about something your child has done, wait until you cool off before you deliver the necessary correction. Wait until you can do it in love.

Practice What You Preach
Although instruction and discipline are crucial, there's something even more important you must do to effectively train your children in the ways of the Lord.

You must model the value system you're trying to teach your children and be the example of what you're preaching. Your actions must support your words. Otherwise, you'll undermine your own efforts.

The Apostle Paul emphasized this fact when he wrote in 1 Thessalonians:
For our gospel came not unto you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance; as ye know what manner of men we were among you for your sake.
(1 Thess. 1:5)
Paul lived what he preached. The church at Thessalonica knew what manner of man he was because his actions confirmed his words. God was able to anoint Paul's words with power resulting in the Thessalonians' becoming followers of Paul and the Lord.

If you want your children to become followers of the Lord, you'll need to model God's Word like Paul did. Then the Holy Spirit will anoint your words to bring about positive change in your children's lives.

Consider the example of training your children in forgiveness and the importance of conflict resolution. Maybe your son squabbles with his sister and they both run off to their rooms to pout. You intervene by bringing them together, making them face the issue, and having them talk it out until they come to a place of agreement. You instruct them in how to forgive and get rid of resentment and bitterness.

All that training will be for naught if they see you and their mother have an argument after which she runs into the bedroom and slams the door while you storm out of the house to go who knows where. Your own example will negate everything you tried to teach your children about forgiveness.

Obviously, you want to avoid modeling the inappropriate behaviors, but on the positive side, you must also demonstrate what it means to walk with the Lord.
  • Do your children see you studying the Bible?
  • Do they observe you in private devotional time worshipping the Lord with hands raised and thanking Him with tears of gratitude for what He has done?
  • Have they seen you turn to the Bible for answers in time of crisis or pray before you take a family member to the hospital?
  • Do they hear you speak words of faith rather than doubt and unbelief?
Your example will set a precedent for their lives.

Refuel, Recuperate and Rearm
Remember, the reason your children need training in the first place is because there's a war going on the world. Satan and his allies are doing everything possible to disrupt God's plan not only in the earth but in your home. Satan knows that a strong Christian home is a powerful base of operations for overcoming his schemes.

That means your home must function like a base of operations in the military. It is the place where your family's day originates and terminates. It must provide refueling, recuperation, and rearming for your own little unit of God's army.

Love is the fuel that drives God's army. It must be available in abundant supply in your home. Without adequate love, your family won't have the strength they need to handle the repeated rejection, disappointment, heartbreak, and failure they experience in the world every day.

Every member of the family needs it, even big strong Dad. I remember when my daughter was young, I tried to teach her how to wink. Like any small child, she had trouble mastering the art of closing just one eye at a time. So, she winked by closing both eyes. Whenever I saw her in a grumpy mood, I gave her a big smile and a wink. Within seconds she was grinning widely herself.

One day I came home after a very tough time at work. It must have shown because when I looked across the dinner table I saw my daughter grin and give me that two-eyed wink. I can tell you my tank immediately went from empty to about three quarters full. She reminded me you can communicate love with just a glance.

Since love is kind, any word, deed or gesture done in kindness will help your family members feel loved. Touching is an important part of this. You big macho guys shouldn't be embarrassed to hold your wife's hand even in the grocery store where someone might see you. And when you notice that little fellow sitting at the other end of the couch, make him scoot toward you so you can put your arm around him.

There will be times, despite all your efforts, when your children will experience real trauma out in the world. It may be something as simple as an older kid telling your son he's weird or your daughter being made fun of by a boy she likes. As parents concerned with the major problems of adult life, it's easy to make light of such childish hurts. Because they seem small to us, we often fail to give our children the help they need to recover from them.

Here again, we can learn from the military example. In combat situations, every soldier is given regular periods of rest and recuperation because the hostile environment can be so traumatic. If a pilot has to eject from his airplane, he is given a comprehensive evaluation and time to recuperate. Then he is put back in the pilot's seat so his fears won't magnify and keep him from flying.

Give your children that same kind of consideration. Be sensitive enough to notice when they have experienced trauma. When they're too quiet or just not acting like themselves, find out what's wrong. If they've been hurt, take special measures to counteract the bad effects and help them gain back their confidence. Then support them to get back in the battle and not let their bad experiences immobilize them.

Finally, you must help your children to rearm. As Christians, our major offensive weapon is the Word of God. So make certain your children leave the house each day armed to the teeth with God's Word and a knowledge of how to effectively apply scripture to the challenges they face.

It's Never Too Late
If your children are no longer babies, right now you may be wishing you'd learned these things years ago. You may be thinking of the ways you've failed as a parent and feeling sorry for all the opportunities you've missed. Most of us have felt such regrets at one time or another. But don't be discouraged. Just start today and do everything you can to make your house a home.

Even if your children are grown up and gone, remember God is the Lord of reconciliation and restoration. If you truly repent of mistakes you made, God has promised to restore the years the locusts have eaten. He will work with you to repair those damaged family relationships.

No doubt it will take time and work to change old patterns in your family and establish new ones, but with the help of the Holy Spirit you can do it. I can assure you that in the end it will be well worth the effort.

You'll experience a marvelous side benefit. Your own walk will become deeper and more powerful. You'll see the glory of the Lord in your life as never before. And because you've trained your children to know and walk with Him that glory will be with your family for generations to come.

Copyright © Mac Hammond Ministries
All rights reserved. Used by permission.

Author Biography

Mac Hammond
Web site: Mac Hammond
Mac Hammond is senior pastor of Living Word Christian Center, a large and growing church in Brooklyn Park (a suburb of Minneapolis), Minnesota. He is the host of the Winner’s Way broadcast and author of several internationally distributed books. Mac is broadly acclaimed for his ability to apply the principles of the Bible to practical situations and the challenges of daily living.

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