I’ve recently had some moms ask me where to begin when their children are older but they wish they would have started training their children to obey God from birth.
They know they need to start, but aren’t quite sure how.
Teaching your child at an older age is not going to differ much from teaching a younger child.
We all need the same thing whether we’re children, teenagers, or adults, and that is the spirit of God working to change us through the power of His Word.
The salvation of your child and subsequently a life that is lived for God’s glory is the ultimate goal. The goal is not to have your child outwardly conform to your standards, but rather to be changed from the inside out. So first of all, ask yourself “Does my child claim to know Christ as his Savior?” If not, pray specifically toward that end and focus on teaching them Scripture that is directed specifically toward pointing out their sin and their need for a Savior.
If your child does know Christ as his Savior, then he has the Holy Spirit dwelling within. It should be your goal as the parent to direct your child to follow the Spirit’s promptings in his heart. If all a child learns is to follow rules, his life will be a mess when he is grown and he has no one to make any rules for him. Instead you need teach your child that God’s Word needs to be his authority. When enforcing rules at home, remind your child every time that by disobeying his parents he has actually disobeyed God’s Word.
Before we go any further, I want to be doubly sure you understand exactly what the goal is. You can’t reach a goal if you’re not 100% clear on what it is.
Read this out loud to solidify it in your own heart and mind:
My goal in training (child’s name) is the salvation of (his/her) soul and (his/her) submission to the Word of God.
Okay, now that you know exactly what the goal is let’s go over some practical steps to get there.
1. First of all, PRAY! I already mentioned that it is the Holy Spirit who must do the work in your child’s heart. You can enforce conformity to outward standards, but you can never get into your child’s heart and change his thinking and attitudes. If you want the Holy Spirit to do so, you need to ask him! You should also be praying for wisdom to know what to say as you teach your child and how to respond when a particular situation arises.
2. Know the Word of God for yourself. If your goal is for your children to be submissive to the Word of God, they first of all need to know what it says. And if you want your children to know the Word of God, you need to know it yourself. You can’t teach something you don’t know! (See also: Finding Time for God When You Can Hardly Find Time to Breathe.)
3. Build credibility. You can talk to your children until you are blue in the face, but they are not going to listen to a word you say if your life does not back up what you are saying. (Mom tells me God’s Word is the most important thing in the world, but she spends all her time on the computer? Mom tells me to speak to others kindly, but she yells at me when she’s frustrated? You get the picture.)
Not only do you build credibility by how you live, but you also build credibility by being consistent in your discipline. If you’ve told your children they may not touch a particular item in the house, but you see them playing with it one day and ignore it because it’s “too inconvenient” to deal with at the time, they are going to pick up very quickly that obedience isn’t really as important as you say. If you tell your child to clean his room and he doesn’t do it until the second or third time (when you’ve finally yelled loud enough), he is going to learn that he doesn’t really have to obey right away.
Now what if you have made mistakes in the past and haven’t been consistent about disciplining your child every time he disobeys or doesn’t obey the first time he’s told?
If your child is old enough to realize those things, he is old enough for you to sit down with him and give him an honest heart-to-heart talk about where you’ve failed him as a parent. Explain to him that you haven’t taught him how important it is to obey you (and ultimately God), but that starting from this moment on, you will be making the importance of obedience clear to him by administering appropriate consequences when he disobeys.
Seeing mom or dad admit mistakes is not going to destroy your credibility; it will actually help your child realize that his parents aren’t trying to pretend to be perfect. (He already knows you’re not perfect, so seeing you try to act like you are only shows him that you are a liar and a hypocrite – not exactly character traits you are wanting to exemplify.) Once you’ve talked with your child and told him what to expect — do it! Follow through, or you will destroy the credibility you’re trying to build before you ever get started!
4. Show your children how much you love and care about them. “No one cares how much you know until they know how much you care” may seem like a trite statement, but yet it is true. Do you want your children to listen when you try to correct and instruct them? They won’t want to hear it unless you have shown them that you care about them as a person. Spend time with them. Listen to them. Get to know them. We’ll cover some practical ways to do that another time. We’ll also cover some ideas for specific scriptures that are good to teach your children, but for now just teach them something!
Since this post is getting long, I’ll try to sum it all up in four words.
Where do you start when you feel like you’re behind with child training?
Start where you are.
Not in a week after you’ve come up with a detailed plan. Not after you’ve lamented over the years you’ve lost. Right now.
Go forward and don’t look back.
Love and prayers for you and your children,