The best child training medicine I know is a heart that overflows with a consuming desire to give children pleasure. Our training can’t stop there, but neither can it begin anywhere else. It must be part of the image of God within us―that desire to bring pleasure to children, to make their lives fascinating and full of joy. They are so easy to delight. I feel like a grandfather to all children everywhere. . .well, except maybe some of the brats I see in grocery stores. But if I had them for three days, they would cease to be brats. It would probably take me two days to begin to like them, but I can endure anything when I know there is relief around the corner. You can smile children into peace and grace.
Here is the key—the way it actually works. When you become a source of pleasure to a child and they feel that they are your source of pleasure as well, they become dependent upon that relationship for their continued pleasure. They don’t want to do anything to break fellowship with you. They will seek to be all you want them to be. You have their heart; you have their will. They are way too smart to fall for a fake. If they do not know that you are delighted with them, they will keep you at arms’ length and may even try to antagonize you.
If children ever sense that you don’t like them, they will develop an adversarial posture toward you. No amount of spanking or rebuke will win their hearts. You might spank them into obeying any given command, but they will never seek to please you from the heart. On the other hand, kids who know they are treasured will give you their all to be worthy of your high opinion of them.
Now, some of you are saying, “I agree with you fully, but how do I delight in children that only cause me pain and grief?”
You may have spun your tires in the same hole until you buried your whole family it. You need to taste a little of the joyous possibilities. You need a small victory to give you hope.
Single out just one of your kids, and begin bestowing special attention on him. Leave the others with grandma and take the one child with you for a day out. The both of you need to get out of the rut and meet on friendly ground. Go to the zoo, a playground, out to eat his favorite junk food, wherever, just as long as he is having fun and sees you enjoying him having fun. Smile into his soul until you see something that makes you smile without effort. Talk with him. Let him know that he is special to you. When you have tasted the goodness that is in that one child, you will have hope to endure the trials you must go through to bring the whole family into your circle of love and approval.
Go back and read No Greater Joy Volumes One, Two, and Three. Re-read To Train Up A Child. Watch the video The Joy of Training. Spend some time worshiping God and giving thanks. When God has your heart and you know you are loved and forgiven, you will be able with joy to pass that love and forgiveness on to your children. You can do this!