Raising responsible, mature adults should be the desired end result of all parents.
Three Characteristics of Maturity:
- Self-control – not ruled by emotions and passion
- Wisdom – rational
- Responsible – 1st Habit of Private Victory of Highly Effective People
Liberalism is the natural characteristic of the human heart. It is the natural result of our fallen nature.
From birth, we are driven by emotion and passion.
We want what we want when we want it and we refuse things we do not want.
Children start off with the will to be gratified; we need to be taught self-control, wisdom, and responsibility.
“The emotional intelligence of parents today is depriving children the opportunity to learn through adversity. Most adolescents from affluent families have all the useful accessories – cell phones, credit cards, computers, and cars – but they have few of the responsibilities that build character…indulged children become susceptible to self-absorption, depression, anxiety and lack of self-control.” – Ed Shipman
Ten principles for shaping our children’s character and grooming them with self-control, wisdom, and responsibility:
1. Children must be helped, through proper training, to rein in their passions.
Children start off life with the will to be gratified. If that will is allowed to go unchecked, a child will grow up to be ruled by his passions rather than reason. A person ruled by his or her passions will then make decisions based on what gratifies them rather than on wisdom or responsibility. Such a person will not be governed by objective logic or personal integrity, but by what is merely expedient.
To prevent that from happening, the primary goal of parental training must be to help children learn self-control.
The military learned long ago that the best followers make the best leaders – group consensus destroys effectiveness.
Children, because of their innate desire for gratification, do not need to exercise leadership, but to follow strong leadership. This is why, for the first few years of their lives, we must offer strong leadership, giving them little say in the decisions we make for them.
Children raised to think they should have a say in all decisions that affect them grow up self-centered, demanding, impatient and ungrateful.
Parents who encourage their child to always speak his mind may never have to second-guess his opinions but they inadvertently feed his contempt for authority.
As our children head into adolescence it certainly may be wise to solicit thoughts and opinions from them. After all, we love them and they are people who deserve the respect of having their thoughts and feelings heard but, the family is not a democracy.
Childhood is a season of learning to accept leadership with grace and humility.
2. Children’s happiness must not be the driving force of the home.
Watching children laugh and play is a tremendous joy, even for the biggest curmudgeon however, we must not live to gratify our children’s every desire and make our decisions based on their responses.
The happiest children seem to be those who are secure in their parents’ LOVING authority.
They obey the first time they are spoken to and know they will be rewarded with the trust of their parents and be held accountable with disciplinary consequences if they obey.
They are happy because they have found safety within the boundaries established and enforced. They are at peace because they do not have to carry the load of helping their parents run the home.
3. Children must not be indulged.
Indulging our children with everything for which they cry, beg or pout does NOT satisfy their will-to-be-gratified – it actually does just the opposite.
Indulging them includes things like buying them every new fashion-wear, video game or getting them a cell phone with unlimited minutes.
We indulge them when we offer freedom to do whatever they want, whenever they want, with minimal accountability or when we permit them to talk back and voice their opinions about every instruction they receive. And we inflate their sense of self-importance when we make family decisions based not on what we think is wisest or best, but on their moods and reactions. An indulged child ultimately runs the roost. Constantly gratifying our child’s desire for pleasure creates in them a sense of entitlement and a general lack of appreciation.
The truth is that life does not give us everything we want and we better instill that early in our child’s training.
4. Children must not be rescued from every hardship.
When our children are infants we listen for their cries to know when they are suffering some discomfort and need our attention.
The problem is that too many parents never distinguish the difference between their will-to-survive and their will-to-be-gratified as they get older. They continue to rescue them every time they pout, cry or grumble.
Examples of rescuing are when we permit them to complain ungratefully about what they have been served for dinner, or worse, mom goes back to the stove to cook them something different. Or, jumping in to provide entertainment in response to the complaint of being bored.
Whenever their feelings are hurt, we do them no favor by rushing to their defense by attacking the offender.
However, we DO harm them ourselves if we do not teach them how to endure offenses and handle the inevitable “difficult people” in life. We must model for them that other people’s words or opinions of us need not determine how we react. If we are not careful, we will raise our children to be thin-skinned social wimps who blame others for their own inability to handle offenses.
Learning to face and overcome life’s hardships is a key part of developing maturity.
5. Children must be allowed to suffer the consequences of their actions.
When we continually rescue them from having to suffer the consequences of their actions, we keep them from developing a proper sense of responsibility.
Responsible people are not only reliable to their duties but do not depend upon others to clean up their messes or pay for their own obligations.
Restoration and restitution are key expressions of responsibility.
If we do not hold our children accountable for themselves but rescue them from the consequences of their actions, they grow up to believe that the pursuit of pleasure without consequences is their supreme right. They develop a “victim” mentality, thinking they are not responsible for the circumstances they have brought upon themselves.
Parents also teach irresponsibility by issuing too many warnings or reinforcing bad behavior. When a child is caught sneaking dessert before dinner, parents encourage bad behavior by merely admonishing him not to do it again and allowing him to finish eating what he took. This is no different than what is happening in many of our public educations schools today of the teacher permitting students to turn in assignments past the due date without any penalty.
