They disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. Hebrews 12:10-11 (NIV)
Children learn what they live. Here are the initial three of six essentials that parents need to give their children:
Unconditional love. There’s a well-known story in Luke 15 about a youngster who persuaded his father to provide him with enough money to go and party. Not one or two parties, we’re talking serious long term partying. This youngster wanted to party party! So he pushed off to squander his wealth in wild living. It was carousing, caviar and cigars on a grand scale. Then he hit the skids. The poor Jewish boy had to look after animals that weren’t exactly kosher and to make matters worse the pigs ate better than he did. In the end his stomach got the better of him and he “came to his senses” Luke 15:17. Which is the old-fashioned way of saying that seeing as he’d run out of money and was needing a good meal it was time to go back to mum and dad! “But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him” Luke 15:20. Then the father clothed him and celebrated with a feast saying, “For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found” Luke 15:24. That’s unconditional love. The father accepted his son back because he was his child. Similarly, we accept our children for no other reason than that they’re our own flesh and blood. Our acceptance isn’t based on their behaviour, performance, potential or anything else. For unconditional love is love without any strings attached. We love solely because they’re ours to love.
Constructive discipline. Proverbs 13:24 tells us that “he who spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is careful to discipline him.” Now I know the subject of discipline generates strong differences of opinion and I don’t want to get hung up on the debate. I just want to point out that the goal of discipline should be correction and instruction – not punishment. The purpose of discipline is to help modify a child’s behaviour so that he or she becomes more godly. That’s God’s intent when He disciplines us, His aim is correction that will enable us to do what’s right and live at peace (cf. Hebrews 12:10-11). Which indicates that even though it’s unpleasant to exercise discipline we should remember that without loving correction we’ll struggle to harvest righteousness in our children.
Time together. Arthur Gordon tells of a time when his father had promised to take him and his brother to the circus. But as they sat down to lunch someone phoned his father and asked him to come down to the office to attend to some urgent business. Arthur and his brother braced themselves for the disappointment. Then they heard their father say, “No, I won’t be down. It will have to wait.” When he came back to the table their mother smiled and said, “The circus keeps coming back, you know.” “I know,” said Arthur’s father, “But childhood doesn’t.” Jesus would agree. He never saw Himself as too busy or too important to be spending time with children. He modelled the value of giving children His full attention. When children were brought to Him for prayer the disciples tried to chase them away, but Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them” Matthew 19:14. In so doing He’s taught us that it’s imperative to give our children both quality and quantity time. Every moment we have with our children is valuable. For, as Jesus says, “The kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these” Matthew 19:14.