Controlling Chaos vs. Obedience Training for Young Children

10 05 2009

I love training my children.  There are few things more exhilarating than watching a self-centered, flesh-dominated, God-hating, sin-loving little hellion steadily transform into a soft-hearted, God-loving, others-serving contributing member of the family.  I often joke when holding a new baby in our family that I can’t wait until they get to be about 9 months old where I can begin to discipline them.  As much as I enjoy cute cuddly babies (as anyone who is friends with me in facebook can attest) I enjoy even more the process of training young children.

But I’ve noticed more and more lately that my passion is not shared by many around me.  This has confused me for a long time but I think I’m just now beginning to see possibly why.  Most parents actually don’t train their children and Christian parents seem no exception, but almost all parents still discipline their children.  When I would see a parent discipline their child I assumed it was for the purpose of training, but as I’ve observed more and more families over time, I’ve discovered that their discipline is not really training. It’s for the purpose of controlling chaos.  The two couldn’t be any more different.

Here’s an example.  You’re at a public place with your kids and a couple of friends and their kids and you begin to realize your child is being too rowdy, loud and disruptive.  You call to your son Johnny as he walks by saying, “Johnny, come here, I want to talk to you.”  But he’s having too much fun so he ignores you pretending to not hear.  “Johnny,” you call more loudly this time.  He ignores you again.  Now you’re realizing you’re causing as much noise as he ever did and he’s quieting down so you go back to your conversation.

I’ve seen this scenario so many times and it has often puzzled me.  My thought hasn’t been judging the parent but seriously curious as to why they were willing to let that perfect training opportunity pass them by.  I treasure the rare moments when my children deliberately defy me or my wife because they provide the perfect moment to reinforce the child’s need to obey his or her parents.  But, in the above scenario, I’ve watched parents ignore sometimes 10 opportunities in a 30 minute conversation.  What is going on here?

This is my hypothesis.  These parents aren’t trying to train their children to obey, they are trying to control chaos.  Their discipline is based on the amount of chaos they can handle at a given time.  Deliberate disobedience is far less of a concern.  Therefore the child learns to monitor their parent’s mood and the situation closely knowing that the things they can get away with are not dependent so much on them and their behavior as on their parents and the environment.  This is a disaster for kids.  It makes the parents patience and tolerance the real trigger for discipline instead of the child’s behavior.  It trains kids less how to obey and more how to manipulate a situation.  This leads the child to routinely push his or her parents to the edge since they have been systematically trained to find that edge of tolerance and keep their parents there continuously.  How exhausting for the parents.  How destructive for the children.  And when they see an obedient child their reaction is, “I wish my child had that temperament”.  So they blame their child when they have spent years training their children to behave in this manner.  There’s a much better, easier way.

Parents need to intentionally train their children to obey.  This is a very simple process.  All you need is to 1) believe two passages, 2) have three disciplining tools and 3) to embrace one management style.

Here are the two passages –

1. Proverbs 19:18 – “Discipline your son, for in that there is hope; do not be a willing party to his death.”

2. Ephesians 6:1-4 – “1Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. 2″Honor your father and mother”—which is the first commandment with a promise— 3″that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.” 4Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.”

The three discipline tools vary greatly from child to child but for each child there needs to be tools at at least three levels of intensity.

1) Intensity Level 1 – A tool when you are trying to train a child in a new behavior (i.e. to remember to clear their plate). We typically use only positive reinforcement here.  We give our kids a marble (= $.50) to reinforce each time they do something new we’re training them in.  When they get 30-40 marbles we head to a toy store to buy let them get something special.

2) Intensity Level 2 – A tool that represents when they are reverting in a behavior they’ve already been trained to do.  This, in our family, is usually simply taking away a marble.

3) Intensity Level 3 – This is a training reaction when they are doing something dangerous like run out in a busy street, hitting another child or …. deliberately disobeying their parents.  Yes, disobedience belongs in this category of intensity (if you don’t believe me read above verses).

“But I would be doing level 3 intensity constantly.”  With some kids it can last a couple of years, others a couple of months (and they all occasionally slip) but it will be worth every bit of energy to 100% of the time react to disobedience with the highest level of discipline you believe is healthy for your child.

But if you are going to discipline in this way you need to, as soon as possible, macro manage your children and not micro manage them (Ephesians 6:4).  What this simply means is you can’t create 1000 obedience/disobedience scenarios for your children daily.  The older they get you need to give them more and more freedom and not dominate them but understand the goal is for them to grow up and wisely make decisions on their own allowing for feedback and discussion to disarm the disobedience bomb from going off when it doesn’t need to.  But they have also learned to respect and obey their parents and have learned they can control their will to do the right thing in almost any circumstance.  That is the ideal state in which to begin to train a child how to walk in the Spirit and in obedience to their heavenly Father.

No one is hurt more by controlling chaos parenting than the children.  It is selfish of parents to make their own needs the basis for when and how their child is trained.  Please consider giving your children the gift of obedience training.

