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Training Fleshy Flesh

March 15, 1998

…not to touch guns by placing an unloaded and broken gun in the living room where the children could reach it.We carefully watched them. If they touched it, we spanked their hand with a little switch. One to three switchings was sufficient to prevent the little crawlers and toddlers from ever touching a gun.
“You shouldn’t tempt your children,” we are told. I can understand how a wrong attitude on the part of the parent could turn this into a hostile entrapment, leaving the child feeling used. But this can only happen if the parent is hostile. If your intention is to train your child, not just seek opportunity to punish him, all will be well. Training sessions are not unordinary. All events in a child’s life are training. How many times a day do you have to tell a two-year-old “No”? That was a training session. The difference in a happenstance occurrence and one that you premeditate is that the planned “temptation” can be tailor-made and controlled so as to reap the greatest benefit in the shortest period of time with the least amount of effort, and the least stress on the child. The training session should be staged so as to be natural. The child will not know it is staged. In many cases, if the parent is sensitive, an unplanned event can be turned into a training session.
Often the circumstances that naturally arise are so varied and sporadic that the training is more difficult to communicate. If a child occasionally tears the pages out of a book left within his reach, it may be difficult to communicate your desire due to his failure to remember the previous rebuke. It may be confusing to him when he is suddenly disciplined for tearing the pages out of your favorite Bible. But if you place books on the table where he can access them at any time, and you then stand watch closely and prevent him from tearing the pages, the continual reinforcement over one or two days will train him not to tear pages. However if you allow him to tear up one kind of paper and not another it may be difficult for him to determine what is off limits and what is available for tearing.
You the trainer must arrange the environment so as to create the maximum effect in your training. Consistency is the key. You cannot allow a child to play with one set of car keys and not pick up other sets he finds lying around. If you want to be assured that he never plays with keys, you must make all keys off limits. This is not done by placing the keys beyond his reach, but by placing keys within his reach and then consistently denying him the pleasure of touching them. A child of any age can be easily trained to play in a room and touch half of the objects and not the other half. As a parent I am not prepared to spend the time it would take to enforce too broad a scope of continual temptation, but there are a few things like books, keys, guns, vases, dishes, etc. that must be placed off limits by leaving a test case within physical limits. If you trained a child not to touch books, and then placed all books out of reach, in time the discipline to not tear books would be forgotten. It is having an opportunity to tear and frequently exercising the will to not do so that confirms in the child the no-tear discipline. I stayed in the home of a grandpa who had trained his little crawling, eleven-month-old granddaughter to handle one shelf of books but not touch the other. She would also ignore the objects on the top of the coffee table but freely access the trinkets on the under side compartment. During the week I stayed with them, I never saw the grandparents rebuke or spank this child. She cheerfully obeyed. The interesting thing was that she was not so obedient when she was in her own home where the mother was lax in discipline and had not set up training sessions.
Take your choice. One home is full of nagging, gripping, criticism, constant rebuke and threat with many spankings, and “go to your rooms.” The other home is continuously cheerful and ordered because the parents have trained, occasionally using the switch in the training sessions, and have been consistent to demand complete and uninterrupted obedience. You make your home and children what they are. When one buys an automobile that has frequent breakdowns, he says he got a lemon. Children don’t come to us as lemons. Parents cultivate them into it by grafting their children into the root of their own unstable souls.
There are several great benefits to training. First, but second in importance, the parents are benefited by taking the time to train and be consistent, because in the long-run it will take less time. Nagging time is slow time. Each moment is drawn out in stress and anxiety. The gripper and nagger puts in thirty hours a day, where the smiler is always on vacation. I think the aging clock runs faster on people who are always disappointed and anxious. If you want to grow old in a hurry, don’t train your children. Develop an adversarial relationship with your children by just waiting for them to irritate you to the breaking point, and then show them you mean business by flying off the handle. But if you train your children they will rise up and call you blessed. You will have time to smile, to play with them, to read to them. People will brag about what good kids you have, and you will smile even more. Your kids will brag about what a fine Mother they have, and you will get younger. It’s worth it to you to train the kids.
Secondly, and by far the most important, the children benefit from being trained. Children have a developing conscience. They are making judgments about themselves, about how they are doing. “Am I a good person? Am I worthy, important? Am I needed? Am I likeable? Do I make people smile, make them happy? Am I of value? Can I succeed, do something worthwhile?” Many children look into their parents’ faces and know that it is useless to even try further. “It doesn’t matter, I can’t do anything right. I am a bad person. Nobody likes me. I have this problem.” Later they will say, “You don’t understand me. No one listens to me. No one cares. Everybody is a hypocrite.”
When they become teenagers they finally find someone who understands them. The rock musicians rapping our cynicism, rebellion, and hate express their feelings. Friends who gather in the dark and indulge the flesh become their family. Parents are square, out of touch. It’s reaping day, parent. And he went from such a nice little boy who was “hyper active” to human trash in just ten years. It happened on your watch. Proper training behind a smile would have prevented this.
If you neglect a garden, it goes to weeds. If you neglect a motor, it seizes up and throws a rod. If you neglect your health, you die. If you neglect your marriage, your partner is miserable and may leave. If you neglect your government, it turns to tyranny. If you neglect your employment, you may be fired. What if you neglect your children’s training? Certainly we cannot expect children to be automatic Christian gentlemen and ladies. Yes, children benefit the most from proper training. There is no alternative.
