It had been a big morning at church. It was a family dedication service, and the parents had dedicated their 4-year-old boy that day. As they pulled out of the church parking lot, they noticed their son was whimpering in the back seat. They asked him what was wrong. Through tears he said, “The preacher said he wanted us to be raised in a Christian home, but I want to stay with you guys!”

Raising kids to love the Lord in an authentic household is a tall task these days. Through our parenting we must model the way God disciplines and expects our obedience. Is it possible to raise children who will respect and obey, or is it merely a pipedream? We are surrounded by a society where in increasing numbers, parents are shirking their responsibility to train and nurture their children in the Lord. “Let somebody else do it; I’m too busy.”

Some people think it’s the church’s job. “We take our kids to church so they will learn to love God.”

Some people think it’s the Christian schoolteacher’s responsibility. The teachers are the ones who need to do this. Parents will say, “Oh, if we can get them in the right preschool with the right teacher, they can learn discipline and structure.” Well, that may happen; but the primary responsibility of instilling respect resides with you. It’s your job as the parent. Sure, we want as many positive secondary influences as possible to help encourage and deepen that message, but it starts with you.

Mom and Dad, you must have a stake in the present and future of your children. You have a stronger emotional investment in your child than anyone else. So dive in and enjoy this journey called parenting. It is time-consuming and tiring, but it pays incredible dividends.

Bill Hybels says, “Parents, I have to remind you: Nannies, babysitters, relatives and daycare workers never will give an ultimate account to God for how they raised your children. You will.”

Paul said in Ephesians 6:1-3: “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. ‘Honor your father and mother,’ which is the first commandment with a promise, ‘so that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.'”

Parents, teach your children to obey you the first time, just as God expects us to obey the first time He asks—immediately. This is a process that will take a great deal of time, but it’s worth it. If children can learn to obey their earthly parents, in time it will become an easier transition to obey their heavenly Father the first time.

A number of years ago, our family was in the Dominican Republic on a mission trip. If you’ve ever driven in a developing country, you know how dangerous the traffic can be. Vehicles whiz past, coming within just a few feet of children playing close to the road. One night, my son Sam was playing a game in his own little world, in which he would zig and zag, back and forth from sidewalk onto the narrow street and back. It wasn’t a heavily travelled road; but there was always loud music blaring, and it was pitch dark. From about 10 feet away, I suddenly shouted, “Samuel, don’t move!”

Immediately he froze. About a second later a Moped zipped past him, going 30 mph with no lights on—right where Sam was about to step. My 6-year-old didn’t ignore me, argue or blatantly disobey. I said freeze, and he froze. That obedience probably saved his life. Evidently Solomon meant it when he wrote, “Discipline your children, for in that there is hope; do not be a willing party to their death” (Proverbs 19:18).

That moment of obedience wasn’t a fluke, and it didn’t happen automatically. It was the result of months of training and disciplining Sam in plenty of non-threatening situations. He made numerous mistakes in the process, but we had set our expectations high and trained him to respond. When it counted, Sam passed the test. Repetition and consistency always pays off.

When we sin, we will have some consequences; so should our children. Never discipline or punish your child when you are angry. It sends the wrong message, and it fractures your relationship. Discipline always should be administered in love by a parent who is under control and seeking to encourage the child to make wiser choices in the future.

There are different tools of leverage at your disposal based on their age or temperament. Your 6-year-old may lose playtime for the day. Your 10-year-old may not be allowed to watch television that night. That is the consequence of a choice he or she has made of misbehaving. Your 13-year-old may lose cell phone privileges for the weekend.

If you have high schoolers, maybe their consequences are they lose cell phone and/or driving privileges. If it is a college student who isn’t achieving academically and majoring in partying, then you may choose to stop paying the tuition. You may need to challenge your children and leverage the financial assistance you give by saying, “Until you move back toward God-honoring behavior, I will not fund your schooling.” You try to get them to change that way.

If you have more than one child, the odds are you have a strong-willed child. They will test you repeatedly. You have to make certain some boundaries have been set. You have to stick to your guns.

James Dobson says, “As a parent, your job early on is to break their will without crushing their spirit. You will be tempted, time and time again to weaken and give in and go back on your word, but let me encourage you parents, don’t do that. These kids need to know that there are secure behavioral boundaries established by parents who love them. If you don’t discipline them, they will not respect any authority, whether it is yours, a teacher’s, a police officer’s or God’s.” That is your responsibility.

Solomon said in Proverbs 29:17: “Discipline your son, and he will give you peace; he will bring delight to your soul.” Just make certain to be consistent in that discipline.

