Missing Ingredients

Effective Parenting requires that you use the right ingredients. If something is missing then the recipe will not turn out right. Many parents lament they have not been as effective as they hoped and wanted to be. If you are in that category I trust this look at the Missing Ingredients proves helpful.

No Water

Some years ago we bought a bread-maker and made many successful loaves. We finally gave up, probably because the yummy bread was eaten in no time and bread making became a bit of a burden.

One memorable loaf which we baked overnight really disappointed us in the morning. The aroma of the hot grain could be smelled as usual, but when we opened the machine and looked inside there was simply a pile of dry ingredients in the base of the tin.

We forgot to add water. So the machine went through the whole process of mixing and heating and so on, but to no avail. A vital ingredient was missing and the machine just could not produce the usual delicious loaf.

We never forgot the water again.

Incomplete Recipe

temper-tantrum

In the same way parents can leave out something very important to the life of their child. If they do then some or all of the effort they put in will be wasted. If the recipe is incomplete then what is created won’t be what is expected.

That’s how many parents find it. What they get from their child is different to what they expected. So this lesson points you to two Biblical ingredients which every parent needs to put into the life of their child.

Rod and Reproof

People have different opinions about discipline and child training. Some are brainwashed to be negative about any form of punishment. Others believe if you spare the rod you spoil the child. Some believe that by being kind and patient the youngster will turn out right in the end.

Whatever your preferred ideas I want you to be Biblical first of all. Man’s ideas seem right but lead to destruction. We must put our own ideas aside and pay close attention to what the Bible teaches, since it is God’s Word to us.

So notice the Bible’s joint emphasis on two key ingredients: rod and reproof.

The rod and reproof give wisdom: but a child left to himself brings his mother to shame.” Proverbs 29:15

Give Attention

discipline

Before we look at “rod and reproof” please notice that they both represent giving special attention to the child. The opposite of those things is to have a child who is “left to himself”.

So it is important for parents, both dad and mum, to share life with the child and to give the child attention. If the child is left to himself or herself and allowed to do as he or she pleases without guidance and correction, the result will be shameful.

Children are not designed to find their own way and to determine what is right or best for them. They are designed to be guided, corrected, brought to account, instructed and led into the right things. That’s the role of parents.

So please give good, Biblical attention to your child, and especially give them both the rod and reproof.

The Rod

The Bible teaches that children are blessed when they are punished for their wrong behaviour. Godly punishment involves physical pain, such as a smack on the bottom. It teaches the child but it also enables the child to feel whole and resolved on the inside.

By being punished when they know they have done wrong a child achieves the lovely sense of being made right. They feel absolved and don’t live with unresolved guilt or fear of being found out.

Parents know that effective physical punishment administered appropriately leaves children happy and feeling clean on the inside.

Therefore the use of physical punishment is for the good of the child. If a parent smacks their child out of anger or to vent the parent’s frustration then the action ceases to be godly discipline and becomes self-serving and abusive.

Reproof

The Rod does not work so well on its own. The Bible tells us that the Rod and Reproof work in tandem to create wisdom in a child.

Reproof involves speaking to the child and speaking into the child’s life. It involves explanation, instruction, correction, godly counsel, affirmation and direction for future behaviour.

When reproof is employed along with use of the rod the results are far better than if either one is used on its own.

Words of Reproof

To help those who may not find the right words easily, here is an example of a reproof that could be given to a naughty child.

“You know what you did is wrong, don’t you? You disobeyed mummy and that’s a bad thing to do. God wants you to always do what mummy tells you to do. Now, you are a very special good boy that God gave to us so we can train you to be a mighty man for God. That’s why it is so important that we smack you when you do wrong things, so you will learn to do what God wants and you’ll become the man that God wants you to be.”

“Now I’m going to give you one smack for saying ‘No’ to mummy. Then you are going to ask mummy to forgive you and I’ll lead you in a prayer to ask God to forgive you too. And if you say ‘No’ to mummy again, I’ll have to give you two smacks, because one wasn’t enough to help you learn to do the right thing. Do you want me to give you two smacks? I didn’t think so. So, all you have to do is make sure you don’t say ‘No’ to mummy again and do just what she tells you do.”

