The Working Family - Parents Who Protect
Last week we looked at kids responsibility to the family, and today I want us to look at the other side. Our text comes from Deuteronomy 22, and is included in the long list of laws that God had for His children. It’s probably not a text that you have memorized, but I believe that it is a principal that we should all abide by.
God was telling the children of Israel when you build a house there will be some space on the roof where folks will gather in the evenings to enjoy the cool night air. But you have to be careful, you have a responsibility to these folks. You need to build a small wall, so that folks will not get to close to the edge and fall off. Anyone who has a deck understands the principal; but I want us today to consider the spiritual application to our families as well.
Whether we like it or not, adults are supposed to protect children. Especially our own. I'm not even going to bother citing scripture to prove my point. If you need the Bible to tell you to protect your children, then just hearing a verse isn't going to magically change your mind.
I would guess most of us believe that's our job to protect our children from our culture. We have to, the first premise of our culture is the unquestioned authority of the self. In our culture if you want it, then you should have it. It’s a mindset that is completely against the servant life lived by our Messiah.
Culture comes with certain default settings, like on your computer. And it is an exceedingly powerful force. It is the moral, emotional, and psychological undertow against or with we swim. Every advertisement aims to insight envy for what your kids don't have. Most of the music they listen to celebrates and encourages unrestrained self-expression. Even the clothes that are fashionable don’t just simply make a fashion statement, but they serve to establish a lifestyle.
Now I'm not one of those who thinks times now are worse than they've ever been. Read the history of Rome and you'll feel like you're living at the very epicenter of moral purity. But sin has become institutionalized in our culture. Our kids are living the values of this culture, but that's only part of the reason they need our protection.
It isn't just the dangers from out there. It's also the dangers from their hearts. Proverbs 22:15 says, "Folly is bound up in the heart of a child." Folly sounds a lot like fun. Like the free-spirited joy of a child at play. But the word folly is built on the Hebrew word for fool; as in, "The fool has said in his heart, there is no God." Psalm 14:1. Folly isn't just being goofy, it describes a godless lifestyle.
Human beings come with default settings just like our culture. We are set to embrace sin. When a human being with a propensity to sin encounters a culture in which sin is institutionalized, the result is as predictable as it is inevitable.
So how do parents protect children? Proverbs 19:18 says, "Discipline your son, your daughter, for in that there is hope; do not be a willing party to your son or daughter's death." Proverbs 13:24 says, "He who spares the rod hates his son or daughter, but he who loves them is careful to discipline them." You heard it right. The Bible urges parents to spank their children. Which is not very Politically Correct, so let's talk about it.
I wish we lived in a world where these kinds of qualifications and explanations weren't necessary. But you've seen the stories of abuse and cruelty. All too often our hearts break when we read about a child who suffered unspeakable abuse at the hands of a cruel parent, the one person in the world who should have protected that child. That kind of punishment is shame-inducing and abusive.
On the other hand, there are some people who think any form of physical discipline is wrong. After Trafton was born we had a man in our congregation tell us that spanking under any circumstances, administered in any way is always abusive. I disagree with his extremism as completely as I reject abusive behavior of some adults who see their children as punching bags, or worse.
There are three words in Proverbs 13:24 that define and limit the use of spanking as a way of shaping the will of a child. The first word is love. And that's not some sappy emotion. The Hebrew word means steadfast faithfulness. Discipline administered from a motive of love will not be abusive verbally, emotionally, or physically.
The second word is careful. Originally, the word meant, "early in the day." It came to mean pursuing something early on, early in life. Two things here; the older a child grows, the less effective and appropriate physical discipline becomes. Second, if discipline is to be effective in shaping the will of a child, it must start early. You parents with young children need to be teaching them now to respect limits and to understand the consequences of failing to recognize limits. The lessons they learn at your loving, careful correction will spare them the sorrow of learning those same lessons in a much more painful way in the future.
The third word is discipline. The Hebrew word always is related to the formation of character. In fact, literally translated, the word means correction or instruction.
