Raising children is a matter of discipleship and good stewardship. We have a short time as parents to impart the tools, wisdom and basic skills that are necessary for their adult life. But one thing that may get overlooked by Christian families is the importance of teaching good biblical doctrine from an early age. These are the all-important why’s behind the do’s and do-not-do’s that most parents are good at giving. If children do not have the why’s answered, even if they are not directly asking them, then how important will it be to them to do what is right as they grow? Will they make the connection between life and God, between doing good and loving Jesus, between respect for parents and honoring their Creator if wholesome Bible doctrine is left out?
One of the best ways to connect discipline with doctrine in a child’s mind is to proactively introduce the doctrine at the time of the discipline and to do so every time. When a child ignores you when you say, “don’t do that”, it’s common to react with “What did I tell you?” or “If I have to tell you again…” in a frustrated tone. We’ve all done it. It’s not wrong to be frustrated, but it would be far more helpful if they knew exactly why you are correcting them, and that the frustration is not just with them but with their misbehavior.
Leaving good doctrine out at this point would be detrimental. They will learn that doing right and wrong is based upon reward only, rather than on a loving and holy God who deserves obedience all the time. Explain to them in that moment that God in his love and through His Word has asked Children to honor their parents and that not to is hurtful to God’s heart. Depending on their age they may look at you cross-eyed and confused, but that could be because they’ve never heard you say it. They’ll begin to wonder who God is as you speak of him and doors will swing wide open for you to tell them more about this loving God you serve.
Exodus 20:12 “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the LORD your God is giving you.
Ephesians 6:1-3 “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise), “that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.”
Another common behavior among children is the mistreatment of their siblings. There is not much else that irks a parent more than dealing on a daily basis with hitting, name-calling, disrespect and downright rudeness between children who in your mind should be best friends. From toddlers to teens this battle rages on. If not handled through loving discipline and a good doctrinal foundation it will surely go on to greater mistreatment and even harm to others.
When your child speaks rudely to his brother or sister it’s not the time to jump in with your own, more mature selection of name-calling. Since the fleshly response to rudeness is usually more rudeness, which only adds fuel to the fire, you may want to ask for a fresh filling of the Spirit before you step in. Once you have the attention of the culprit, expose the offense for what it truly is. Call it sin and be clear about it. Call it sin but do not condemn. The sin is having an attitude that reflects hate towards another. The Word addresses this in Matthew 5:22.
“But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire.”
Of course, use discretion before telling your toddler about hellfire, but you get the picture. The point Jesus was making was that in the presence of hate is always the deeper issue of the heart, the same issue that lead Cain to kill Able. Consistently address this with the Word of God. Maybe say something like this: “_______, when you hit or speak rudely to your brother you are being hateful, and Jesus says hate is a sin.”
With this instruction your child will connect behavior with truth, truth about his own heart that needs Jesus, and truth about Jesus Himself. The doctrine of sin says that sin is in the heart of every person so that every evil behavior is resulting from that nature. Telling your child about sin and that Jesus embodied human nature without sinning so that He could pay for all our sins on the cross will build a healthy foundation for future relationships and choices.
Ephesians 4:32 “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”
Be consistent. Be truthful. Be honest with your own mistakes too. Let your children see that not only do you want them to live according to a more perfect Word than your own, but that you are willing to surrender to God. Discipline children with the goal of bringing them to Jesus, the only one who can truly change hearts. Let the Gospel of the cross be your proof to them that Jesus loves imperfect people. Remember that you are not asking them for perfection, but teaching them about the grace of the One who is perfect. Let biblical doctrine shape your discipline.