Ingredients

spoiled-girl

Effective parents know that they have to deal with things as they come up. They can’t neglect the child’s training. They also know the child needs their love and affirmation and that firm discipline is an expression of love to the child. They also know a child is unsettled and agitated if they cannot resolve wrongs in their heart. Godly discipline clears away the messy feelings they carry around with them when they have done wrong.

Clear explanation, loving affirmation and practical engagement in the right behaviours, such as saying “Sorry”, lead the child to put godly character and good behaviour into their lives.

Being clear about the punishment, why it is given and how it will be increased in the future if correct behaviour is not evident, helps the child feel secure and clear about what to expect.

I hope that helps you refine something of what you do to bless your children.

The Heart of Your Child

It is vital that you train the heart of your children. However it is popular to ignore this essential process and give in to shallow alternatives. Since many young parents have not thought these issues through I am penning these notes as a guide to parents.

The Heart of the Matter

The most important part of your child’s development is the training of their heart. While we may not be aware of what is going on inside other people, including our children, the Bible tells us that God looks on the heart.

“But the LORD said to Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the LORD sees not as man sees; for man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart.” 1Samuel 16:7

God’s prophet, Samuel, did what people naturally do. He looked on external things. God accurately accused men of taking notice of external things – “man looks on the outward appearance”. That is why people have to take ‘first impressions’ seriously and why image is such a big deal for worldly people. It should not be so for those who love and follow God, but sadly appearance and image is a major focus of some churches today.

Since God looks on your child’s heart it is essential that you make it a key focus on your attention.

The Heart of Your Child is Exposed by What Comes Out

Jesus had much to say about what comes out of the heart. He said that we are defiled by what comes out of us. He then listed a bunch of things that find their source in the human heart.

“The words which come out of the mouth come from the heart; and they defile the man. For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies” Jesus Christ, Matthew 15:18-19

Jesus is pointing here to both the words people speak and the motivations that lead them to do evil things. So wise parents will be attentive to the spontaneous expressions from their children and also from the behaviour patterns the children display.

A winning smile on the face of a child can be deceptive. Sweet words of promise and nicety may be a cover for wrong intentions. In the same way that adults can be expert at this level of deception, some children know how to play up to their parents’ expectations.

Key Lessons For the Heart

The heart is troubled by the presence of foolishness, which Solomon warns us is bound in the heart of every child (Proverbs 22:15). So it is important for each parent to respect the particular process that God prescribes for removing that foolishness. The prescribed process is to use the rod of correction on the child.

Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child; but the rod of correction will drive it far from him.” Solomon, Proverbs 22:15

Obedience is a key test of the child’s heart. If a child refuses to obey then they have foolishness. So getting the child to promptly obey the parent is a key heart training process. This involves them submitting to the parent’s authority. In that process they learn to fear the Lord, giving respect to God’s requirement that they obey their parents.

Games and Tricks Don’t Train the Heart

Some parents think that they are doing quite well if they get the desired action from the child. But it is not the action that is the most important. What is important, as we saw earlier, is the heart of the child. God does not look on the outward evidence but on the heart.

If you instruct a child to eat their food and the child is reluctant to obey, then a matter of the heart has been exposed. The child’s rebellious or independent attitude is a more serious matter than the nutritional value of the meal.

Many parents, however, become distracted with the external element, getting the food into the child. They can completely miss the much more serious issue of the child’s heart. Clever parents can resort to games to get the child to eat. “Let’s pretend that the spoon is a train and your mouth is a tunnel. Let the train into the tunnel.”

Such games may be fun, but they set the parent and child up for future pain. The child’s heart is left in a rebellious state, even though all the food is eaten.

The same is true when a parent tricks a child into doing the right thing, or fitting in with the parent’s plans. Games and fun, cute as they may be in the hands of clever parents, have no place in testing or training the child’s heart.

The most mature and complete heart training is evident when there is every reason to disobey or to get away with doing wrong, and yet the person insists and persists in doing what is right.

Tough Choices Make for Strong Character

When parents rescue their children from tough choices they undermine the child’s character. Tough choices make for strong character.

