Session 1 Part 1: The Concept
Audio File

I don't remember where I was or what I was doing when I first learned that I might have Fathered a child. As a matter of fact, I don't think I had ever considered, I mean really thought about becoming a dad. As a man, it was not on my list of things to think about.

Now don't get me wrong, It's not that I had any negative thoughts toward children, I actually had no thoughts at all. I was happily married, walking with Jesus and waiting for his return when my wife informed me of the upcoming event. What a shock it was.... what was I supposed to do, where could I go to learn, who would teach me? I could see it all now, screaming little sub-creatures running everywhere, smelling bad, drooling, and messing with my stuff. "No, no Johnny, please give daddy back his motorcycle keys..."

My wife on the other hand wanted a child, no, dreamed of having a child. Something to dress and feed and play with. Wouldn't it be lover-ly! Nevertheless, she was no more prepared for having children than I was.

When I came to my senses, I burst out of my tent, ran across the campsite to my parent's tent and sought the wise counsel from those who had gone before me..... No that's not right, I don't live in a nomadic tribe with extended family at my beck and call. I can't draw upon generations of experience to guide my steps.

What was it I did? Oh yeah, now I remember, I sat down and began to reflect upon the many years of experience that I had from my childhood. How often had my parents called upon me to care for several of the eight children in my family. Surely those lessons and the sage wisdom of all of my other relatives had been ingrained in my heart and mind. But wait, that wasn't it either.

The truth is that I was raised in a typical middle class America, apartment dwelling, two parent working class, two kids in the family American household, and neither my parents nor I had much experience with child rearing. It was never a topic of discussion!

Most people have little experience raising children… and neither did their parents. There is no discussion of technique, purpose or goals.
I had no personal experience on how to raise, teach or discipline a child. Any discipline was off the cuff. You know, make it up as you go. Or worse than that, experimental psycho - babble.

I contend that most people in America spend more time cultivating their garden (or lawn) than they do disciplining their children. And furthermore, they deal with their kids in a remedial fashion rather than with the intention of accomplishing a specific goal or series of goals. "Honey have you seen the lawn? There is crabgrass everywhere!" "Oh dear ... what shall we do?" "Don't worry, I will dedicate myself to the eradication of this pestilence!!!" "That's wonderful dear. By the way, Johnny set the mattress on fire again ... can you talk to him?"

Most people spend more time caring for their lawn than they do disciplining their children
The majority of American society has lost the basic concepts of discipline. We see the evidence of this in most areas of life. We demand quick fixes for everything from health to finances, and if we are unable to get our problems straightened out in an extremely short period of time, we call for a "PROFESSIONAL."

We have become so sedentary, that we have others doing things for us that once were commonplace, simple activities. Remember when sports were fun things to do after school? Now our heroes perform for us in the sporting arenas and they are among the highest paid people in the world. And what is it that makes them qualified to be our heroes anyway?

Disciplined lifestyles are a thing of the past in America. We are not taught to control our thoughts and desires, but rather to explore them and enjoy the ride. As Christians we are warned by the Apostle Paul "Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is-- his good, pleasing and perfect will". (Rom 12: 2 NIV)

According to this scripture, having our mind renewed or changed to God's way of thinking rather than the world's way of thinking is a key to knowing His will. This is true in all areas of our life including our current subject. We must discover His way of thinking regarding child rearing if we want His will in this matter.

We must discover His way of thinking regarding child rearing
Unfortunately, by observation, we are able to see that many in the body of Christ have adopted the world's view on aspects of everyday living. The Bible is full of essential information on how we are to discipline ourselves, and our children. Let's take this opportunity to look at God's plan.

Let's get back to my story.... My wife and I had recently come to the Faith; we were less than one year old in the Lord. We had not received any teaching on how to raise a family and for that reasons we had yet to have developed our own doctrines. We actually believed that if you needed to know how to do something that pertained to life, you should look into the instruction manual. So we did! We found everything we needed to know regarding this matter and over the years as our children grew and new situations developed, we always found the answers in God's Word.
Guess what! There is a whole slew of stuff on how to teach and train yourself as well as those little bundles of joy. If you are willing to openly look at what the Bible says about mankind's current condition as well as God's solution to that condition, we will be able to find our way and help our kids walk with Jesus! Isn't that what we really want?

So, here's the concept: Discipline is not something we do to a child!!!! It's what we do for a child so as to accomplish something. It was not designed to be a remedy for a problem, but rather a structured way in which to achieve goals. Ask any coach!!!

