Creating a Lifestyle for Your Child

Parenting is a great joy. It brings many wonderful blessings to both mum and dad.  So let me help those who are not so confident, with some Biblical insights.

A command given to parents is to train your child.  The Bible also gives advice about what we train into the child.  We train the child in the “way he should go”.  That means we create in our child a lifestyle they will follow.

Train up a child in the way he should go: and even when he is old, he will not depart from it.” Proverbs 22:6

Way to Go

We might better understand the phrase “way he should go” by thinking of it as the “lifestyle” the child will follow.  The way is not just a couple of key things we want the child to value, such as good manners or going to church.  The idea here is of a whole life orientation, not just a select few things.

In past generations Christian parents insisted on certain behaviours from their child, but let the world sow its lifestyle values as well.  The child then followed the lifestyle of the world, and may or may not have kept the particular few things the parents taught.

So give some thought to the “lifestyle” you want to create in your child, not just the few token behaviours that are important to you.

Course of Life

The Hebrew word translated as “way” in Proverbs 22:6 is ‘derek’, which refers to a road we tread (a ‘walk’ rather than a highway we drive along), and has the figurative meanings of a course of life or a mode of action.  The word is at times translated in the King James Bible as “conversation”, which does not mean talking, but “lifestyle”.

You, as the parent, train your child in the course of life and mode of action.  You determine the path they tread and cultivate the lifestyle they will live.  You are commanded to do so.

Do Not Abandon Your Child

If you are not training your child you are leaving him to himself.  You are warned in the Bible not to do that, because a child left to himself will bring his mother to shame.

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

Children need training.  You are to correct their wrong behaviour and direct their actions into the way you want them to live.  If you do not do that, maybe because you think their naughty actions are cute, or that you are supposed to let them discover their own way, you have failed the child and failed God.

A key aspect in training a child is to discipline them for their wrong choices, wrong actions and foolishness.  This basic Biblical training method is so essential it led to the saying, “If you Spare the Rod you Spoil the Child”.  To ‘spoil’ means to ruin, like food that has gone rotten. It is spoiled.  Do not abandon and spoil your child.

Core Lifestyle Values

To train a child in the right lifestyle you need to know what that lifestyle is.  Simply stated it is a ‘godly’ lifestyle.  It is a lifestyle centred on desire to glorify God and to live as God wants us to.  We know this from the prophet Malachi who explained that the reason God created marriage is to produce “godly seed”.

“And did not he make one? Yet had he the residue of the spirit. And wherefore one? That he might seek a godly seed. Therefore take heed to your spirit, and let none deal treacherously against the wife of his youth.” Malachi 2:15

Note that being godly is not something we add on to our lifestyle, but is the core lifestyle value.  Some people who live for self, money, success, fame or other things are able to go to church, do good deeds and look quite godly.

But someone who is godly at heart has the desire to glorify God and to be blessed by God as their primary goal, not self, money, success, pleasure or those many other things.  While on the outside the behaviours may seem similar, at heart they are very different.

Training the Heart

God looks at the heart of your child.  God knows when your child loves self, the world, pleasure or other things.  It is vitally important for you to train the heart of your child.

“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

Since God sees the heart of your child and will reward your child accordingly, you also must look into the heart of your child and train their tender heart to love and respect God.

One way to do this is to have a close, heart to heart bond with your child, so they open their heart to you and you can speak into their life at the deepest level.

King Solomon expressed the father’s desire to have his son open his heart to his dad.

My son, give me your heart, and let your eyes observe my ways.” Proverbs 23:26

Both Parents Training the Child

Another key point is that training the child is done by both parents.  It is not the mother’s job or the father’s job.  Both mum and dad have a part to play and they work together to create the best outcome.

The Bible calls children to obey both mother and father, so obviously both parents are training them in the right lifestyle.

Children, obey your parents in all things: for this is well pleasing unto the Lord.” Colossians 3:20

King Solomon reveals that the mother and father have complimentary roles.  He refers to the father’s actions and the mother’s contribution as different, yet obviously working together.

“My son, keep your father’s commandment, and forsake not the law of your mother” Proverbs 6:20

A Godly Lifestyle

To train your child to a godly lifestyle you need to know what that lifestyle looks like.  It looks quite different to the values and actions of typical children and youth.  Western culture has moved far away from godliness and is based mostly on selfishness and worldliness.

If you allow your child to learn the values of their peers and what is found in everyday music, movies, advertising and role models then they have no hope of being godly.  You will not have trained them in the correct way.

Remember that you are training their heart to be tender toward God.  You want to develop in them a love for God and confidence that serving God and keeping God’s requirements brings them the greatest blessings, because it does.

Your Own Lifestyle

If your own lifestyle is full of addictions to this world, selfish interest, keeping up with the trends, gobbling down the latest and greatest that the world has to offer, and so on, then you will not really know the godly way to create in your child’s heart.  And you will also automatically train your child to be like you.

An important starting point is to humble yourself before God and ask Him to create a clean heart in you and to lead you to love and worship Him fully.  As you learn to do that you can then bring your child along in the same experience.

It is not wrong to have things that are in the world, but the extreme danger is when we love those things.  We know we love them when we refuse to give them up.  Rather than giving up or shutting down those things that could contaminate your child, you will be tempted to find reasons to keep them in your life.