The child who must stand by his post, while others get to do fun things, or taunt him, or who is otherwise suffering in order to be there, will develop much stronger character than the child who is given every opportunity to cheat on their character.

False compassion can prompt some parents to remove the tough choices and hard situations from their child’s life. Such emotion is called ‘false’ compassion because it is not true love at all. It masquerades as compassion but it harms the child, so it cannot be real love.

You are Allowed to Play Games

Please note that I am not saying every moment of your child’s life should be a tough moment with tough choices. There is plenty of room for fun, games and play. You are welcome to play ‘aeroplanes’ and fly the food into your child’s mouth or to make cleaning up the room into a fun race against the clock.

The tough choices are made at strategic moments and are then built upon. But once the tough moment is past it is time for celebration and enjoyment of life. The problem will come when your child is never challenged to learn and their heart is not trained.

Insist that they Learn

Parents, be diligent to ensure that each of your children has learned to obey you, to submit to authority and to fear God. You will need to remain attentive to their heart, through what they say and how that is backed up by the attitudes and actions.

Insist that they learn the lessons. Don’t give in, just because they are crying, or complaining. There is much more at stake than their temporary responses.

The Crash of 2008

We are living through the Crash of 2008. This time will be long remembered and it will be used as a reference point, just as the 1987 Crash and the Great Depression are. So we should take stock of what is going on and what we are going through.

This Is Your Crash!

Just last month, in September 2008 world markets crashed and entered a time of great volatility. In the weeks since then governments have taken drastic action to save their banks. Panic has hit the markets. Uncertainty and fear grips most economies. And in the lead up to this crisis millions of Americans have lost their homes. And to top it off the nation of Iceland is on the verge of bankruptcy.

People want to know how far this is going. Where will it end? Is this a recession or a depression? Is this survivable or is society going to change from this year on?

History of the Crisis

Firstly let’s review the history of the current crisis. It springs in large part from the Sub-Prime Lending problem. Following deregulation of the banking and financing sectors in many countries during the 1980’s money was made available to people whose ability to pay was not as reliable as was previously required to borrow money.

Prime Lending is for those who have good credit rating and strong asset backing. Sub-prime means they do not meet that standard. Loans were also treated as an asset by the banks and having a large number of loans meant lenders could sell those off.

In the 1990’s many new lenders paid good commissions to sales agents for selling their loans to people. Consequently millions of people who were not good credit risks ended up taking loans.

The large volume of business made the lending companies appear successful. International banks were keen to invest their money into the USA home market because of the high return they could get. Everyone knew it was risky, but no-one expected to get burned.

Problems with the subprime lending game were evident in the early 2000’s as many loans began to go bad. In Sept 2002 USA Home Foreclosures were at a 30 year high.

Yet the subprime lending boom continued and more billions were poured into this risky business from people around the world who wanted part of the profit.

By early 2007 the problem had escalated. In the first two months of 2007 22 American lending companies went bankrupt. There were 1.7 million foreclosures in America in the first 8 months of 2007.

By August 2007 international fall-out from the Sub-Prime Lending problem became a house-hold topic in Australia as we realised that many Australian and international banks were going to be hurt from their lending to the USA Subprime players.

Over the following year the shock-waves of the problem continued to reverberate, until last month, September 2008, when two major home lenders in the USA, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were taken over by the USA Govt.

The repercussions on many international banks who were players in the USA home lending market, either directly or through various indirect connections, means that some banks have bone bust while others have had to be bailed out by their governments.

The recent $700 billion USA commitment and $1,370 billion Eurozone plans are just part of the scramble to stabilise the world economies.

The Bigger Historical Picture

This is not the first great crash and it may not be the last. What is happening here is part of a long history of people getting caught out while trying to make a profit. Prognosticators have warned for decades that balance of payment issues, high levels of personal and national debt, and other pressures spelt doom for our economies. Yet corrections, collapsing markets, booms and busts have been part of history for a very long time.

Speculation, Boom, Bust and Bubbles

What tends to happen over and over again is that people who are keen to make a profit and get rich quick will catch on to something that seems popular. They are all hoping to strike it rich and make their fortune. This feeds speculation, inflates bubbles and leads to some of the booms and busts.