Discipline is not something we do to a child! Ask any coach! Discipline is training!
Discipline is training! You get to set the training program!! Do you want to train your children to obey you after two requests, one emphatic shout, three exasperated growls, or the first time you speak to them? Any combination of the previously mentioned is not only possible, but we have all seen them acted out in public.

If you do not train your children as the Scripture has commanded, they will train themselves! Using all the sensory inputs available to them, they will develop on their own. Just as any plant left to itself will grow, so too will your children. But just how will they grow? And what will they become? In the woods all things grow wild, but in a garden where each plant is of special significance, they are to be tended, cultivated, pruned.

"I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.
(John 15:1-2 NIV)

If you do not train your children, they will train themselves!
Plants that we consider worthwhile are cultivated, fertilized, and irrigated. Those that we do not feel have any value are uprooted. They are considered weeds.

We live in a disjointed, dysfunctional society. So many of the social tools of education which God has provided, have been removed and replaced with "modern advances." The tools I speak of are the abundant wisdom and experience, as well as the differing perspective that exists in the extended family and the believing community as it is described in the Bible. This of course includes the Word of God itself. God has made his wisdom available to every parent so that you can effectively bring your children up in the fear and admonition of the Lord.

It is bad enough that the world has given itself over to the full embrace of the "Tree of Knowledge" (you will be like the most high). The sad truth is that the Church has followed the blindness of the world and it, too, has fallen into the same pit.

Let us return to God's plan and set about preparing this generation of God's children for the calling the Lord has for them. We are charged in the Law of Moses to train our children so they will walk with the Lord and be usable in God's plan!

These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you 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. (Deut 6:6-9 NIV)

God desires to use our children in His plan, but they must be prepared. Sure He can fix all their weaknesses as they continue to walk with Him, but what a waste of time!!!

God can repair the damage but what a waste of time
I met Jesus at age nineteen. He has redeemed me and for Thirty-Nine years at the time of this revised writing, worked on making me Holy, as he is Holy. He is capable of doing anything He wants in a supernatural way, but more often he chooses to work through natural principals. An example is "as you sow, so also do you reap!" I sowed nineteen years of bad seed and almost all of the things that I do battle with daily are the direct result of the seeds I sowed during those years. By all appearances, regardless of what we say with our mouths, many of us seem more interested in how our children do in school (Knowledge) than in the things of God (Wisdom). I'm glad that your children do well on nationally standardized tests.... but how do they do on Spiritual standardized tests? Are the things of God worked into their minds and hearts?

You are in the position and are called of God to save your children much grief and heartache!!! It is true that they will ultimately make up their own minds, choose their own paths and answer for their own deeds. However, you can lay the foundation upon which they will initially stand. What will it be? Sand is much easier to carry and distribute, but it makes a poor foundation. Rocks are harder to carry, often cause you pain and other injury, but with the mortar of the Holy Spirit, they can be built into a foundation that will not be moved. The choice is up to you and I am not trying to be dramatic. If you are willing to pay the price, they will have a great head start in the things of God.

You have the chance to set the foundation of your children's lives - I hope you use good stuff
Derek Prince, a Bible teacher once said that he had seven theories on child rearing. Then the Lord gave him seven children and now he has no theories.

It is not my intention or desire to teach you some new-fangled method of training your children. There is only one system of child discipline that I know which you can confidently apply to all children that will work. It is the application of God's Word used in conjunction with God's wisdom. Children are all different! They are living beings with a free will!!! Just like you. It has been said that apples fall from apple trees and this is certainly the truth. Your children are the combination of you and your spouse. The lifestyle and environment in which they are raised is the soil, but their life roots are from the parents.

Understand that raising children is not just a side event along the road of your life but rather it is possibly the most important thing you will ever do. And you will answer to God for how you do it. "Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need". (Heb 4:16 NIV)

 

Session 1 Part 2: Ability

I must admit that once I got over the shock of my wife's "news", I began to think of all the cool things I could do with the little beggar.... places I could take it (from my point of view the child was an "it" until he or she could hold a hockey stick or baseball bat). My wife on the other hand was already concerned about the deteriorating school system and how we were going to keep the child safe from the wickedness of the world.

I was thinking season tickets; she was looking into colleges. What did we actually know about children? What could we expect them to know? How much can they understand? Some would say if they cry hold them, while others would tell us just let them cry, it's good for their lungs. How much does a baby know??? Does it need to be held and cuddled? To spank or not to spank, there was a question. Was that a premeditated act of rebellion or just an effort to reach out?

