It’s that time when the 4 Moms of many devote an entire post to answering reader questions. This week there were a lot of follow up questions about last week’s post about Bossy Older Siblings, so I’ll start with some of those.
PJB said, “Are you sure that things like, “Not listening to wise counsel” and “Speaking in an unkind manner” etc. are, in fact, sins?
I’d like to know what definition of sin you use in your home — and how you distinguish ‘sin’ from other things, such as mistakes, misbehavior, or a child’s inability think well or fully control themself.”
Sin is defined by disobedience to the law of God.
I, as a sinful human being, have no right to define sin apart from His Word nor to say that something that violates the law of God is not sinful. If I do that then I have placed myself as judge over the God of the universe.
The Bible clearly and repeatedly commands children to obey their parents. Therefore, when a child disobeys his parents he has sinned against God.
Of course there are other standards within the law of God and because we love our children and wish for them to love the Lord with all their heart, soul, mind and strength, (Jesus says, “He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him.” ~ John 14:21) we have tried to teach them God’s standards for their lives.
As for the specific examples you use, Romans 12:10 says,
Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another;
and Ephesians 4:32,
Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.
The Bible also talks about receiving wise counsel,
Listen to counsel and accept discipline, That you may be wise the rest of your days. Prov 19:20
A wise man will hear and increase in learning, And a man of understanding will acquire wise counsel Prov. 1:5
Where there is no guidance, a people falls, but in an abundance of counselors there is safety. Prov. 11:14
The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, But a wise man is he who listens to counsel. Prov 12:15
Through insolence comes nothing but strife, But wisdom is with those who receive counsel. Prov 13:10
Because God commands us to be kind and to listen to wise counsel, we have taught our children that the standard in our home is to speak kindly and accept wise counsel.
The amazing and beautiful thing is that, even in the midst of our frequent failure and inconsistency, God has blessed the time that we’ve taken to explain, role-play and correct our children. This has paid off with children who, for the most part speak kindly and listen to wise counsel, not only from their siblings, but also from others (don’t misunderstand, they’re not perfect and we go through times when we really have to re-focus on interacting with kindness).
People frequently say they have never seen such well behaved and happy children. Often, complete strangers will come up and comment about how much our kids love each other and how happy they are being together. This is not something that we could hope to accomplish by a set of human standards, this is only by the blessing and mercy of God in giving our children changed hearts that love us, love Him and love others.
Elizabeth McBride wondered what if a parent commands a child to disobey God (i.e. lie). She also asked why a child should have to obey parents who are clearly sinful.
Both parts of this question are answered by one fact: All authority is derived from God. A parent does not have authority over a child because they conceived the child. They do not have authority because they take care of the child. They do not have authority because they pay for the child, or buy them nice things. And most importantly, parents do not have authority over their children because they have more wisdom or because they are sinless or infallible.
A parent ONLY has authority over a child because God has given that authority to them.
Therefore, a parent must exercise that authority as one UNDER authority. What, how and why I teach my children must be governed by the law of God.
Because a parent’s authority comes from God, parents must teach their children God’s standards. We don’t get to make up our own. By God’s standards parents do not have the freedom to teach their children that it is acceptable to speak unkindly. We do not have the freedom to command to lie and we do not have the freedom to teach them that they may disobey their parents.
Additionally, since our authority as parents comes from God, it is not dependent upon our goodness or sinless-ness. Parents fail. Parents sin, but since parental authority isn’t based in us , our sin and our failure does not negate our authority.
- Our parental responsibilities are tremendous. Matthew 18:6
- Parents are obligated to repent and seek their children’s forgiveness when they fail. (Because they’ve abused God’s authority.)
- Parents (like all others in authority) are required to practice servant-leadership. Our goal is to work good in our child’s life.
- Children are obligated to obey God rather than men.
- Handing off our parental responsibilities should not be taken lightly. Whether we temporarily hand over our authority to a baby sitter, school teacher or track coach parents should carefully consider who they are placing as authorities over their children.