Millions of people have crossed oceans and faced all kinds of hardship because someone found gold in some place or other. These Gold Rush enthusiasts left whatever they had in the hope of finding much more.

In the same vein investors and dreamers have all jumped on the bandwagon when various things looked profitable, often losing all they had in the hope of gain.

Bubbles in the Bubbling Economy

A “Bubble” is created when false expectations are set up and a venture is made successful only because people invest in it. There have been many famous Bubbles down the centuries.

Holland had tulip mania in the 1630’s.

In 1720 just about everyone who had money in England was drawn into investing in what is known as the South Sea Bubble. English and American investors lost huge amounts of money in the hope of profits from ships going to South America. Isaac Newton and Mark Twain are said to be among those who lost money in that bubble.

There was the British Railways Bubble of the 1840’s.

The US Bull Market of the 1920’s created what we know of as the Roaring Twenties.

Florida had a Property Bubble from 1920-1925.

More recently we have seen the Junk Bonds in the USA, the Japanese Bubble economy of the 1980’s, the Dot.com boom of the 1990’s, Hedge-Fund Mania and even Enron Mania.

What is Really Going On?

So much for the background. That is cold comfort when we still don’t know where we are going and how bad it’s going to get. To take this discussion further I need to discuss what is really going on. That is the topic of a follow-on article which I’ll be posting in the next week.

Of Fathers and Sons

We live in a Fatherless World, as I explained in a recent post. So, how do fathers and sons work together to create this fatherless situation? That’s the question I want to explain in this update posting.

Fatherless-ness Defined

Fatherless-ness is the condition of being without the true fathering which God intended. Fathering is a divine calling and privilege. Yet in today’s world men think they can make of it what they want. So they become the kind of fathers that they choose to become, without regard for their divine calling. Most people today have lost sight of the foundations for their lives, so they follow the crowd. If other fathers do things a certain way then that social norm becomes the reference point for most fathers. Then, in the absence of truth to guide fathers to their real calling, they function as something less than a father. That creates a situation of fatherless-ness.

When a child is raised without the high level of spiritual responsibility and guidance that a real father is meant to bring to the child, then the child is fatherless, even if that child has a very present, very pleasant dad in their life.

Dad doesn’t create fathering. God created fathering and calls men to fulfil that mandate. Sadly, most men are either ignorant or irresponsible. They go about providing what they choose to provide in their role as dads. So their children are fatherless.

How Dads Create Fatherless-ness

When a dad is absent the child clearly is fatherless. With immorality rampant many children are born without fathers and not able to determine who their real father is. I spoke recently with a woman who was told by her mum that her dad would have been one of two men who the mum was not married to. Without DNA testing the daughter cannot be certain which of the men is her real dad. But she is at least lucky enough to narrow it down to two.

So the absentee father is one cause of fatherless-ness, but it is not the greatest cause of this problem from the dad’s side of the equation.

The more insidious fatherless-ness occurs when there is the appearance of a father, but the absence or true fathering, as I described earlier. When ever a man fails to be the man that God has called him to be or the father that God has called him to be, then he creates fatherless-ness.

I once worked with a family where the father had virtually no manhood. He acted much like his own children, but he had less intelligence than they did. He held down a menial job and left the running of the home to his wife and her father, who provided the mature male role in the home. The man’s children mocked him openly. He was a joke to them, and yet he thought such a situation was normal and reasonable. Such a man creates fatherless-ness, because he is not functioning as a father in that home.

When a dad lives for himself and raises his children as it suits him, he makes his children fatherless. When a dad ignores God’s authority over him and through him to his children, he makes his children fatherless. When a man abdicates from his manhood and leaves the home to his wife to run, he makes his children fatherless.

Dads create fatherless culture by their failure to be the fathers God created them to be in their child’s life.

How Children Create Fatherless-ness

Children also create fatherless-ness. They do it by rejecting their fathers. When children rebel against the instructions of their father, they make themselves ‘fatherless’. Just as refusing to drive a car, even when you have one in the garage, makes you effectively ‘car-less’, so refusing to honour your father, even though you have one in your home, makes you effectively ‘father-less’.

Children choose to become fatherless when they find that their dad frustrates their will. When the child decides to go against the father’s instructions or pull against his limitations, the child removes their self from being ‘fathered’. So the child becomes fatherless.