To spank or not to spank, there was a question
Let's start with a science lesson. I am not a scientist and so I will keep this simple for all of us. There are two types of human cells that we have been told do not replace themselves in the same fashion as all the other cells of the body. They are nerve cells and brain cells. Therefore using my vast intellectual abilities, I suggest that babies at birth have all the potential to understand information that they will ever have! They will never be more intelligent then they are at birth!

Now let's not confuse intellect for experience or wisdom!!! The smartest person in the world could still burn his finger on a hot stove if he had never experienced a hot black surface.

As adults when our heads are too big for our bodies, that's a pride problem. With babies, it is actually physical. God gave babies a giant head for the purpose of assimilating large quantities of information during the first years. Then as needed the body develops allowing them to become more mobile and expand the base of their environment.

Babies are really smart. They are however, totally lacking in life experiences. In their first years they must learn to use all the standard equipment (five senses, intake and exhaust systems, emotions, balance, language, etc.). That is a lot to do. These are all natural lessons and although you may be involved in their sensory stimulation, they will proceed mostly on their own. (I do not intend to underplay your role in providing the correct environment for your children, and I am a strong believer in verbal, visual, and social interaction with babies, adolescents, and UGH, teenagers. My point is that they will continue on their own).

Year one: all they have to do is learn how to use the standard equipment - simple right?

Five senses, intake and exhaust systems, emotions, balance, language, etc

Young infants (birth to four months) generally do not need to be disciplined. When they cry it is usually because they are uncomfortable, hurting, tired, or hungry. Personal experience however, has shown me, that very young babies can and do quickly learn very important lessons. For example, I remember the first time my wife spanked our oldest child. It was not a premeditated attempt on her part to change his behavior. As a matter of fact, she had no intention of spanking him at all. She was quietly nursing our six-month old child when he bit her. Her reaction was swift and entirely natural. Of course he burst into tears from the swat to his behind. The spanking certainly did not damage him, and he was probably more moved by the scolding he got, but guess what, he never bit her again.... ever.... not in two years of nursing! Children are brilliant and will in almost all cases, rise to the level that is expected of them. We should note that it is possible to expect too much from children, but currently in our society that is not the direction in which the pendulum is swinging.

My wife and I believe that children should adapt to their parents world and not the other way around. They were an addition to our lives, the fruit of our love, not a new lifestyle. When God blesses a couple with children, this is in addition to the existing relationship. It does not replace nor should it alter the way a husband and wife relate to each other with the obvious exceptions being those things that directly relate to your new life mission. Obviously we had to meet the immediate needs of our new infant (i.e. feeding, changing, feeding, changing, feeding, changing ... you get the idea) but we continued our life as before!

Children should adapt to their parents world and not the other way around

We went out to dinner, the movies, visiting friends, etc. The only thing that really changed was that we now had more stuff to carry with us. Considering how small babies are, they certainly don't know how to travel lightly! We made changes in order to make our home safe for our children. We did not stop living because of their arrival. If there was something happening that we felt like participating in.... we were there.


At this point I feel it necessary to clearly tell you, the reader, that everything we did, every place we went, every visit we made did not work out favorably. Otherwise you might get the impression that we were some kind of superhuman hybrid parent! For example, my wife always wanted to see the movie "The Song Of Norway". So we went, just the three of us, Mommy, Daddy, and eight month old Judah. Now Judah was a very focused child. He had begun to speak, then started to walk, so he abandoned his attempts at communication until he had mastered walking. The night we had picked to see this particular movie was also the night that Judah re-discovered speech. To this day, 38 years later, we still have not seen The Song Of Norway.

Still never seen the song of Norway
Perhaps some of you have been reading this book and wondering what kind of lunatic I am. This is a fair question and because of my next point I think it should be addressed now, so here goes. Regardless of my background or chosen lifestyle, or position in the socioeconomic scheme of things what really matters, and what really should determine whether you the reader should take the things I have to say to heart is my relationship with Jesus and my understanding and faith in God's word. Those are my only credentials and qualifications. I have approached parenting with the same attitude as all other areas of my life. So here is that attitude; here is my standard.... I am a totally lost person! According to the Bible, my heart is wicked, my mind is useless, and my works are like filthy rags. Therefore in order to proceed in any area of my life and be counted worthy by God (the only praise that means anything), I must go forth in faith! I must believe that God loves me, cares about me, and is personally aquatinted with all areas of my life!!

Having said all that, lighten up!!!! You will make mistakes in raising your kids!!! God however will provide grace to cover and forgive all shortcomings. I am not suggesting that no difficult thing will come your way (we, for example, have a child with Cerebral Palsy), but so what? Life, is for living, and with Jesus actively involved in your life, you have the victory! I bring this up to introduce my next point.

