This may surprise you, but not getting along, striving to be first, seeking their own way, being demanding, and focusing all on themselves is NORMAL for every child. It is called living in a fallen world. As Christians, we believe in harnessing our natural fleshly desires and learning to partner with the character qualities of heaven, such as power, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (James 4:1-10 & Galatians 5:17).
Have you taught your children about love? We can’t expect what we do not first teach in times of peace. I love what this mom shares in our class. Have each family member take the online quiz, print out the results, and spend time talking about what each one looks like.
“It was so helpful for our family to discuss and identify together each other’s love languages. I’m excited to see how God will use this understanding of how we individually receive love to grow our relationships with one another!! I want to be intentional about daily having this awareness of filling my children’s love tanks in a way that speaks to them.”
I realize we are all first-generation parents stewarding the world of technology with our children. We will hit some home runs, and we will make some mistakes along the way. One day my son asked if he could take his phone with him on our family outing. I usually have them leave them at home because it is our time to connect, but I allowed it. He was playing a Spanish app and engrossed in it and barely said a word. I had to run to Walmart, and he asked if he could keep playing on it while I was shopping. I agreed to make an exception. The trip was chaotic. He was always a few feet behind us and not paying attention as he bumped into others due to looking down on his phone. I was in a bit of a hurry and was trying to find something for Ellie. I asked him to stay by the cart while I ran down the other aisle, and he absent-mindedly walked away, leaving my cart and purse unattended. I asked him to go back to the cart. A few moments later, Ellie came to me upset because Hudson was snapping at her. He was attempting to push the cart but ran into something because his eyes were on his phone. A few minutes later, I asked him to help me with something, and he had an attitude with me for ‘interrupting’ him. It was so chaotic and stressful. I went to him and held out my hand, asking for his phone. We finished and when we got into the car, I reminded him that I had raised him to be a helper, to see others, to be kind, to jump in where needed, to be a gentleman, to serve, be aware of his surroundings and to be a blessing. I did not raise a son whose eyes were locked looking down on a screen, walking around aimlessly without seeing a single person or contributing to the task. Every parent needs to make their own choice about technology, but for me, when they were younger, going to the store was our training ground for character, and I was not going to let a phone undo all that work. I care more about his development than his entertainment. I care more about the man he is becoming than his comfort. I care more about him seeing others than what he is watching for himself. The phone is not your friend if it is breaking connection with those around you.
I am all about empowering children, as my ministry is based on equipping parents on how to empower their children. However, I do not believe in empowering them BEFORE the child has first learned to submit. If you are empowering your young child by offering them a choice with everything you are teaching them, they are the master of their own world, which ultimately is not entirely true. Yes, they alone control themselves, but that doesn’t mean they are not accountable to an authority greater than themselves. Some things need to be submitted to, such as our relationship with God, our desires, Holy Spirit’s leading, stop signs, not playing in the street, harming another human, moral compass, relationships, righteousness, and so forth. We may be free to do as we choose, but that does not mean we want to raise children who are only motivated to respond when they are in control. I see parents of little ones so eager to empower their children. Yet, they are missing out on the required seasons of laying the foundation of character training and intentionally teaching children to submit to their authority. This is raising children who are defiant and full of entitlement.
Let me share an example: My daughter, who is a naturally born confident leader, went to babysit for a family. She returned and declared she would never do that again because the kids never listened to her. I encouraged another attempt. She again came through the door and stated the same thing. Not so eager to let her miss this golden opportunity to grow in her capacity to lead, I made her do it one more time. But this time, she came through the door and was most upset. I honestly could not figure out what was happening because this was a wonderful family. Shortly after, the mom asked me for a playdate, and we met at the park. Her toddler made a mess, and she asked, “Do you want a spanking now or a time out when we get home?” Instantly, I knew the problem my daughter was facing. When we got home, I asked her if she gave the kids a choice of when to go to bed. I asked if she gave them a choice of PJs. If she empowered them to decide if they wanted to brush their teeth or read their book first. My daughter was frustrated and said, “No, I just did what the mom told me to do with them, and they wouldn’t listen to a single thing I said.”
The problem was that she didn’t offer them choices, and the only way the child knew how to respond to authority was if they were in complete control of the option. This only works if, everywhere they go, people offer them choices to feel powerful, but that is not how the world is set up. Ultimately this is not true empowerment; this is entitlement. It is overwhelming to a small child who doesn’t even have the total brain capacity to always be in the driver’s seat. They are not orphans, but children set in families with parents who make healthy choices on their behalf.
A child must endure some training at home that establishes authority and how to surrender their will by trusting those God has given to care for them. The toddler years are when this is established and skipping this season and jumping right to empowerment will reap the fruit that will give parents a run for their money down the road. The definition of empowering means to give (someone) the authority or power to do something. If you give children something they do not know how to use properly, it is like giving a baby food before they know how to chew or a car before they know how to drive. We set our children up for messy accidents when we empower them before they are ready.
Do I believe in giving children space to make choices? YES! Do I believe in doing it before they have been first taught to trust your leadership? Not at all. Perhaps we can move away from the ‘do as I say’ control-based parenting and yet not swing so far to the other side where we skip some of the crucial character development that comes with being able to carry the weight of being truly empowered.
Ephesians 2:14 – “For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility.”
