Parenting is an art form, a spiritual experience, rather than a science. It requires intuitive action as well as reason. Men value their reason above their feelings, and rightly so. Unfounded feelings are an untethered and unpiloted ship. But unfeeling reason is law without a soul. Raising children does not require less reason; it just requires a great deal more sensitivity and intuition. The father who fails to make his wife feel loved will likewise fail to impart to his children a sense of value and security.
I have been asked 10,000 questions concerning child training. A few are standard, having a scripted answer that is suitable to all. But most questions cannot be definitively answered. The answer depends on your relationship to your child, the child’s temperament, the circumstances preceding the event in question, how consistent you have been and how consistent you will be in the future, the strength of the child’s will, his intelligence, your demeanor, and a hundred other things. I really couldn’t tell you how to deal with a particular child in a particular situation unless I were a fly on the wall (a praying fly), observing for a long period of time, and then I would find it necessary to tentatively experiment with solutions until I found the right approach to correcting actions and character in your child. In the main, I would rely upon my intuition to know the child, know myself, and act in love and law.
I cannot give you a rule that will make you compassionate or discerning. Paul listed the nine fruits of the Spirit and then said, “against such there is no law” (Galatians 5:23). That is to say, there is no law that can direct one to “love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness” and “temperance.” Fruits of the spirit cannot result from willful obedience to the law or from applying principles.
How can one teach another to be spiritual or intuitive? Intuitiveness is the soul knowing—or sensing—that which cannot be seen or otherwise perceived. It is akin to innate knowledge. It is like a prior assumption or a first truth. The Apostle Paul said, “For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him” (1 Corinthians 2:11)? Even a primitive man like Job observed “But there is a spirit in man: and the inspiration of the Almighty giveth them understanding” (Job 32:8). Putting it together, we observe that which we intuitively know: there is in all men, including the unregenerate, a God-given human spirit that is a source of understanding, enabling us to know God and fellow men on a spiritual level.
Raising children is a spiritual exercise because children are spiritual beings. If you neglect to feed that spirit you will neglect the training that matters. A child disciplined in body and mind will be faithful like a well-trained dog is faithful, up to a point. But the time comes, usually around puberty, when the soul of the child becomes autonomous and will begin to manifest its character. That is when the “proof is in the pudding” so to speak.
Even an atheist family must communicate on a spiritual level if their children are going to develop normally. “But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Corinthians 2:14). But the Christian has a thousandfold advantage over the natural man, for upon regeneration he receives the Spirit of God to accompany his natural human spirit. “[H]e that is joined unto the Lord is one spirit” (1 Corinthians 6:17). So, concerning those who have been born again, “he that is spiritual judgeth all things…for we have the mind of Christ” (1 Corinthians 2:15–16).
The born again believer has been restored to the spiritual man God intended him to be, and therefore is capable of operating on a higher level than the unaided intellect. It is essential that a parent be sensitive to the spirit that is in him, for in so doing he is availing himself of the “mind of Christ”. Where the natural man’s intuitive actions can be spiritual on a human level, those of us who possess God’s Spirit can be intuitive on a divine level.
The question must be posed, “If believers have the mind of Christ and operate on a divine plane, why do they fail so, and why must they be instructed to right action and sensibility; shouldn’t it be automatic?” The truly born again individuals still possess their corrupted human flesh and spirit, though their human spirit is now joined by the Holy Spirit. The two spirits function as one and may reflect the character of either. If we do not walk after the Spirit of God, our corrupted human spirit will be the default resource for all our actions. But if we are “filled” with the Spirit of God, and “walk after” the Spirit of God (Romans 8), we will reflect the “mind of Christ” and “will not fulfill the lust of the flesh.” [See audio messages on Romans 8. It is available for free online or you can order the entire series.]
So what encouragement do I have for those of us trying to train up children in the way they should go? Cultivate your discernment in training your children. A spanking or stern rebuke is not the answer to every issue. Connect with the spirit of your child. Commune on a spiritual level with the little ones. Share souls with them. Let them know you as you get to know them. You must at all times feel the beat of their spiritual hearts. I am not talking mush here—unless they are two years old. This oneness of spirit is shared among men in battle. Men who work together and share their thoughts and feelings sometimes develop a closer bond than with their wives. Nothing kinky here. Jesus and the twelve disciples had this kind of relationship. They knew each other in the spirit.
If you walk in fellowship with your child, he or she will want to please you in all things. Just as believers know the things of God by the spirit that he has given us, so children will know their parents by that human spirit that they share. As you walk after God’s spirit, they will walk after yours. When I was a child I was led by my daddy’s spirit when he was not present. Even today, with my daddy having been dead for 40 years, I still find myself walking after his spirit, honoring his heart.
Do your children know that you know them? Do they know how you care? Do they care how you feel? Do they want to please you, not out of fear but out of a desire to live in the light of your countenance? If not, I suggest you begin to walk after the Spirit of God, and that Spirit will bring you discernment, enriching your intuition and giving you inspiration and discernment that is not your own.