In Luke 2:52 we read, “Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.” Jesus was going through stages of growth—intellectual, physical, spiritual and social. It’s a process that can be innocent and awkward at times.

Several years ago, we were at a wedding reception with my young son. He was at the buffet grabbing grapes right and left, and he was inspecting them! If he didn’t like the way the grape looked, he put it back. Those moments are embarrassing for a parent; but in all honesty, that’s typical behavior for a 7-year-old. If left unchecked, if you don’t train them, when they are 19, they still will do the same thing at wedding receptions! So, gently take them aside and train them.

The closer bond you have with your children, the easier it is for them to accept your discipline. Josh McDowell says, “Rules without relationship lead to rebellion.”  Countless times I’ve repeated that to myself as a reminder to keep the communication lines open and to invest more in the relationship than the expectation.

The truth is, all of us have rebelled—parents and children. There is a time to discipline, there is a time to repent, and there is a time to forgive. You as the parent are establishing the routine, the rules and the expectations. Because that’s what a good parent does. You are also modeling for them repentance so they can learn how it’s done.

Parenthood is modeled on the relationship between God and us. He is the Creator; we are the creation. He has the right to call the shots. So do we as parents.

It takes a while to teach, but it beats years and years of repeated requests and manipulative attempts by your children to get their way. Consistency in discipline will remove the guesswork from parenting and reduce the drama in your home.

Raising Them to Release Them
Moms, what I’ve noticed is that if God blesses you with more than one child, it becomes easier to release them with each one. With the first baby, it may take three months before you check them into the church nursery. With the second baby, it’s half that time. With the third child, you’re calling the church from the labor and delivery room to make sure your child is registered!

You may be familiar with Hannah in the Old Testament. Hannah knew she would have to release Samuel much sooner than most, but we all must go through that painful process. If we don’t, it can erode the strength of your marriage relationship, as well as give the child an unhealthy dependence on his or her parents. You are raising them to release them. That is why it’s so important that you intentionally pour into them in those early years, teaching them to respect and obey their elders and their God.

Reasons for Parenting
The truest joy of parenting comes from intentionally pouring yourself into the lives of your children. There is a reason you do it. It’s out of gratitude to God for the blessing He’s shared with you. It’s a joyful occasion. Think back to Hannah again. Her scenario is similar to yours: Hannah asked God for a child. God gave her a son, then she—in appreciation—gave him back to God in service. She kept her promise by giving Samuel back to God.

Hannah knew Samuel didn’t exist for her; Samuel existed for God. She existed to serve God above everything. It’s a wise mother who knows that while it’s nice to be needed, the ultimate goal is for every child one day to be physically, emotionally and spiritually mature and independent of her.

In many ways, this is a repeating process throughout parenthood. You are empty and ask God to provide—a child, wisdom, patience. You are filled with the joy from a child, the pride of parenthood. You then pour into your child, giving him or her over to the work of God rather than keeping the child for yourself.

Parents, how do you view your children: as interruptions or as the treasures which God has entrusted to your care?

When I was growing up, my mom was fond of saying that 3 John 1:4 was her favorite verse: “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.”

I always wondered why that verse stood out to her. I didn’t understand then, but I do now.

Perhaps this sermon is causing you to question your ability to parent. Please know you must learn from the past, not live in the past. You can make some adjustments. Whether your kids are 6 or 17, when it comes to your parenting, God is more interested in your direction than He is your perfection. That is absolute truth.

Let me say as lovingly as I am able to Christian parents: The world must see a difference in our kids. If the world looks at the children of Christian parents and there is no difference, then we have drastically failed because we have not attracted them to the wonderful message of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Teach them to obey. Jesus said, “In fact, this is love for God: to keep His commands” (1 John 5:3). Jesus creatively communicates that the Lord wants us to know that obedience is God’s love language.

My pastor friend Chip Ingram says, “The parent who balances love and discipline, without compromising either, produces well-adjusted kids who maintain a positive relationship with Mom and Dad.”

Is it possible to raise children who will respect and obey? Yes. In fact, it’s easier than you think. Once you’ve taken time to establish the expectations, discipline with love and continue with consistency, you’ll find it quite liberating.

So parents, it is time to be genuine and consistent. Children, it is time to be respectful and obedient, because God wants that from us. Remember, God has the last word. God loves you, and He loves your children unconditionally, consistently, completely.

McDowell, Josh and Bob Hostetler. Josh McDowell’s Handbook on Counseling Youth. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1996, p.235.
Chip Ingram, Effective Parenting in a Defective World: How to Raise Kids Who Stand out from the Crowd. Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 2006, p. 87.

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