Lighten up, you will make mistakes - Thank God for His grace.
Children are very sensitive to tension. They somehow can tell if you are comfortable or not. Many parents are so uptight and even fearful of making some terrible mistake that they pass this tension on to their children and they wind up with restless, fearful kids. Please relax!

God Wouldn't give you children and then leave you alone. He loves you and will equip you to handle every situation that he leads you in. Having children is part of your life! God will be there for you. O.K.? Feel better now? Good!

Now back to my story.... so we were convinced that the kid could actually be expected to adapt to our lives. Following this theory, (for it was no more then a theory at this time. I would now say that it is a truth.) My wife and I decided not to rearrange the living room furniture. We had a low coffee table with a radio tuner on top. The table had two doors on the ends and was open in the middle. Inside one of the doors we stored our first child's toys. Inside the other door we kept our record albums (those are really large vinyl Jurassic-era CD's for you youngsters). Our son was obviously not supposed to play with the records nor with the stereo receiver. Guess what? He actually learned which side was his and which side was trouble. He also learned not to play with those incredibly tempting knobs on the face of the stereo. It is certainly true that he received his share of spankings, from this lesson. Nevertheless, he did learn the lesson. Many of our friends were amazed at how "intelligent" he was. I maintain that most children can easily learn to obey their parents. In fact I believe that they actually want to obey their parents! By the way, I do not in any way want to give the impression that teaching a lesson to your child is easy. Often it is heart wrenching, but it is life saving! Children need to learn to obey. Who should instruct them if not you?

Children can and will adapt to your lifestyle
Many great and mighty minds (most without children) have performed extensive research on the effects of external stimuli upon the intelligence of a child. I suggest that the most important thing you can do to help your child develop intellectually is to give that child a secure environment in which he or she knows the rules! Children that are comfortable are at peace. They are therefore free to learn.
When children feel safe and secure they are free to learn
Back in the seventies, the Montessori educational approach became widely accepted in this country. A story is told about a Montessori preschool that was located on a major street. The director happened to be outside watching the children playing, when he noticed several of the kids hanging on the fence that was closest to the highway.

He was very concerned, thinking that the children were being restrained and prevented from learning, so he had the fence removed. The next day, he came to the yard so he could see how the children reacted to their new freedom. To his great surprise, he found all of the students huddle together in the middle of the yard as far from the street as they could get. He had thought they would love being free to move about, but what really happened was they had lost their security. They were afraid because the wall had been removed.

Children are like great explorers; they are not satisfied until they have gone as far as they possibly can. They unlike their adult counterparts have a different reason for searching. They want to know their boundaries so they are free to investigate the interior of the land. They return periodically to the borders in order to confirm that they are secure. Once comforted in this matter, they go about their business. They will never be satisfied or at rest until they have thoroughly explored their world. In real life, there are rules and regulations. Without them there is chaos. Firm, consistent rules make children confident, that in turn makes them comfortable.

If you do not know the rules, you are in fear of doing something wrong. God has placed (not as part of the original equipment package but rather as the result of the episode at the tree of knowledge) deep within our souls the knowledge of good and evil. Simply put, we do know right from wrong, morally speaking. What children lack is the knowledge of the specific rules and regulations of life; it is the job of their parents to give them this instruction as well as introduce them to wisdom.

If you do not know the rules, you are in fear of doing something wrong
Remember that when it comes to the ability to learn, children have plenty. The chances are that we will underestimate them more often than not. Feel free to experiment, they are not as fragile as you might think. They are highly adaptable and anxious to please because God has placed in the heart of ever person the desire to please their parents. Remember that God gives grace to the humble. This applies to you as parents, but it also applies to the purest example we have outside of God ... children.
Discussion: Session 1 - The Concept & The Ability

1. What are you willing to give your life to? Nice lawn… Nice children? Are you willing to pour yourself out like a drink offering?

2. If discipline is done for the benefit of the child, how should you react if they seem to be testing or trying you (and they will)?

3. Who are you willing to have train your child? If you don't do it, they will do it themselves?

4. You have the opportunity to set their lives on a firm foundation. What tools will you use to accomplish that goal?

5. To spank or not to spank - when are they old enough?

6. Are babies intelligent enough to understand you?

7. Have Jerry and Joy ever seen the Song of Norway? How do you adapt your children to your lifestyle?

8. How important is it for children to feel safe?

9. How important is it to have clearly defined rules?