This word is in reference to the Jews and Gentiles and the relationships of the five-fold ministry, all working together, not divided. If this verse is for nations and opposing people groups, SURELY, it is applicable to our families as well. Next time you have two sibling groups that are walking in disunity and conflict, show them this verse and remind them that Jesus is their peace and He has destroyed the inability to work together!!!!!
The best thing I ever did was teach my kids each other’s love languages. Ellie came to tell me how good Hudson was reading. I reminded her that his language is words of affirmation and told her to go tell him directly. They have been best friends since. When a kid says they are bored, I ask them what Emma’s language is, and they say, “quality time.” The light bulb goes off, and they run to her, knowing she will always play with them. Taking ownership of loving each other is such a blessing in this household! How do you teach your children each other’s love language? Print out the results from the online quiz, call a family meeting, and share. I encourage you not to just say “words of affirmation” but to give examples of how they can do that.
When the kids were younger and had babysitters, I would tell her that if she was unsure about something, she could ask the kids, “What would your mom say/do about that?” Instead of the children feeling like they could get away with whatever the sitter allowed, it made them stop and think about what was right. It strengthened their muscle of walking in discernment and making good choices. I am seeing the fruit of this today in their teen years. Character counts!
Character matters because it matters to God. Children without character can’t sustain the gifts and assignments God wants to give them. It is much easier, by God’s design, to learn character IN childhood from parents who love and care for them. In this eBooklet, I will walk you through defining godly character (not legalism) and how to cultivate a lifestyle of character. Additionally, I will provide you with fun, creative activities to teach your children.
I knew one of my kid’s love tanks was low with her sibling because of the way he treated her. Hours later, he came to her with a request. I could predict her response, “NO!” Not because she really cared or didn’t want to give it to him, but because she had little in the ‘love tank.’ He tried to cash in a favor, and her tank was so low she didn’t want to give it to him. I responded by saying, “Sweetie, if you want to walk in favor with her, you might want to work on filling her love tank.”
Want to teach this to your children? Here is a great exercise. Call a family meeting and sit around the table. In the center, place a large bowl of water filled to the top. Give each family member a glass and a spoon. Tell them that you are going to play a timed game of seeing how full you can get everyone’s glass by putting the spoon in the center bowl and scooping up the water and placing it in their glass. The rule is that no one can fill their own glass, just everyone else’s. At the end of a minute, see which glass is the fullest and which one is the least. Share with the children that the center bowl represents God’s love, which is full and plentiful. We can grab His love anytime we want, and it is always there. Share that each glass represents their family member’s hearts, and the spoon represents our words, actions, choices, and interactions. Either we are putting love into their tank or choosing not to.
I know this post will shock a few of you, but I will say it anyway. WE WANT TO BREAK OUR CHILD’S WILL! Our parenting style should not reflect breaking a child’s spirit, but we should be breaking their will. Breaking one’s spirit uses tools like anger, intimidation, control, fear, dominance, rage, and projecting our wounded places onto our children. This screams at the child that who they are is not okay and teaches them they have to alter their true selves to please them and keep the peace. We have all experienced and used these tools on others. We know it by the bad fruit it produces and how it makes our hearts feel. Breaking one’s will is totally different and uses tools like empowerment, authority, discipline, being firm, encouragement, consequences, and allowing others to feel uncomfortable. This communicates to the child that they are believed in and called to a higher standard of living. It teaches them that you love and care about them enough not to leave them in their current state. It champions them into becoming all God has called them to be and gives them room to increase their capacity. I do not want to shut my child down and break their spirit. But I DO want to break their will.
I encourage you not to see the following verses through the lens of disciplining harshly but rather through the eyes of a loving Shepherd that uses His rod to train, correct, and guide his sheep to keep them safe.
“Whoever spares the rod hates their children, but the one who loves their children is careful to discipline them” (Proverbs 13:24).
“Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old, they will not turn from it” (Proverbs 22:6).
“No discipline seems pleasant at the time but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it” (Hebrews 12:12).
“These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home, walk along the road, lie down, and get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates” (Deuteronomy 6:6-9).
“A rod and a reprimand impart wisdom, but a child left undisciplined disgraces its mother” (Proverbs 29:15).
“Discipline your children, and they will give you peace; they will bring you the delights you desire” (Proverbs 29:17).
“Listen, my son, to your father’s instruction and do not forsake your mother’s teaching. They are a garland to grace your head and a chain to adorn your neck” (Proverbs 1:8-9).
**Do not see the word ‘rod’ as spanking or beating a child. The rod was used by a shepherd to pull in, correct, and guide their sheep. It was also used to ward off predators. The rod in this concept is loving, kind and shepherding.
The word ‘break’ is not as in beating down and destroying but in training and discipline like an athlete.
To teach your child about the powerful use of their tongue, go to a thrift store and buy a fancy but cheap plate. Spread out a sheet/blanket outside and as you raise that plate to the air and proceed to smash it to the ground, call out the words you hear your child speak. “I hate you,” “Leave me alone,” “You are stupid,” “I don’t like you,” “I don’t want to be your friend,” and then sincerely say, “Oh whoops, sorry!” and ask them to put the pieces back together again. They will be dumbfounded as they know it won’t be able to go back together again. Explain that our words can shatter a person’s identity and worth (it actually doesn’t change their worth, but one’s ability to receive and believe it). Even when we say sorry, the damage is already done.