Friday, May 15, 2015

Parenting: Imposing Upon the Will of a Child and Modeling Submission

Richard Shelley Taylor’s book The Disciplined Life has a gem of a chapter which addresses the importance of “imposing” upon the will of our children. Chapter five addresses “The Case for Imposed Discipline.”

Taylor claims the lack of imposed discipline does not produce a strong independent individual. To the contrary, he writes “…humoring the child who has a ‘will of his own’ does not result in a strong will of the right sort. Allowing a child to do as he desires, to cry over nothing, to eat what he wants, to throw on the floor what displeases ‘His Majesty,’ to go into a tantrum when obstructed, to slap at Mother and kick at Father, while everyone chuckles, thinking that he is delightfully cute, will strengthen not only his self-will but his selfishness and his self-indulgence. This will bring his so-called strong will into bondage to his appetites. He is being conditioned to want what he wants when he wants it, without any capacity for deferment or denial. The resulting character will be not really strong at all but pathetically weak.”

Taylor continues; “An unyielded will can never be strong in the best sense. It may be strong to defy, to destroy, to lash out at whatever stands in its way. But it is not strong to adjust to life’s realities, to create beauty out of ugliness, to achieve over obstacles, to control self when frustrated, to work patiently and perseveringly in the face of difficulties. Firm discipline will not destroy a child’s capacity to have a ‘will of his own,’ when he grows up and knows how to use it. We can conquer a child’s will without breaking his spirit. The sober truth is, as many brokenhearted parents have discovered too late, that humored and coddled children do not love their parents more, but less. Their self-love is fed until it chokes out every noble impulse. The young person who already has built-in habits of regularity and obedience certainly has a head start for effective and efficient living.”

We must help our children understand the problem with their will. Taylor addresses this issue. "When children are born," he writes, “there is already a twist toward self-centeredness and lawlessness which will not right itself under the benign rays of Christian environment, but will feed on kindness, turn liberty into license, and grow alarmingly with the years, if not rigorously curbed by firm rule from the cradle onwards. Such curbing, while not able to extirpate the twist, will at least bring it clearly to light; it will also make adjustments to the restraints of an adult society much easier to say nothing of the greater ease in submitting to the rule of God, at first partially, and then with that full submission which enable God to correct the nature at its base.”

This "imposing" upon the will of a child must happen in the context of God-like love for the child. We must be preoccupied with what is in the child's eternal best interest. It must never be done from self-centeredness.

How our children turn out has a lot to do with how carefully we walk with God, how well we understand ourselves from God's perspective, and how carefully and proactively we model the proper relationship to God.

They need to see us following the example Jesus gave us. "My meat is to do the will of Him who sent me."1. They need to see us giving up our will to accomplish the will of God. They need to hear about our growth in our relationship to God. They need to see how a relationship with God actually works.

During our parenting years, both Curt and I experienced, what we believed was, God putting his finger on an area in our life that needed change. We worked through how we were going to go about breaking a habit or developing a new mindset on the particular issue, and then with prayer and dependence on God for His help, we went at doing our part. We talked to our children about the process, and they watched us change. It was powerful and effective in their lives. We have since watched them follow in our footsteps. What joy!

Dear parents, we have more access to our children and more opportunity to disciple them than we do any other souls. May we soberly consider this reality and give everything we've got to bring them to loving submission to us (their God-given temporary authorities) and then may we effectively model a life of submission to the will of God so that we can shepherd them to an understanding of how they are meant to live, submitted to the God who made them because they trust Him.

Godspeed, my dear fellow-parents!

1. John 4:34