Previous article in this series: September 15, 2013, p. 490.
Our children need the discipline of their godly parents from the time they are given into our arms at birth until they are brought to maturity. The goal of this discipline is to raise them to become responsible adults as citizens of the kingdom of our Lord and as members of His church. Discipline is not only about chastening our children when they sin, it is also about teaching them to restrain their sinful nature, and establishing godly order in their young and still immature lives. They need to be taught to live by the spiritual principles of the law of God in their whole life.
Every age of the development of our children has its own challenges. I know from experience, as the father of seven children, that the most difficult stage through which we must guide our children is the one from teenage years to the time of their independence, when, hopefully, they have been well equipped to establish their own Christian homes and discipline their own lives according to God’s Word.
We as parents must be willing to invest a great deal of time and energy in the disciplining of our children. This will require that we be ready to make significant personal sacrifices. As parents it is possible to neglect our children because of our own selfish and worldly pursuits in life. Our covenant children need to grow up in a home where a humble, self-sacrificing mother. is present The father must not allow himself to become so consumed with his daily occupation, with the building of the company or business he is the head of, with managing the farm, or with making money and achieving success in the world, that he neglects his calling as father. Research reveals that fathers in America commonly spend less than six minutes a day in meaningful interaction with their children.
Our role as fathers is not only earning enough money to buy all kinds of modern things for our children, every new electronic gadget, expensive sports equipment, perhaps an ATV, and maybe an expensive sports car later in life. In fact, the greatest spiritual danger for our children as they grow up is not poverty and want or that they have to go through life with much less perhaps than the neighbors’ children. The greatest danger is that our children grow up without having been disciplined to keep them from the evil of covetousness. The discipline of our young people must teach them the wisdom required to handle wealth and earthly possessions, seeking above all the kingdom of God and its righteousness. This is very difficult and serious, living as we do in prosperous America.
When our children are still young, it is often sufficient to speak a word of admonition to them with the expectation that they will listen. They must obey simply because father and mother say so. They do not always need an explanation. They are too young to understand many things in their life and must simply obey their parents without always questioning their right to demand certain behavior. But this is different when our children come to teenage years, then they need much more from us as parents.
Young people need biblical guidance for the great concerns they will face in their lives and the important decisions they must make. This kind of parental guidance will be greatly beneficial for their future. They need to be given biblical reason for the distinctive, God-centered lifestyle to which God calls us as His covenant people.
This explanation must be given in the daily instruction and example of our lives as parents as we have our children living with us in our covenant homes.
We as parents need to appreciate the psychological development of young people. During this time of life in their development, many changes take place, some quite mysterious and even hard to understand fully. As our children are growing up to adulthood, they have strong inner desires for independence in their lives. These desires were created in them by God. However, at this time in life, they still need the firm, loving guidance of their parents. Sinful permissiveness will result in unrestrained sin. This will lead to anger against their parents when they are admonished. It is very common that inclinations to rebel are strongest in the days of youth. Parents need wisdom and loving patience especially in this time of their children’s lives. Our young people have to be taught to accept the fact that they still have much need for guidance and that they must be willing to submit to it and follow it.
Changes in attitude during teenage years can be very dramatic and sudden and even come as a shock to parents. These changes can create great anxiety for parents. Without guidance of godly discipline, young people will sometimes go very wrong, and this can have very serious consequences for their future. As parents we need to pray for wise discipline and perseverance, so that if at all possible we can keep our young people from going wrong in this stage of life.
A measure of conflict during the teenage years of our children is common. We must expect disappointments along the way, and we must be longsuffering and ready to forgive and restore in the godly way of repentance and forgiveness. Our children are no less sinful than we are. There is continual need for loving correction and repeated encouragement of our children to do that which is right and pleasing to the Lord. This takes much grace from God for us as parents. We must pray for this grace also in the hearts of our children.
An excessive demand for secrecy in their life and rejection of parental oversight are often accompanied by an inclination of young people to go in the ways of worldliness and sin. Our young people need to be given the right of privacy in their lives, but this must be given at the right time and in the right measure. Our young people must be taught to live worthy of the trust and confidence of their parents. We must teach our young people to be open and sincere and truthful in their lives. When children have been taught this and also show this in their lives, parents reward them by honoring and trusting them with increasing freedom and independence. Mutual trust is so important during teenage years. Grievous violation of this trust will often cause deep hurt and can be repaired only with a great amount of Christian love both of parents and young people themselves.
Powerful influences are coming into the lives of our young people today through the worldwide Internet and such modern devices as iPods and the increasingly powerful cell phones with astounding capabilities for accessing all sorts of worldly philosophy and lifestyles. We as parents need to keep up with these things in a measure sufficient to exercise oversight of the lives of our teenagers. This is not easy because of the rapid pace of the development of these modern inventions of our times. The pace of this easily leaves parents behind in bewilderment.
We as parents must exercise oversight in the lives of our young people in the important area of friends they choose. Teenagers need friendship outside of the home and the immediate covenant family. This is a healthy development in their lives and should be encouraged by parents. Truly godly friendships will have a considerable influence in the lives of our young people.
In disciplining our teenage children, we surely ought not ignore the reality that at this time in their lives notable changes take place in their sexual development and that very strong feelings are involved in this. There is a serious need for parental concern in this area. Parental neglect in it can have very serious consequences for young people. This is not a subject that is easy to talk about with our children. It is, however, increasingly urgent in our modern day to talk openly with our young people about this subject. Strong warnings must be given about the gross immorality of our times. Godly advice and wisdom must be given by parents in a personal way to their young people. Practices of dating and of behavior when young people are alone with a person of the opposite sex must be talked about. Warnings must be given regarding the power of the sex drive and its potential for bringing much shame and damage to the lives of our young people. We will by the grace of God do our young people a lot of good in their lives when these matters are properly dealt with in the disciplining of our children. Our young people must not be left with the foolish imagination that they can decide on their own how they will behave and that parents have no right whatsoever to ask anything regarding this area of their lives. This latter opinion is the foolish and wicked notion of the world that often leads to fornication and ungodly living.
During the teenage years of our children we have opportunity to give them direction in the tremendously important area of the choice they make for marriage partners. They must be instructed that there are few areas of their present life that will have a more significant influence on their later life than their choice of a life partner. Children need to be deeply impressed with the importance of this and learn to appreciate the value of godly advice and discipline in this area. They should be urged to date within the sphere of the church and to do so only with those who show themselves to be truly godly in their lives as well as sound in their knowledge of the truth.
We have such an important calling as covenant parents when our children have grown up to be young people. May God give us grace not to neglect this calling but to be diligent and zealous for the great good of our covenant young people!