Training Up Children


"Train up a child in the way he should go, and when and when he is old he will not turn from it."1

I
read recently about a man who said, "I failed my son when he needed me most. I was under a great strain from a workload I seemed unable to escape. A gulf came between me and my son, and when I recognized it, it was too late. I have never been able to regain communication. I failed God as well as my son. Unfortunately I am not able to change the damage I caused."

Keleigh Vigil and chocolate cake
Keleigh Vigil and chocolate cake


The responsibility to provide for one's family goes far beyond merely meeting a child's need for food, clothes, shelter and education. It also includes meeting his emotional and spiritual needs and guiding him to total adult maturity.

This path to maturity has three stages: the dependent childhood stage; the independent teenage stage; and the interdependent adult life.

To mature through the first two stages to adulthood, a child needs lots of unconditional love, sufficient freedom for him to become a person in his own right, and loving but firm discipline.

Conditional love—that is, "I love you if you are nice, well-behaved, do well at school, etc."—isn't love at all. It is control. It smothers a child and damages his self-image. A child who is loved primarily for what he does or doesn't do rather than for who he is will not feel truly loved.

A child also needs sufficient freedom to develop his own unique personality. A part of this is to allow him to make more and more of his own decisions as he is able to, and to train him to accept the consequences of those decisions. He also needs to do for himself as much as he can because others doing what he could and should be doing for himself will keep him over-dependent and immature.

Discipline is the training of a
child in every area of life.

Without this freedom to develop his or her own person, a child feels over-controlled and over-protected. He is thus being programmed for later rebellion or other emotional and/or physical problems.

Does giving a child freedom mean that he is allowed to do as he pleases? Not at all. One cannot have love and freedom without discipline. Dr. Bruce Narramore, founding dean of the Rosemead Graduate School of Psychology, lists seven types of discipline in his excellent book, Help I'm a Parent.2 They are as follows:

Discipline by communication. Explanation is an essential part of all discipline. Children need to be told what the guidelines are so they can know what is expected of them. They also need to be told why some behavior isn't acceptable. If they aren't told, they will think their parents are unreasonable and they will naturally feel resentful.

Discipline through reinforcement and extinction. By rewarding any behavior, one reinforces that behavior and helps it to continue.

For example, Mother asked Suzy to straighten up her room. She did. When Mother looked in she said, "Suzy, I'm really pleased with the way you straightened up your room. You did such a good job."

This is rewarding positive behavior with a compliment. Rewards can also be special treats sometimes. Such rewards thus reinforce desirable behavior.

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