Wednesday, August 19, 2009

"Shepherding" Chapter 14: Infancy to Childhood - Training Objectives

Nothing characterizes the time of infancy through age 5 like the word "change." Children grow taller and learn to feed themselves. They learn to play with others and to recite their ABC's. They begin to get basic understanding of who God is. But for us parents, if there is one concept that we must teach them in this stage of life, it is that they are individuals who are under authority. We must model this in our own lives, and explain that obedience is a response to the Lord. You must have this mindset from day 1 of your child's life, and if you have not started yet, now is the time to begin. The fruit will not come overnight, but will be yielded throughout the childhood and teen years. "Respectful teenagers are developed when they are 1, 2, 3, 4, or 5, not at 13, 14, 15, or 16."

Your child's God-given responsibility is to submit to, honor, and obey you (Ephesians 6:1-3). We are all contaminated with a sin nature, so training a child to do this will not be easy. But we must believe and communicate that the child will be blessed if she remains within God's "circle of blessing."

How can we define honoring and obeying parents? Here are some thoughts:
  1. Children must not speak to parents in imperatives, or as they would speak to a peer.
  2. Obedience can be defined as the "willing submission of one person to the authority of another."
  3. Because it is a willing submission, attitude matters! Remember to focus on the heart, not just behavior. Some use phrase that they must obey "all the way, right away, and with a happy heart."
  4. If I accept any response besides complete and willful obedience, then I am training them to rebel against my, and God's, authority.
  5. Be consistent. It is exhausting for us, but to enforce obedience in our children is our command from God!
  6. You can train your child to appeal only after they have learned that they are individuals under authority. Tripp gives some great guidelines, and I encourage you to review this section on your own.
Training a child to willingly submit to authority is understandably difficult. After all, it is an issue of spirit versus flesh. But accomplishing this objective during the first 5 years of the child's life is much easier than dealing with the back-end consequences. Remember that this objective is a blessing, not a restriction, for your child. Submitting to parents is a call to trust God, rather than self. If your child struggles with submitting, you can use this as a tool to help him realize the depravity of his heart, and his need to depend on Christ.

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