Awesomeness Aggregator Part 3

6 05 2009

It’s time once again to spread the awesomeness around so here’s the top 5 –

#5. Sustainable Living Books.  I’m quickly falling in love with this genre.  I was entranced by Barbara Kingsolver’s book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle about her family’s year long local food experiment.  The best writing award in this genre has to go to Michael Polan and his engrossing research narrative The Omnivores Dilemma. Both are available for download at  And if you want to plant a garden you absolutely must get one book – The Backyard Homestead (ht – Liz).  It will blow your mind with what you can do with a small backyard with the best diagrams and how-to’s you’ll find anywhere.

#4. Documentaries. Honorable mention must go to recent hits like Surfwise and King of Kong but the best documentary I’ve seen all year has to be Bigger, Stronger, Faster.  It was beautifully crafted and captured so many stunningly real moments.  Chris Bell (who appears to be Mike Edward’s long lost brother) is the master at gently asking the hard questions.  (available for instant watch at Netflix).

#3. The Hunt for Golem.  This 40-minute fan film has catapulted its volunteer band of film makers into instant hero status within Tolkien fandom and, despite the fact that I expect they’ll spend the rest of their natural lives in court being sued by the dark horde of LOTR license holders, I must say, its the most stunning low budget independent film I’ve seen since Primer.

#2. Family Business Workshop by Gregg Harris.  I’ve been looking for someone to lay out the biblical basis for starting a family business (something I’ve felt alone in teaching) and I was so encouraged to listen to this excellent set of teachings by homeschool pioneer Gregg Harris.  His tips on which businesses to start are a bit obsolete since they are before the internet really erupted but his biblical basis for family business talks were outstanding.

#1.  This is a shameless plug for a business some friends and I are launching this week out of our video production company epipheo studios.  It brings together the latest, most powerful, paradigm shifting videos online.  And if you’re wondering what the heck an epipheo is click on the video below.

Don’t forget to put any awesomeness you’ve discovered in the comments and if you’re looking for even more awesomeness check out part 1 and part 2 in the series

Designing a Weekly Rhythm with God’s People

1 05 2009

I believe God intends us to design our lifestyle in a rhythm of seven days.  God demonstrated this through creation as a model for a healthy way to live (Exodus 20:11).  The day of rest is the culmination of a seven day rhythm.  Jesus reaffirms this gift by saying, “God created the sabbath for man not man for the Sabbath.”  We’re not bound to live life in a seven day rhythm but it is a gift from God to bring balance to our lives.

So what are the things you do EVERY week?  What does a weekly rhythm look like as a church (a body of interdependent disciples).  I wanted to share the four things I’m committed to doing with the body of Christ on a weekly basis.  I also have a weekly rhythm designed in my relationship with God, with my family, my business life etc. but this post is limited to the minimum I’m committed to do every week with Christ’s body.

My weekly church rhythm mirrors the following verse from Acts 2:42 – “All the believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, and to fellowship, and to sharing in meals (including the Lord’s Supper), and to prayer.”

I know many of you probably would like to ideally see these four things happen in your life by accident as you value them more but I’ve found, for myself, if I commit four time periods to these elements every week, they actually happen pretty much every week.  In the past, when I committed myself to these things but refused to design them into my rhythm (hoping they would “just happen”) I would look back at months where they just didn’t happen.

OK, so here is how I do these four –

1. Devoted to the apostle’s teaching.  I do this through repeatedly teaching and training through the 10 areas of the Story.  I always have a group I’m either taking through the 10 weeks of the Story-Formed Life or I’ll train through a 4-5 week intensive on one of the 10 topics (right now I’m developing a 4 week intensive training on Sonship). (Currently Monday mornings and Tuesday nights)

2. Devoted to the Fellowship.  One way I do this weekly is by gathering with a body of believers and engaging in a 1 Corinthians 14:26 style open participatory meeting.  I currently to this with about 30-40 disciples in Bellevue, KY and it is extremely encouraging every week.  There is no agenda we just all bring things the Spirit has given each to build up the body. (Currently Sunday nights)

3. Sharing in Meals including the Lord’s Supper.  Every Saturday night our family hosts a Shabbat dinner where we host different families and groups into our home (usually members of the body).  We have a family liturgy we go through every time where I go over the Gospel by asking the kids various questions, we sing hymns and take the Lord’s supper together.  We then eat the most amazing meal we can make and usually are up until midnight enjoying, talking, drinking, sharing, eating, smoking, laughing etc.

4. Praying Together.  The development of a rhythmic prayer gathering is my most recent obsession.  I’ve taken several stabs at this that haven’t lasted but here’s what I’m working on currently.  I’ve been interested in the way Jesus often took Peter, James and John away with him to pray together.  I feel led to find 3 other men that will commit to being totally vulnerable and then deeply intercede for one another and together for the Kingdom.  I’m organizing this group right now as I feel I’ve neglected this part of my rhythm for too long.

What you might find missing are leadership meetings, worship services etc. which are a part of my monthly rhythm but not weekly.

What elements are a part of your weekly rhythm with other disciples?  How do you engage in these areas?  How have you determined what elements are essential to do every week?  I love comparing rhythms instead of mission statements because what we do in a week better demonstrates what we are actually committed to.