Productive child rearing doesn’t just happen. It is an investment that must be managed until maturity. Do you feel that you lack the wisdom to train up your children in the way they should go? Do you feel that you have been promoted to a job that is well beyond your skill level? Be assured, all conscientious parents recognize their deficiency of the necessary knowledge and wisdom to deal with all the eventualities they will face before their job is complete.
Child training wisdom would certainly enable you to approach your job with confidence, but wisdom is not an indispensable prerequisite. Parents are just grown kids—people still developing, seldom exceptional in any area, especially not in the art of training a little human to be exceptional. Being a good child trainer and parent is not beyond the reach of any Christian parent. If you feel incompetent to bring your children up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, that is no indication that you are going to fail. There are three qualities parents must possess in order to produce well-trained and disciplined young adults: cheerfulness, authoritative command, and consistency.
Of these three, the greatest of these is cheerfulness. It is the first and most important quality a child trainer must possess. Young parents may not possess authoritative command or consistency when their first child comes along, but they can make a good beginning if they are cheerful. All other skills will come in time. If you have ever owned a business where you needed an employee to deal with the public, the one indispensable trait you looked for was cheerfulness. The job itself will teach all the other skills necessary, but cheerfulness cannot be taught. It is the light that shines from the soul. Customers will be patient with a cheerful employee that fumbles with the details of a transaction, but they will threaten to sue the company if they have to deal with a cow-faced employee who acts like the customer is a pain she has to endure.
Dear parent, know that when God designed a program whereby young people, even teenagers, become parents, he never expected them to be accomplished in all the skills of life. Parents grow up with their children. In fact, raising children is vital to one’s own maturity. Training up a child in the way he should go is a 20 year graduate course in life. It produces more humility than it does experts. But know that cheerfulness will cover a multitude of deficiencies.
Let’s face it, the most awesome and demanding job on this planet is rearing children to be emotionally stable, creative, godly, productive, and self-disciplined. It requires a wide variety of skills. If a government or nonprofit organization were assigned the task of raising just one child and it had two years to prepare for his arrival, it would be easy to sink one hundred million dollars into preparation. Experts in every field would be screened and employed. Psychologists and educators would hold long brainstorming sessions to debate the best approach. Experts in safety and diet would work for countless hours to try to lay out a sure plan. In the meantime, they would need to screen five thousand young people to find that perfect couple with the aptitude to endure the intensive training program. Then the couple would be required to sign a contract that committed them to the 20 years it might take to complete this colossal undertaking. After the child was delivered to the couple, the experts would meet with the parents once a week to troubleshoot problems that arise. After 20 years and a hundred million dollars, if the 50-expert team could produce a psychologically sound, disciplined, and productive young man, it would be hailed as a great success in all the psychology textbooks for the next 500 years.
But every day young Christian couples have their first baby and begin the colossal endeavor all alone with no preparation and no professional support. Amazingly, Christian couples, and especially those who are homeschooling, are producing a great host of godly, stable young people, many of whom have now graduated into life and have begun the endeavor all over again, raising up their own children. These second generation parents may begin their journeys wiser than their parents, but they too will feel inadequate and stumble around seeking the best path, growing as their children grow, and maturing as they too learn humility and how to pray.
Yes, I know all too well. A small minority of our homeschooled children is not graduating into life with self-discipline, godliness, and creativity, and there are a few who are not even emotionally stable.
You cannot take a crash course in wisdom and suddenly find yourself prepared, but you can walk in the light as he is in the light and appropriate divine wisdom on an as-needed basis. It is a faith walk and never provides answers for tomorrow’s questions, but it is always sufficient for today.
I say again, there is one indispensable quality you must possess—cheerfulness. It is the easiest to come by and does not require maturity or wisdom. The Bible word is “joy”. It takes a lifetime to become a library of wisdom, but God can make you completely joyful in an instant. Joy/cheerfulness is the byproduct of thankfulness and love. The angel announced, “Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.” The apostle Peter spoke of “joy unspeakable and full of glory.” John wrote his epistle “that your joy may be full.” Paul spoke of the “joy of the Holy Ghost.” The fruit of the Holy Spirit is “love, joy, peace” and more. John further said it was a “joy no man taketh from you.” If you think of Holy Ghost joy as something less than cheerful, you are misinformed. God-given joy is the best joy of all. Could it be less than cheerful?
I said joy is the one indispensable. It is the fertile ground of all good child training—of all good relationships. In my DVD The Joy of Training, I said, “A joyless parent can no more raise good kids than a skunk can raise skunklets that smell good.” And again, “Training without joy is tyranny.”
A young parent that is full of good cheer has 75 percent of what it takes to be a successful child trainer. Everyone is attracted to joy. Children will do anything for one who enjoys them. Once they get in the joy zone, they never want to do anything that might jeopardize that relationship. A parent of good cheer can deliver a more effective rebuke in less time and without damaging the relationship than a legalistic grump could do with a thousand Bible verses and a hundred spankings. If you are cheerful in the Lord Jesus Christ you will be a dynamic child trainer. You will be to children what a flower is to a bee.
When you know you are forgiven and have a home in heaven and that your Heavenly Father is working all things to your good, you will be cheerful. Only unbelievers are cheerless. If you believe the truth, you will rejoice in the truth and walk in the light, and children will love you. They will want to please you.
I say again, your children will grow up faster than you can attain wisdom and knowledge, but God will immediately grant you the wisdom of the hour and the joy of eternity if you just believe the truth of the Lord Jesus Christ. “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him” (James 1:5).
If you are cheerful—full of God’s joy—the next trait you need in order to become an effective child trainer is to command with authority. To command with authority one must believe in his cause and have confidence in his own decisions. If you don’t believe your own words, know that you will never be a good enough actor to make your little psychologists believe you. You can read our writings and the good writings of others and accumulate a vast amount of knowledge, technique, and wisdom with regard to child training, but you will never really believe in yourself enough to command with authority until you believe with conviction in what you are doing.
If the application of principles required nothing more than the push of a button you could “try” different approaches. But that is not the way relationships and child training work. Kids don’t respond the first time. They try you, test your limits, and seek emancipation from all authority and rule of law. They are liberal totalitarians seeking a following, not passive peasants groveling to do your will. Children must be broken to the yoke of authority.
What I just said is absolutely true, about children being broken to authority, and I must say it, though I know there will be religious tyrants who will skip the first quality—cheerful joy—and will say, “Yeah, that’s it, BREAK THEM. Teach those little devilish nymphs to fear the rod. They must learn who is boss.” If that is your attitude you should give your children away and join Al Qaeda. Then you could hide in the mountains of Afghanistan where you would be in better company, and maybe the military would call upon you with a drone. Anger and aggression have no place in child training. Go back and view The Joy of Training.
A leader has lost control when he must resort to intimidation to command respect, and then the respect is based on fear and hate—not what we want to see in our children. You can establish your authority by means of the third quality—consistency.
Whether training a dog, an employee, or a child, consistency is indispensable. Day in, day out, week after week, year after year, always be consistent. Be consistent in the rules, your expectations, your demand of compliance, and the execution of consequences if there are willful infractions. Dignified consistency will elicit more respect than you can imagine. Children will believe in your rule of law when you demonstrate respect for your own commands by holding them accountable every time, without fail.
I have not been thorough. These points have been belabored a hundred different ways in my writings. Go online and reread the old material.
Remember, a good trainer is cheerful, authoritative, and consistent—cheerful before all.
- Consistency (August 1995)