God is good. God is sovereign. He has ordained your parents and your children for His glory and for the good of those who love Him. (Rom. 8:28)
Maggie asked, “You said that you and your husband are the only ones to discipline the children. How does that work with grandparents and extended family?…How can I tell the kids that their aunt has no authority over them? How should I tell them to respond if she starts in on them and I’m not right there to intervene? She will get upset if they simply ignore her. Or, how do I tell my IL’s not to discipline my kids?”
First of all, I would say that it seems from your question that you are equating discipline and instruction as the same thing.
- Instruction – teaching or educating
- Discipline – correcting for a violation of what is required
While we do not hand over our responsibility for disciplining our children to others (We do this by not leaving our children under the authority of others. i.e. We do not and have not used baby sitters. If there is a need to leave our children with someone else, we tell them that if our children disobey them they are to call us and we come home and discipline as required.), we do require our children to respectfully receive instruction, especially from adults.
The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, But fools despise wisdom and instruction. Prov. 1:7
Take firm hold of instruction, do not let go; Keep her, for she is your life. Prov. 4:13
Take my instruction and not silver, And knowledge rather than choicest gold. Prov. 8:10
Therefore, we would not choose to tell our children that an adult has no authority over them and we would never encourage our children to ignore an adult. Our standard is that our children should cheerfully receive instruction from whatever source it comes.
If an adult (or anyone) were to ask our children to sin, we have already trained our children how to handle the situation by teaching them how to handle this situation with a sibling. They would respond respectfully and bring the matter to either Mark or me.
If it is a matter of an adult holding our children to a higher standard than we generally hold, then we expect our children to comply. This is a matter of learning to consider others as more important than ourselves.
Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.~Phil. 2:3-4
If it really became a problem (i.e. we take our children to the park to give them some time to run around and play and auntie wants them to sit on the park bench and be quiet for the entire excursion), then we would speak to auntie in private (away from the children) and explain that unless our children are violating God’s law, we prefer to be the ones to set the standard for them.
Trisha wondered how we deal with picky eaters.
Everyone receives at least a small serving of everything served (unless the undesired item is unhealthy, like a chocolate chip cookie).
No one gets dessert unless they eat everything served at the meal.
For those who are habitually picky, we serve their meal in courses; disliked course first. They get their next course when they finish that one.
Any uneaten food is served first at the next meal.
We always consider our children’s likes/dislikes as we serve their plates and, of course, sometimes they get a pass on particular dislikes.
Beth asked. “How to train a child (4.5yo girl) to stay dry at night.“
Bed-wetting isn’t a sign of toilet training gone bad, it’s just a normal part of a child’s development. Just as some children crawl at 4 months and others not until 9 months, children learn to stay dry at night at different ages.
The general consensus is that bed-wetting is considered ‘normal’ until around age 6 for girls and age 7 for boys. As a matter of fact, most bed-wetting alarms (what we have used for our bed-wetters) are not recommended for children under the age of 5 or 6.
Three of our children have been true bed-wetters (consistently wetting the bed beyond the age of 8). The other 7 have learned to stay dry at night at different ages (most commonly right around their second birthday).
So, my advice would be to gently experiment to see if any of these things help:
- Eliminate soda and other sugary drinks completely and limit pasteurized milk to lunch or before.
- Consider serving only water after lunch time.
- Consider limiting drinks after dinner (this never helped with any of our bed-wetters).
- Wake her about two hours after she’s gone to sleep to take her to the bathroom.
- Make sure she’s getting enough sleep on a consistent schedule.
If these things don’t help, just wait for her to hit this milestone.
The one thing that helped with our bed-wetters is a bed-wetting alarm, but as I mentioned most are not recommended until after the age of 6.
Be sure to visit the other 4 Moms to read what they have to say about this topic:
For more Moms of Many posts visit the 4 Moms page.