This sets an important limit on the reasons why parents resort to spanking. If a child spills her milk or soils her clothes or breaks a window, that's a mistake. Responsible parents never spank children for making mistakes that are just part of being children. They are born to spill, break, bend, soil and generally wreak havoc. But when they defy your authority as a parent, when they look you in the eye and step over a line you've clearly marked, that's when you need to switch off that default setting.
Still, I want to be crystal clear about the difference between biblical discipline and destructive abuse. In his book, The Strong Family, Charles Swindol has this to say: “Abuse crushes and breaks the spirit. Biblical discipline strengthens the spirit and shapes the will.”
The goal of discipline, instruction, is to make our children familiar with the relationship between behavior and consequences. If they don't learn that relationship in the safe and loving environment of the home, they'll have to learn it in the dangerous and vicious environment of our culture. Let me say that again with emphasis, If they don't learn that relationship in the safe and loving environment of the home, they'll have to learn it in the dangerous and vicious environment of our culture.
The most loving thing you can do is to educate your children to the relationship between behavior and consequences. The most irresponsible and unloving thing you can do is to allow them to grow up believing the lie that their bad behavior does not result in bad consequences.
We, get to this point in our discussion and there is this big elephant in the room. We need to talk about something that is not very comfortable but it needs to be said. Some of us aren't doing a very good job protecting our children. I'm thinking specifically about our teenagers. In fact, some of us are doing a really lousy job. We're afraid to say the word, "No."
"No, you can't go that movie. No, you can't play video games for six hours every day. No, you can't wear that outfit. No, you can't spend the night at that house. No, you can't attend a coed sleep over for high school students. No, you can't go to Panama City for Spring Break and run naked through the streets with a bottle of Dos X's in one hand and a joint in the other." You can fill in your own story, "No you can't .... ", but many of us in this room have wimped out on our roles as protectors of our children.
There are probably lots of reasons why, but I'll mention two: First, we are afraid that they won’t like you. Sometimes they won’t. But they are trying to answer the questions, "Who Am I? Where am I going? Why am I here?" They are trying to find freedom. You represent an obstacle to that. I don't know who came up with it, but some idiot suggested somewhere along the way that parents and their children should be friends. And parents by the millions have bought into the "my kid, my buddy" myth.
It doesn't work. Love them? Yes. Listen to them? If they start talking, shut your mouth and open your ears. Laugh with them? Every chance you get. Make memories? As many as you can afford. Pray together? Do it. But you are the parent and they are the children. You are the protector, they are the protected. You are the mentor, they are the students. When they are grown, then you can be friends.
Second thing: something is profoundly wrong when we derive our emotional well-being from whether or not our kids like us. Parents aren't supposed to be emotionally supported by their kids. We're supposed to be the supporters, not the supported. True, we gain emotional satisfaction from them. But the strength to be functioning human beings has to come from somewhere else besides the relationship we share with our children. Needy parents cannot protect their children.
While we are talking about this there are a few more quick things I want to say. I haven't paid a lot of attention to the packaging here. But here's the product.
First, It doesn't matter what all the other parents are doing. You do what you think is right based on your study of God's word and your knowledge of your kids. You aren't the only parent who says "no." Trista and I do. We know many other parents whose kids think they are the meanest people on the planet. When the boys tell me I’m the meanest parent in the world, I look them dead in the eye and say, no sir, last year I came in second, this year I’m shooting for first. You aren't alone but even if you were it doesn't matter. You do what’s right regardless of what everyone else is doing.
Secondly, It is not inevitable that teenagers are going to experiment with drugs and alcohol. That’s the prevalent thought I heard while I was in Australia. And you know what? Many kids never take the first drink or never try their first drug. That doesn’t make them better kids, it just shows that it's quite possible to navigate the teen years without that kind of experimentation. You set the bar high, you tell them that you expect them to stay completely drug and alcohol free, that you expect them to run like Joseph from Potipher's house when those things are present. Kids live up to our expectations. You set them high.
Thirdly, Know everything about your teenager. Their schedules. Their friends. Their friend's parents. Their friends parent's schedules. Talk to their friends parents. Ask hard questions.