Consistently allowing children to behave irresponsibly without consequence encourages future misconduct.
6. Children must be required to obey the first time they are spoken to.
An important key to remember is that parents must give directives just once.
Parental directives must be spoken calmly and only once, with an appropriate disciplinary consequence for disobedience.
When an authority figure habitually repeats directives or gives multiple warnings, it produces several negative side effects in our children.
- Children permitted to continually disregard instructions grow up with their will-to-be-gratified strengthened.
- Children consistently permitted to disregard their parent’s voices will lack the capacity to obey quickly at the threat of danger.
- Those that have authority but are reluctant to exercise it, foster disrespect in those they lead. Parents who lose their children’s respect can often trace it back to this.
- When parents repeat themselves, their anger may build until they are driven by rage to bring punishment. Raging parents can be tempted toward abusive parenting.
7. Children must be taught to obey without always knowing the reason why.
If parents establish firm behavioral boundaries for their toddlers, without offering a reason why they should obey, and limiting their personal choices, by the time their child is four years old will have learned self-denial and will be well on the path to self-control.
If children are offered reasons to obey before they have learned to obey without them, they will not learn the self-denial that is the foundation of self-control.
To grow in wisdom, children must be taught the reasoning behind parents’ commands but the time in childhood to begin making them wise is only after they have demonstrated they can consistently obey without needing to know why.
Children must learn that they are to obey first and then return for a full reason why.
Sassy and argumentative children who think their parents owe them convincing explanations usually get their way because parents justify all their instructions.
Children raised in such homes tend to grow up insubordinate toward teachers, law enforcement, employers and others in positions of authority.
8. Children must be required to treat parents and other adults with respect.
Respect for all authority, whether for people or rules, is learned in the home. Being required to obey parents and communicate respectfully teaches self-restraint and emphasizes that not everything one feels or thinks needs to be expressed. It reinforces the self-control inherent to maturity and helps children grow up to be good citizens.
9. Children need oversight of their moral diet.
By virtue of their years and life experience, parents have a greater understanding of cause and effect than their children. They know the wisdom behind the statements such as, “Eat your spinach,” You need your sleep,” and “Stay out of the street.” All a child knows is that he craves junk food, likes to stay up late, and the street seems a fun place to play. Because the average child has little life experience and his thinking is clouded by his “will-to-be-gratified,” he is the last person to know what is good for him. Parents must realize that they do not need their children’s permission to be parents – they already have that role. They must simply act on that authority, without apology. Children will not protect themselves from their appetites, so parents must take charge and protect them physically, mentally and morally.
Studies overwhelmingly show that children who saturate themselves with entertainment marked by senseless violence will be more tolerant or prone to violence; those who watch movies or music videos containing sensuality will increasingly express themselves sexually; children or adults with a diet of entertainment involving illicit relationships will treat marriage and wedding vows with less honor.
A child’s character is formed primarily by what good goes into him, and not only by what is kept from him.
And no one is in a better position to sow into his like Mom and Dad.
Unlimited use of computers, video games, television, etc. has become standard diversion tactics for too many parents.
Parents must decide that their children are worth a daily investment of time in teaching them character and a Biblical Worldview.
10. Children must be loved.
Parental love means doing what is best for children no matter how they might respond. One very poor reason modern parents are so soft on their children is because they crave their acceptance.
America has raised a crop of insecure parents who fear their children’s rejection.
Parents more than fifty years ago knew that life was hard and took the responsibility of preparing their children for the coming life very seriously. Today’s parents are afraid to let the kids cry. Afraid to make them mad and dread the thought that their children may hate them.
When we give to get affection back, we ARE NOT loving them – we are using them to elicit good feelings about ourselves.
When our children are young and vulnerable, they dearly need our leadership if they are to grow up to become mature, responsible adults.
There are some parents who may be congratulating themselves right now thinking they are really good parents because the negative consequences we’ve discussed don’t apply to them or their children. Let me caution you, however.
There are some who intimidate their children into subjection but fail to win their hearts. Their children may submit to discipline and control, and listen respectfully when parents speak, but their hearts will be far away. A parent who does not have their child’s heart will eventually discover that all compliance and respect was simply an expression of self-preservation. Such a child may patronize his parents and outwardly honor them during his early teen years, but flee their authoritarian rule the first chance they get.
Parents who are able to maintain influence over their children’s hearts, which is crucial in the first 12 years of their lives, are those who have cultivated rich, loving relationships with their children.
A character formed in childhood is a key element to true maturity.
Influencing behavior is not the same as influencing hearts.
Parents who give supremacy to their child’s happiness tend NOT to raise happy children.
Here’s how we can help our children and grandchildren to develop an informed and thoughtful Biblical Worldview (BWV):
1. Talk about Worldview early and often.
2. Explain non-Christian worldviews.
3. Strongly encourage your kids to read good books. Books by design are sequential and linear. The internet is not. A book takes you from pg 1 to page 2, then 3 and so on. On the other hand, start on page “Google” and you go wherever Google determines.
4. Discuss ideas whenever possible.
5. Ask good questions [Smart Questions (SQs)]
Sources: Born Liberal Raised Right by Reb Bradley, A Practical Guide to Culture and Tactics by Greg Koukl