You’ve probably been tempted to do it….. Let’s call it “candy-paid silence.” You are in the store and your little one is getting out of control. Upset that you won’t buy them the latest bright shiny object from the toy aisle, and they begin to throw a fit. At that very moment you know that you have two roads that you can go down as a parent. Appease the little terrorist or hold your ground. What will it be mom and dad? Will you negotiate with this out of control three-year old and buy them the lollipop of their dreams so they will shut up, or take them to the bathroom for a tune-up? If you have children, you’ve been there. It is a tough spot isn’t it? Either path you choose is teaching them something about you, about life and about the gospel. Let’s look at those options and a little closer at the implications.
Well, you gave in…. What does this communicate to that little mind? A few things that aren’t helpful and if it is a habit, no doubt it will have future implications to how they receive the gospel from you. First of all, it communicates that the appropriate response from the parent can be achieved when certain type of pressure is inflicted upon them. Kids are smart. If you are a push over, they will keep pushing you over! Go down the path of not disciplining your children when they misbehave, and you will raise brats who have no regard for authority. I don’t recommend the lollipop (reward) for bad behavior. While in the short-term it may seem to make your life easier, you will pay for it in the long run. This option communicates to your child that bad behavior is not only acceptable, but rewardable. As you begin then to talk about the shame of sin, eternal-punishment, and the righteousness of a holy God, these terms become abstractions that a child cannot connect to. In their world, sin has been rewarded, not dealt with. If God is more loving than a parent, he would never send any of his creations to an eternal hell they may reason. Sin can be simply overlooked, not taken seriously or dealt with by the child who grows up under this type of child-rearing. A well intentioned dad or mom can really mess up their child’s understanding of the world and God by simple appeasement.
Colossians 3:20 says, “Children, be obedient to your parents in all things, for this is well-pleasing to the Lord.” Teach your children to memorize this verse. If one of your children gets out of control at the grocery store, then take them to the bathroom and spank their bottom. Get their attention. Children are commanded to be obedient to their parents. The Old Testament (Ex. 20:12) also tells them to “honor your father and your mother.” If your children don’t learn to honor your authority, they won’t honor the authority of others either. This simple practice of disciplining bad behavior teaches your child a Kingdom principal of reaping and sewing. “If they do this, the consequence will be thus.” We see this of course in the gospel. “For the wages of sin is death.” Sin ruins everything including relationships. Bad behavior leads to serious consequences. This type of child-rearing makes gospel conversation easy. Instead of your child’s conscience becoming seared by sin, it becomes saddened by sin. Dealing with sinful behavior in the right way is foundational for deep gospel conversations. When your child knows what punishment is like, they will be more sensitive to understanding that Jesus took the punishment that they deserve. It will make them sing for joy at the thought of grace. Instead of feeling owed, they will feel like they owe everything to the one who paid it all for them. “Jesus paid it all. All to Him I owe. Sin had left a crimson stain, He washed it white as snow.” What will you choose the next time you are in a difficult spot with your child? The lollipop or the spank?