If you are the parent of a teenager who is in rebellion, you may feel that I have been hard on you. You scream, “Don’t just tell me what a failure I have made. Tell me what to do to make it right.” I am hard on you because there is nothing you can DO to make it right. There are no external principles, no tricks to making it all right. I am hard on you because your greatest need is to repent. You need a broken heart. You need to face the fact that it is all your fault.
When you stop blaming your child, you can eventually win his respect and gain his confidence enough to be invited into his circle of friends. If you cannot earn your way into his inner circle, you are wasting your time trying to control him. Nursing days and threatening days are over. It’s person to person now. You have to be real if you would make a real difference. You must become twice the person you want your child to become—twice the patience, twice the love, twice the discipline, twice the kindness, twice the honesty, twice the “I am sorry, will you forgive me?”
We are talking about how children benefit from being trained. Children need the discipline parents can give. They have the will but not the way. Their flesh is weak. It is not just your criticism that weighs them down. Their own conscience is actively critiquing their performance. They feel badly when they don’t live up to their own expectations. Parents have the maturity and the will power to give them the structure and the fortitude to do what they know they ought.
Children have the same inner struggle as adults. They are a living soul created to glorify God. The need to walk in righteousness is innate in every human being, even children. The human soul cannot find peace unless living to glorify God. This means living benevolently, speaking kindly, and living sacrificially for the sake of your fellow man.
Yet the flesh of the child stands in opposition to the law of the mind. The flesh of a child, just like the flesh of an adult, wants to indulge. The bodily appetites care nothing for the rule of law or for the needs of others. The flesh wants to be first, get the most, get it all, keep it to the self, and damn anyone who gets in the way. All flesh is self-gratifying and self-consuming. Your child is a living soul in a body of corruptible flesh. When the mind of the child understands duty and knows what it ought to do the flesh still cries out for fulfillment. Your child does not have the strength to do what he knows he ought. Shades of Romans 7.
The child is inadequate to the challenges of the flesh. The problem arises from the fact that a child is born with all of the fleshly appetites, except one that develops at puberty, but none of the self-restraint that comes with maturity of intellect. No matter how hungry an adult is, he will not sit in a public place and smear spaghetti all over his face. The mind tempers the flesh for obvious reasons. But the infant cannot relate to any reasons for restraint. So the infant has run-away flesh with a mind that cannot restrain it.
As the understanding develops, children gain an increasing knowledge of their responsibility to govern themselves for the sake of others. They begin to feel a sense of duty to their fellow man. As the soul buds it bears the flower of moral responsibility. Knowledge of good and evil becomes a factor to be reckoned.
This conflict of soul and flesh, with the flesh dominant, is the point at which parents are indispensable. The Parents’ duty is to assist the child in governing his flesh. Parents must be the child’s rule of law, his conscience, his unction and motivation, enforcing self-restraint and discipline. The child will not do this by himself. The two- to ten-year-old needs help possessing his own soul.
The wonderful thing is that the child knows, with an ever increasing degree as he gets older, that he has a duty to be in conformity to God’s law. Though he cannot muster the strength of character to make the sacrifices necessary to obey the law of his mind, nonetheless he knows, in some degree, what he ought to do. He knows he should pick up his dirty clothes, do his part in carrying out the garbage. He knows he should not bully his sister. He should not beg and whine. He should not allow his appetite to control him, and he should not make demands in the store. With the increase of age, the child’s understanding causes him to hold himself accountable to this unwritten rule of law. His own conscience smarts in pain or relaxes in approval according to how he judges himself to have responded to his duty.
A child’s guilt will not drive him to do what he knows he ought. Condemnation from parents compounds the guilt and cause moral isolation, but the flesh still lusts. The feelings of failure will never motivate the child to have the strength of soul to resist the desires of the flesh. Increasingly, the child is carnal, sold under sin.
Enter the parents! Cause your child to do what he knows he ought. He may squawk, drag his feet, and tell you how mean you are, but the flesh must not be allowed to win over the soul. A child caused to submit to authority has an inner witness that this is good. He knows he has done what he ought. He feels good about himself. His flesh is subdued by the powers of your self-restraint. His conscience is satisfied with the freedom of doing what one ought. He is happy when closely governed and disciplined. The rod plays its part in removing the guilt. Parents are running a mini divine kingdom, sanctifying their children. I get many letters from parents telling of how their miserable, whiney, stubborn child suddenly became happy and began to enjoy everything with a smile after just three days of force obedience and discipline.
Later in life, if your child is born again, he will have the Holy Spirit to empower him to victory. Until that time, you are all the strength and guidance he is going to have. If you wait until your child is old enough to be born again so he can deal with his own flesh, by that time he will have a long life of fleshly habits and indulgences ruling his daily life. If you don’t provide discipline when he is young, when he is old enough to be saved, he may not want to repent to God. He may love the flesh so much that he does not want God to interfere with his pleasure.
Parents have the privilege of preparing their children to be turned over to the Holy Spirit for the completion of their sanctification. Make your children happy. Teach them to obey.

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2 comments on “Training Fleshy Flesh”

  1. Wow, that was a breath of fresh air! It’s been a while since I read your first book. I need these reminders to keep going, be consistant! Thank you!