A few weeks ago I was in the front yard and a woman stopped her bicycle in front of my house and came up to meet me. I thought she was coming to meet the preacher in the neighborhood, but she didn’t really care who I was. Apparently my boys were outside playing with her son. She invited them inside and my boys said they weren’t allowed to go into her house because we didn’t know her. So she was coming down to meet me so my boys could go inside her house and get a drink when it’s hot outside.
I said, "I hope I don't offend you, but this is the first time we have met and I have a few questions. Do you let your son on the internet without watching him? What kind of movies is he allowed to watch in your house? Will there be a parent in the house when my boys are over?” She wasn't offended at all by my questions. In fact, she was pleased. If she had been offended, that would have been a clear sign that my boys didn't need to be at her house.
Look, I've never met that woman. Why would I let what she thinks of me determine how I parent my kids. I only get one shot at this parenting thing. One shot. A lot's at stake here. If you take a piece of their purity away they can never get it back. So if some lady I don't know doesn’t like me, who cares?
Next, Teenagers need discipline, too, but of a different kind. At some point, spankings don't work. In fact, they become counterproductive. As soon as you can, replace a swat on the bottom with a different discipline. If they rebel, if they break clearly communicated rules, if they fail to meet fairly set and agreed upon expectations, let them live with the consequences of that decision. Remember, they've got to learn the relationship between behavior and consequences. They've got to learn that they are not the sole decider of right and wrong. We need to allow them to experience what happens in the adult world as soon as possible.
This is a car key. To a teenager, it represents freedom, power, prestige, position, place, autonomy. To a parent it represents only one thing; leverage. This is the single most powerful lever in the world. If your son or daughter needs to learn the relationship between behavior and consequences, don't raise your voice, don't scream and shout, don't go on a tirade. Just take the key. John Rosemond went one better, he removed the alternator from his daughter's car. He tells of another family who went even further. They sold their son's car!
Finally, Just because your kids are out of the house doesn’t mean your job is through. Paul writes in Titus 2, In the same way, teach the older women to lead a holy life. They must not tell lies about others. They must not let wine control them. Instead, they must teach what is good. Then they can train the younger women to love their husbands and children.
For those of you who have children who have moved out of the home, you now have the responsibility to love and lead younger parents as they go through the pitfalls of parenthood. Your experience and wisdom can be a huge help to those who are walking the path you have already traveled. But a word of warning from Paul. First make sure your lives are holy, before you attempt to teach what is good.
Many mom’s live frazzled lives, that just get more and more hectic every day. While I played sports and was involved in band, chorus, and theater each activity had a season. Now you can play basketball, baseball, or soccer 52 weeks a year. When you add those activities to an already full schedule, many of us live with exposed nerves. So what young parents need most, is someone to walk along side of them and express words of encouragement and support. Parents need love and reassurance. And that can best come from someone who has walked this path before us.
Mom and Dad, be strong and very courageous. It is hard being a parent. It is heart breaking. But it is the most important task you have. Our kids are living in a spiritually radioactive culture. It might look pretty and glow with promise, but if we don't protect them, this culture will kill their souls.
You are not alone. God is with you. He will give you the wisdom you need, the courage to take your stand, the power to protect your children.
Ask parents to stand and offer a prayer for them.
Questions For You To Consider
Think back to how you grew up. What are some things that you are trying to shield your child from?
What are some experiences that you would like for them to share?
What are your dreams for your child’s future? Where do they differ from your child’s own dreams?
Why do we struggle so much with the idea of discipline?
What does God say about discipline? (See Job 5:17, Psalm 94:12-15, Proverbs 3:11, Ephesians 6:4)
Children have a right to make mistakes and learn from them, and so do parents. So how do your children see you righting a wrong?
Fill in the blank: I wish to foster mutual respect in my home but consistently struggle with ...
If your children are already grown what are some things you can do to help young families?
Why would it be important for you to initiate and take responsibility for the relationship?
How can you help young families using the Golden Rule found in Luke 6:31?