When children spend much of their life under the influence of their peers (as is the almost universal experience of western children) it is to be expected that the children will value the peer culture above their parent’s values. The child will be sorely tempted to side with the peers rather than the parents when these cultures conflict. When the child chooses to side with the peers that child replaces the father with the peer culture. The child is then fatherless.

Since the child will likely be determining his or her values from social norms, rather than from Biblical truth or some other external and unchanging reference point, the child will be encouraged to think that their fight for independence from parental control is normal and reasonable. They will have no idea that they have permanently damaged themselves and contributed to the fatherless world in which they live.

God the Father

Among the various responses that can be suggested in this fatherless world, the most powerful one is to firmly set God as Father in our lives. God is a father, as Jesus pointed out when He taught us to pray, “Our Father in Heaven…” That truth was already given in the Old Testament Scriptures.

“But now, O LORD, You are our father; we are the clay, and you our potter; and we all are the work of your hand.” Isaiah 64:8

“For whom the LORD loves he corrects; even as a father the son in whom he delights.” Proverbs 3:12

“Like as a father pities his children, so the LORD pities them that fear him.” Psalm 103:13

God is not only a father, He is the most perfect and complete, fully functioning father that could ever be imagined. Having God as our father brings into our lives all that our natural fathers were incapable of binging to us. So it is more than a nice idea to have God as our Father. It is an extremely powerful reality that will impact who we are more than just about anything else we could do.

I encourage you to overturn fatherless-ness in your life, but entering into intimate relationship with God as your Heavenly Father.

Teachable Heart

Do you hate being told off? Most of us react when someone is giving us a lecture and pointing out our faults. Some people turn off immediately, run away or even react aggressively when being corrected. How do you take correction? What don’t you like when people are bringing up your weakness, failings or faults? Do you have a teachable heart, or are you one of the stroppy ones who react poorly?

What about your children? Do they take correction? Do they become annoyed and frustrated when you try to instruct them?

King Solomon speaks directly about this common weakness in taking correction. He refers to correction as ‘reproof’. In Proverbs 12:1 Solomon notes that those who love instruction love knowledge, but those who hate reproof are the stupid ones.

There are no accolades for those who react when they are corrected. If you find yourself cringing, tensing, resenting the speaker, blocking the input, or other negative response to reproof you are on dangerous ground.

If you also think that your way is pretty good and you don’t need correction, you are even on worse ground. Hmmmm. Proverbs 12:15 says “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but he that receives counsel is wise”. Those voices of correction or reproof are ‘counsel’, and you are wise to receive them. If you are determined that you are right, then you are likely a fool.

Now, I know that there are some people who can turn correction into a toxic substance. That makes it even tougher to receive their words of reproof. What can I say? Those people do exist. They make a compliment into a death sentence. They have the ability to humiliate, denigrate and offend in the very process of giving reproof or correction which is valid.

When those people speak into our life we are doubly challenged. We don’t want to be corrected in the first place, but we also don’t want to be put down, taunted or otherwise offended by the person bringing correction.

To be super-spiritual about it, let me suggest that maybe God has elevated the stakes in your life, by bringing along the offending corrector. The double whammy may be to test your heart even more than normal. By upping the stakes on you God is giving you the chance to press through to greater freedom. Champions don’t train with the primary school squad – they undergo the most rigorous conditions. And so it is with your heart and spiritual growth. By having additional weights put onto the bar you are being given the opportunity to become a champion. The scorning corrector and the toxic rebuke, when received with God’s grace, will give you victories not attainable under the hand of a patient and kind counsellor.

So let’s consider your children again. If they react to your correction and instruction it could be because you are heavy-handed and even toxic in the way you bring correction and instruction. Please search your heart. There is no need for you to make life difficult for your children. If you have sufficient relationship with them, which I hope you do, then you may want to discuss these thoughts with them and encourage them to develop a teachable heart, even when you are not kind in the way you instruct them.

I counsel you to receive counsel. I counsel you to have a teachable heart. I counsel you to receive correction, even when it comes in a nasty package. I counsel you to be of an excellent spirit and to be counted among the wise, not the fools.