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.





Multi-generational Corporate Servitude

24 11 2008

Look at this picture.  A man’s family served GM for generations (300 combined working years) and now the dream of being cared for by a massive corporation has backfired.  Who’s fault is it?  Someone has to say it so this cycle ends.  It is the fault of this man and his family.  Men, it is your job to take care of your family not some cooperation’s job.  picture-18You should be saving money, investing and building resources in your family for your family that your family controls for the ongoing provision of your family.  I don’t know where this crazy myth of abdecating your responsibility to provide for your family to a corporation began but it needs to end.  If you have a job then you are being paid for services rendered, not guaranteed multi-generational security.  Once you receive that paycheck you and the company are even.  They don’t owe you anything.  They owe a return to stock holders not you.  If you want financial security save and invest.  Welcome to capitalism.  Why in the world are we perpetuating this myth by training kids to be life-long indentured servants to a ever changing list of nameless stock holders and their families.  If you love your family and you want to live in a capitalistic economy become an investor and hold real estate, stocks and other investments.  If you want the government, a corporation, or your parents to take care of you then your putting your family’s security on a time bomb waiting for it to blow up.

***Update*** It appears my post has created more heat than light and for that I apologize.  Let me make explicit what I’m saying and what I’m NOT.

I’m making only 2 points –

1. It is a timeless principle that providing for your family is every man’s job and he should not shift that responsibility to anyone else be it a union, a corporation, a stock market or another member of the family (1 Timothy 5:8).

2. It is critical for men who happen to live in a capitalistic economy (like the United States) to understand that the economy gives a tremendous advantage to those with capital (liquid assets).  That is why it is called capitalism and not laborism or socialism.  I have VERY mixed feelings about the wisdom of building an economy on capital but that is where I live.  That is why the government will instantly bail out the capital markets but hesitate to bail out the auto industry.  If you lead and provide for a family AND you live in a capitalistic economy then save money and invest.  If this man’s family would have saved 5% of their income and invested they would all be multi-millionaires now.  Its ridiculous that it’s that simple but again, welcome to capitalism.

What I’m NOT saying –

1.  That it’s bad to work in the labor force your whole life.  If you can find a great job at a great wage in the labor force go for it BUT save 5-10% of your money and invest it because relying on labor in a capitalistic economy is dangerous.

2. That this man and his family are bad.  They’ve been taught a myth that my kids, even in 2008, are being taught in school.  We need to teach kids the nature of capitalism and show them that the majority of their life long income should come from investments.  Instead we train kids to be dependent for life on corporate jobs.  Every child who buys this myth will be less secure than their parents were.

On a side note, I LOVE multi-generational family teams.  I have a blog dedicated to multi-generational family teams.  It is precisely because I felt so badly for this man and his family that I wrote this post.  I can’t stand to see a family that worked hard together, stayed together and passed on great traditions be left with nothing.  It breaks my heart and angers me.  This did not have to happen.





Restoring Families as Multi-Generational Teams Podcast (Seattle, August 2008)

7 09 2008

It’s difficult and confusing being a Christian dad in America.  I felt that both our American culture and contemporary Christian teaching did very little to prepare me with a proper philosophy and theology of family.  This podcast describes my journey to discover a truly biblical philosophy of family and the great discussion we had in Seattle (Kirkland, WA) about the development of a family team.

Listen to our conversation here (right click “Save Link As” to download)-

Restoring Families as Multi-Generational Teams Podcast
To view the slides click here




Raising Kids to be Leaders – Homeschool vs. Public school dilemma

6 08 2008

If you have school age children you are probably familiar with the long lists of pros and cons for both homeschooling your kids and sending your kids to the public school.  For the time being we’ve settled for doing something a bit odd and that is to be 3/4ths homeschoolers.

This is how it works.  Every Fall, at the beginning of the school year we send our kids to the public school and we present it to them as a mission.  They are there to –

  • Make Friends
  • Train how to learn in a social environment
  • Test their ability to resist negative peer pressure
  • Develop their leadership skills
  • Get involved in a team sport
  • Demonstrate the Gospel to their class mates (primarily through acts of kindness and service)

We are going to use the following tools to assist them:

  • Building them up for and reminding them of the mission everyday before they leave
  • Discuss daily how it went (not asking “how was your day” but asking specific questions like “how were you a leader today”, “did you face any negative peer pressure?  How did you respond”, “Did you deepen any friendships?” “How did your actions demonstrate the Gospel?”)
  • Weekly Family Discipleship on Monday evening where we Worship, Encounter the Story, Midrash, Apply and then Intercede for their classmates.
  • Boys Club and Girls club – We want to watch them and help them develop their leadership skills so once a month they will invite all their classmates and any parents who want to come to our house where we’ll have a huge party complete with things like group games, activities, camp fire, tea party (for the girls), Bible story (taught by our kids) etc.

Then sometime in November or December at the latest we’ll pull them out and begin again our homeschool rhythm but keep doing the boys club and girls club once per month.

There is so much we do to train our kids at home I want them in that rhythm for 8-9 months of the year (and we travel a lot as a family) but I feel this is a better balance.  Yah, the school district will think it strange but I’m sure they’ll get used to it.

What things are you trying to help your kids form a powerful family identity and missional identity?  How do you balance the need for advanced education and peer socialization?