"Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke, and encourage--with great patience and careful instruction." (NIV)
I understand that in this Scripture, Paul is writing to Timothy, giving him instructions concerning spreading the gospel, but when I was reading this verse yesterday, I considered applying these verses to parenting. Here are my notes.
Preach the Word--As Christians, our primary goal of parenting should be teaching our children God's Word. This is not a responsibility we should take lightly or leave to the Sunday school teachers. We must be diligent in teaching them about God, Jesus, salvation, Bible history, prayer, and Christianity. They must see us live out what we are teaching. Teaching children God's Word cannot be relegated to a 20 minute session a few times a week, but must be an ongoing process, a lifestyle. Consider Deuteronomy 6: 6-9. "These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates." (NIV)
be prepared--We must have a plan for raising and training our children. We need to communicate to them clear goals and expectations for their behavior. We also need to clearly tell them the consequences of disobedience. We may have to be creative here. I know that frequently my children will disobey me about something, and I have not thought of a consequence beforehand. I know that they need a punishment, but in the middle of the situation, I cannot clearly think of something appropriate. Plan ahead! Be prepared. Think of things that your children do that you would like to discipline them for, and then make a list of consequences. It is even more effective if you communicate these consequences with your children before they are needed. For example, for our older children I have made a list of various chores that I would like to have completed, but do not make the time for on a regular basis, or they are chores that are always needing to be done. (cleaning out the van, sweeping out the garage, vacuuming the kitchen and den, vacumming the storage room, etc.). My children know that if they complain about their daily work, bicker with their siblings, or just in general have a bad attitude about chores or schoolwork, the consequence is completing one of the extra chores from the list. You could also include raking part of the yard, weeding the flower beds, etc.
in season and out of season--Parenting, disciplining, and training our children is an ongoing process. We must continually parent our children. It is not something we do once or twice and then check off our list. The challenges of parenting continue throughout our children's lives.
correct--We must immediately correct wrong behavior and bad habits. Even when it is not convenient for us to do so (even when you are blogging and you hear your 2 year old hit your 4 year old). Don't let little things slide. Address the undesired behavior quickly every time. If you already have your plan (see be prepared), this is easier to do.
rebuke--I looked up this word in the dictionary to get an accurate definition. Rebuke means to reprimand, reproof, admonish, scold. Basically, let the child no in no uncertain terms that their behavior is wrong, and you expect them to stop. You can point out their wrongdoings quickly and kindly without resorting to yelling or threatening. But do not sugarcoat things. They need to know that they are wrong. Again, this can be done with a pleasant voice. No one likes to be berated, and a rebuke is received much easier when delivered in a kind, loving voice.
encourage--This is extremely important! We cannot spend all of our time correcting and rebuking. Don't encourage when a reprimand or correction is in order, but spend every moment you can encouraging your child. Treasure him. Smile at him. Speak to him in a loving and kind voice. Praise him for his work and behavior. As mothers, we must model a pleasant, happy, and contended attitude. It is easier for a child to function under encouragement than constant rebuke. Look for the good in your child and acknowledge it!
with great patience--We must consider the great patience that God has extended to us. "The Lord is not slow in keeping His promise as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance." 2 Peter 3:9 (NIV) Patience is also listed as one of the fruits of the Spirit--qualities that we as Christians should be striving for on a daily basis. "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control." Galatians 5:22 (NIV) We must be patient as we are rearing our children. They are immature. We cannot expect perfection from them. In fact, we must expect mistakes and forgetfulness. We must patiently correct, rebuke, and encourage them--over and over again.
and careful instruction--Children do not automatically know how to act in a given situation. They do not know the rules and expectations we may have for them. They are naturally self-centered and selfish (just like we are!). It is our job to carefully instruct them, little by little. Teach them right from wrong. Model correct behavior. Practice expected behavior in particular situations. This has been a most helpful tool for me. I try to practice everything with my children......standing in line at the post office, sitting quietly in a church service or at a doctor's appointment, answering the door, getting in and out of the van without hurting a sibling, how to get my attention when I am on the phone or visiting in person with someone....Just think of situations when your children have not behaved as you have liked, and instruct them the right way and then practice! Practicing is usually fun for them.
Instruction will be continual. As our children grow, we have new and more lessons for them. Remember when instructing to communicate your expectations and consequences.
Parenting is hard work! With prayer, careful attention to God's Word, and a happy attitude, we can enjoy this rewarding task. Remember, the days are long, but the years are short. Let us live in such a way that we can look back on our parenting journey with no regrets.