When We’re Feeling Ineffective

Dealing with quarrelsMany different factors can prevent us from effectively training our children.

We simply may not know what to do when our children sin.

  • First-generation Christians who have not grown up in a God-fearing home, may lack the experience, wisdom, or biblical knowledge that would help them instruct and discipline their children.
  • Parents who have grown up in the Word may still not have the wisdom to apply that Word to the everyday situations of life.
  • Some situations are just complicated or puzzling. It is unclear what we should say and what we should do.
  • We may not have a clear definition in our own minds of what is godly and ungodly behavior, which leads us to be timid or indecisive in our discipline.

If you don’t know what to do:

  • Pray.
  • Dig into the Word, studying it, looking for answers (both for your children and for yourself), praying for the wisdom that only God can give.
  • Seek counsel and mentoring from other believers. Ask your pastor or elders for counsel. Watch the example of older, godly parents and ask for their help. Read reliable, biblically-sound books that direct the reader to God and His Word. (Doorposts can equip you with many helpful books.)

Our discipline may be inconsistent or governed by our moods.

  • Daddy may handle a situation differently than Mama does.
  • We might discipline a behavior one time and completely ignore or even laugh at it another time.
  • We might choose to ignore sinful behavior because we’re just plain tired and it’s too much work to get up and go through the process of instructing and disciplining our children again.
  • We might wait to discipline until our child’s behavior has angered or inconvenienced us, rather than promptly dealing with sinful actions and attitudes.
  • We may choose to not discipline because we’re discouraged or feel our discipline is not making any difference.

If you’re having trouble being consistent:

  • Talk to your spouse. Different situations need to be discussed. What is the goal of your discipline? When will you spank? What other methods will you use to instruct and discipline, and when will you use these?
  • Write out a plan – then you’ll be ready. You’ll know what to do, and the children will know what to expect. Everyone will be more secure and content. Consider using The If-Then Chart to help you in this process.
  • Repent, commit to consistently disciplining your children, and pray for God’s enabling grace and strength. Repent each time you fail.
  • Remember your calling as a parent and take joy in diligently serving the Lord and your children.

We may simply think we’re too busy to discipline our children.

  • In the midst of busy schedules and too many responsibilities, we really may have created a situation that allows little time for effective, thoughtful discipline.
  • We may be living a life that allows no time for personal study and reflection over God’s Word.
  • We may be focusing our energy and attention on other priorities, while neglecting the important job of teaching our children.

If you think you’re too busy:

  • Reevaluate your priorities and make the necessary changes. God gives us a very limited amount of time with our children. If we’re too busy to train them now, we won’t get another chance later. If we’re too busy now, they may not be ready to listen when we decide to discipline them later.
  • Recognize that if you’re too busy to disciple your children, you’re just too busy. God doesn’t call us to do something without giving us the time to do it. What needs to go?
  • Believe and remember that the time you invest now will pay rich dividends. You and your children will honor, glorify, and please God.
  • Rearrange your schedule to make time for reading the Bible and talking with your spouse. Set aside times to discuss child training issues together.
  • Decide on consequences and rewards ahead of time. Discipline will be less stressful and usually require less time. It may require a greater time investment to start with, but as children learn to obey, they will need less discipline.
  • Look for and use quick-reference topical tools that make your parenting job easier. Doorposts’ For Instruction in Righteousness and many of their charts are designed for this very purpose. J

Our lives may be governed by a standard other than God’s Word.

  • We may be influenced by the man-centered, us-centered culture all around us – the culture that says there is no real definition of right and wrong, that we should do what feels right to us and let others do what feels right to them. When we think this way, we will be reluctant to impose the absolute standard of God’s Word on our children’s behavior.
  • Our own lives may not be lived in obedience to God’s Word. If we are unwilling to submit our own thoughts and desires to God and His Word, it will be difficult to lead our children in submitting their wills to God or us.
  • We may value our children’s opinion or favor more than God’s and then fear their rejection of us (or God) if we choose to discipline them.

If God’s Word is not your absolute standard:

  • Repent and acknowledge God’s authority over you. Submit to His Word.
  • Re-focus on Scripture. Read and study the Bible. Read the Bible with your children and use Bible-based parenting tools.
  • Learn how to do topical studies in the Bible. What does the Bible say about this particular problem or issue?
  • Find some parents who are obviously looking to God’s Word as their authority while raising their family. Watch them. Ask questions. Ask them to mentor you.
  • Point your children to God’s Word as the absolute source of truth. Remind them that you are under God’s authority, too. If they’re simply following your rules, they will be lost when they grow up and go out into the world. If they know that you’re training them to follow God’s rules, they will take these principles with them when they leave home.

We may unintentionally discourage or provoke our children.

  • We may tend to focus on their wrong behavior without encouraging them when they do well.
  • We may communicate a sense of disapproval when they sin, instead coming alongside and encouraging them to believe that Christ loves them (and their parents) and has paid for all your sins.
  • We may discipline in a way that lacks gentleness or humility.
  • We may lead them to believe that we have our lives all together and don’t struggle with sin like they do.

If you have discouraged or provoked your children:

  • Humble yourself and ask their forgiveness.
  • Openly acknowledge your own sin, and your gratitude for Christ whose work on the cross has freed you from guilt and assured your forgiveness in Him.
  • Remember and give thanks for God’s work in your life. How do you view God? Is He only out to punish you? Or does He desire to bless you?
  • Look for opportunities to bless and encourage your children. Commit to speaking sincere words of encouragement a specific number of times a day. Use ideas from Doorposts’ Blessing Chart and For Instruction in Righteousness for help you with this.
  • Focus on God’s authority, not your own. Look to His example of justice and mercy.
  • Speak the gospel into their lives. Jesus has paid the penalty for their sins. Their status before God does not depend on their performance; it depends on Jesus’ performance, and His performance was perfect. He satisfied God’s justice, and those who put their faith in Him are declared innocent with Him. When our children rest in that truth, they will move forward in joyful love and obedience.

Many times, when we’re feeling ineffective, we just need to persevere. Parenting is a long-haul operation with many ups and downs. It often looks like our efforts are not making a bit of difference. But we can’t see what God can see, and we don’t always know what is happening in a child’s heart. When we feel ineffective, we need to pray, ask God to reveal areas where we need to change, and then push on, knowing that the results are up to Him.

“And  let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap,  if we do not give up” (Galatians 6:9. ESV).

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