I challenge you to love your child enough to seek God until you love Him enough to clean out your lifestyle of all things that tempt your child to love something other than God.

Parenting is Joy

It is a joyful thing to have godly children you have trained who fill your life with good things.

“Correct your son and he will give you rest; yes, he will give delight to your soul.” Proverbs 29:17

You do not need to be ashamed, pained, disturbed or anxious about your children.  The benefits of good parenting are not only enjoyed in your child, but they come back to you as lovely and delightful rewards as well.

The Lord bless you as you give Him your heart and lead your children to love Him too.

Training Boys

It seems that schools and parents find it difficult to train boys these days and plenty of thought is going into finding effective means to achieve the needed outcomes. I have to smile, or maybe despair, when I hear these discussions, because methinks the real issue is too easily overlooked. But I’ll keep my thoughts on the real issue to later.

For now, let me examine what the experts are saying and what I think lies behind the current predicament confronting those engaged in training boys. Note, too, that much of what is relevant to training boys is also important in training girls as well, so all parents can gain value from reviewing the following notes.

Teaching Boys To Control Themselves

The issue that takes focus for tempering bad boy behaviour is put under the heading of “regulating or controlling one’s emotions”. When a child yells, screams or throws a tantrum they are seen as having a problem regulating or controlling their emotions.

I know that many parents who have seen their children yell, scream and throw a tantrum would not identify the ‘emotions’ as the central issue, but the will. Many children resort to those behaviours in order to get their way, frustrate their parents’ wishes and assert their control over situations. However the psychologists, school administrators and others who confront these behaviours are likely to label the problem as a lack of skills in regulating and controlling emotions.

Professionals not only attribute this lack of emotional control to poor training, but to slow development of the “prefrontal cortex”, so the child “can’t sufficiently moderate the emotional signals of the brain’s limbic system”.

Note that the professional solution to this biological problem is still a matter of learning how to control behaviour. Skilled clinicians are being trained to teach children “how to access rational problem-solving skills”.

Dr Adam Cox

Australia was recently visited by Dr Adam Cox, a USA psychologist who teaches boys how to use what he terms “Executive Thinking”. This type of thinking helps boys in particular, enabling them to better cope with life’s challenges.

Dr Cox’s work comes with high commendation and it is always good to see something that assists in problem areas. And he is very positive about the role of parents in providing discipline to their children. He sees that some parents may give in too much to rowdy behaviour of their children. He also recognises that single-parent homes are handicapped in providing the input needed. Some parents don’t seem to know how and when to discipline.

The Ideal Outcome

The desired result of teaching children “Executive Thinking” is that they gain a level of self-control which regulates their behaviour. Dr Cox points out that children who are without such self-control are in an unhappy situation.

“When children learn these skills, they are noticeably more confident, and generally feel safer. It is a terrible burden to go through life fearing that your emotions may dictate your behavior at any moment.”

Personal confidence and security are the outcomes which Dr Cox recognises in children who do not have behaviour problems. What he is identifying is what every good parent expects and sees in their own children. Well trained and well disciplined children are happy, secure, confident and well-adjusted. Children who must yell, scream and throw tantrums are poorly-adjusted, unhappy, insecure and a misery to deal with.

Good Parenting

I have mentioned that Dr Cox is positive about parenting. The following quote affirms his positive approach to quality parenting.

“I am always inclined to give parents the benefit of the doubt. If parents know how to intervene effectively – they generally will. I just wish that, as a society, we didn’t assume that parenting comes naturally. For most people, it requires lots of patience and practice. Great parenting has much more to do with endurance than engineering!”

My book, “Parenting Horizons – Empowering Parents to Build Generations”, is designed as a clear overview of the challenges with practical guidelines for parents. It is based on clear Biblical principles in an up-to-date language and with analogies and descriptions which clarify the key issues.

Parenting Horizons is available from Family Horizons, at www.familyhorizons.net.

The Real Issue for Boys

Boys are created to become men and to take on leadership in their marriage, home and the broader community. They are created to answer to God for themselves and those they are responsible for. So, boys are specially suited to proper discipline based on just and moral processes, applied by those who have authority over them.

When boys are not subject to clear guidelines, strong discipline and loving authority which calls them to account they become frustrated. At a deep personal level they do not enjoy being morally irrelevant. They want to rise to their created purpose, even if other parts of them wish to indulge rebellion, selfishness or evil.

The real issue for boys is their need for clear and strong discipline. This is consistent with who God made them to be and it prepares them for the responsibilities and authority which they are destined to carry.

Biblical Wisdom

The Bible teaches that boys need clear and attentive direction from their parents. Consider the following verses from the wisdom of Solomon and look for the importance of instruction, discipline and authority in the life of children, and especially boys.

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

“Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” Proverbs 22:6

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

A Critique on the Psychological Approach

Children need discipline provided by their parents. When this fails and the child does no behave correctly this is a major problem for the child’s future, as well as those who must struggle to control and assist the child through life.

While physiological issues such as the “prefrontal cortex” and “the brain’s limbic system” may have a part to play the only real solution is not biological, but involves further efforts to train the child.

The real issue for children, and boys in particular, is Training. Biblical training involves physical punishment as more than a motivator, but also as a therapy which removes foolishness from the child.

When parents employ Biblical training, involving the “rod of correction” they will raise happy, secure, confident and well-adjusted children who will not be a problem to those around them.