One of the destructive parenting ideologies that emerged in the 20th century is the child-led home. Common sense should tell us that child-led parenting doesn’t work, but psychologist have come up with many ideas over the years that have caused great harm. I believe this is one of them.
Have you ever come across a child led family in the grocery store or elsewhere? A common characteristic you will see is that the parent cannot say “no” to the child’s requests. The parent may know that the child’s request is not reasonable and will try to persuade the child that they do not need the item they are wanting. However, this results in the child throwing a fit and the parent giving in and letting them have whatever they want. This inability by the parent to control the emotional outburst of their child is part of what has led to the most self-absorbed, narcissistic generation our country has ever known.
There is, however, an area where even child-led homes stray from their philosophy and implement strict discipline for the good of the child. Swim lessons! We recently moved to a home that has a swimming pool. A swimming pool is a glorious thing to have in these hot Texas summers. Unfortunately, because of where we lived and not having a pool at our old house, our youngest children had not learned to swim. While swimming is a great summer activity, it can also be very dangerous. Every summer we hear stories about children drowning in swimming pool accidents. My wife and I felt very strongly about making sure our children learn to swim well. We enrolled our children in a highly recommended swim school and have been amazed by the results. They have made drastic improvements in a very short time.
My wife and I were discussing the quick results and she brought up an observation about the instruction they were receiving. While the instructors were fun and engaging, they were also no-nonsense and did not tolerate disobedience in the pool. The children were required to obey, or they were done. What some may find astonishing is that it works. The children do obey. There is a clear line of distinction between the teacher and the student. Child-led swim lessons could never work. It only takes seconds for a child’s lungs to fill with water and that could be the end of him or her. We love our children and know we must protect them. Does this not sound like an important life lesson?
God has been gracious to us and blessed us with children. We have a few years to train them to be responsible adults and, Lord willing, Godly men and women. We are told in Scripture to discipline them.
Folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline drives it far from him.Proverbs 22:15 ESV
The rod and reproof give wisdom, but a child left to himself brings shame to his mother.Proverbs 29:15 ESV
We are told to instruct them and to teach them God’s ways diligently.
Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.Ephesians 6:4 ESV
And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.Deuteronomy 6:6-7 ESV
The blessing is that discipline and instruction normally work. There is an example in scripture of the child-led model and the end was not good. I am referring to David and his son Adonijah.
And his father had not displeased him at any time in saying, Why hast thou done so?1 Kings 1:6 KJV
The implication was that David had never put his foot down and told his son, “no, you can’t do that.” This son became selfish and tried to steel the kingdom away.
As parents we must be intentional if we want our children to learn to swim the waters of life. Our culture has many strong currents pulling them away from Christ towards sin and immorality. If we do not teach them how to properly respond they will sink. They must learn to understand things like respect for authority and self-control when they don’t get their way. Just like in swim lessons, if they are left to do their own thing they will drown. It is imperative that we teach discipline and good character.
This does not mean that we have to be angry or a bully parent. It comes down to teaching them in the small things. When you say, “no, you cannot have that piece of candy” they need to respond kindly without throwing a fit. When they run away instead of coming when called, they need to know there will be a consequence. We can practice these things at home when they are small. Then work on them outside the home, preparing them before hand of what our expectations are. These little training sessions will go a long way as the child grows older. It will help them as they mature to understand that there are always consequences to their actions and enable them to make better decisions.
We are in a time of very turbulent cultural waters and many evangelicals are sinking into that murky dark water. It is imperative that we be the parents and teach our children to swim. Of course, they cannot even begin to swim if they are already dead. This is why we must, above all else, clearly explain the Gospel to our children. They must understand they are sinners and have violated the law of God. Every act of disobedience is an opportunity to demonstrate God’s love to them. The glorious good news is that through repentance and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ they can be rescued from death. The Gospel should be the center of our homeschool.
Along with the Gospel we must be teaching our children the Word of God. The heart that has been converted should desire to please the Savior. The way to please Him is to obey His commands. “If you love Me, keep My commandments.” John 14:15 The way we know His commands is to know His Word.
It is easy to get discouraged when we look at the culture around us, but the more time we spend in God’s word the more we begin to realize He is still in control. I am reminded of first and second Timothy where Paul tells us to expect this cultural decline.
Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons.1 Timothy 4:1 ESV
But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people.2 Timothy 3:1-5 ESV
Thankfully, Paul does not leave it there. He reminds us in 2 Timothy 3:16 that His word is profitable and useful to equip us to deal with these things. Finally, he gives us the beautiful reminder in 2 Timothy 4:8 that we have a crown of righteousness waiting for us. I love how these chapters help us to have realistic expectations and encourage us to continue in His word until we hear those beautiful words, “Well done.”