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I have had to reprove my children so many times, had I been counting, I would have lost that count long ago. I think it’s safe to say that I reprove them more than once a day—every day. But have I been doing it the right way?
Listen, we all think that the things we do and say are right. I know we think that because humans only ever do what they believe to be right. That’s why the reproof stage is so important. Our kids thought they were doing the best thing, but they weren’t, and they needed a little reinterpretation of the situation and their choices.
And—guess what—we do to. We can’t assume our reproof is Christ-honoring just because we believe we’re doing it the right way. Is it possible you and I need to be reproved in our reproof?
And the answer is, “Yes”—at least, I know I do.
So, I pray that you’ll carefully consider the three evaluative tools I’m going to share with you today. I pray that may cause you to reevaluate your reproof as necessary.
And then check out TruthLoveParent.com for today’s free episode notes, transcript, and related resources. Remember, this series is a big-picture recap of our past 500 episodes. There is still so much more detail and study needed if we’re to continue maturing in any of these areas.
So, as you listen to this series, be sure to check out the related resources as each one will take you deeper into the study. Try to identify at least one Phase of Biblical Parenting in which you need work, and dedicate yourself to God, your spouse, and your kids to mature in that Phase. And as you see growth, choose another Phase in which to mature.
So, to that end, let’s evaluate our reproof.
Here we go.
1. Are you reproving your children in God’s ways for God’s reasons and in God’s power?
My friends, the Scriptures are always going to be the best evaluative tool for your life.
Did you know that the book of James was likely the first New Testament letter written? I mention this because I believe the topics discussed in James are some of the most important truths the baby church needed to learn.
And toward the end of the first chapter, in verses 22-25 we read, “But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves.”
This should prompt us to ask the question, how can we know if we’re only being a hearer and not a doer?
Verse 23 continues, “For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror; 24 for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was.”
James is going to clarify his metaphor momentarily, but what he’s saying is that you know you’re a hearer and not a doer if you look into God’s Word, see the differences, discrepancies, and disobedience, and don’t change what you’re doing.
But those of us who are parenting biblically are the ones who—continuing in verse 25—“But one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man will be blessed in what he does.”
Do you want to be blessed in your parenting? You need to immerse yourself in the Scriptures. You need to compare your life to God’s expectations, and you need to change accordingly.
But I have to acknowledge that many people have looked into the Law of Liberty and walked away unchanged not because they defiantly rejected what they saw, but because they misunderstood the text. This is why there is wisdom in a multitude of mature, Christ-honoring counselors who will help you rightly divide the Word of truth.
We have an episode called The Most Important Thing I Can Say to Parents. It’s . . . well . . . the most important thing I can say to parents, and it has to do with this point. But that episode does more than push you to the Word of God, it provides other ways you can—and likely need—to submit to the Word of God.
We also have another episode called The All-Bible Family. That episode not only defines what an All-Bible Family is, but tells you how to have one.
And episode 117 is called The Sufficiency of Scripture in Parenting. I really hope you’ll check that one out.
The point is, the single best way to evaluate your parenting is to open your Bible and honestly compare how and why you parent to how and why God says you must parent.
Do a word study on biblical reproof. Look at the commands, pick apart the illustrations, and demand answers from yourself. Ask those who have seen you parent if they think you’re submitting to God. Ask them for specific examples, and ask them to support their conclusions with the Bible.
I say this because it’s too easy to say, “Oh, you’re a great mom. You’re totally pleasing the Lord in your parenting.” It’s another to say, “I’ve seen you say and do these things, and I believe those are biblical applications of what God says in [such and such a passage].”
And—if they’re being honest—they can probably also point to a time that your parenting did not follow the biblical model.
But there’s another very closely related way to evaluate your parenting.
2. Are you growing more biblical in your reproof?
If you go to the Scriptures, recognize that you’re falling short in an area, and change, and then you do that again and again, you’re parenting will constantly be in a state of flux.
As I look back over the span of my parenting, I can only praise God and give Him the glory that I am not the same parent I used to be. In fact, I believe it’s accurate to say that I’m not the same parent this year as I was the year before. By the way, as I wrote those words, I realized I needed to keep myself honest, so I just stepped out of my room and posed the question to my wife and kids. I asked them, “To the best of your knowledge, would you say that I’m a more Christ-honoring parent today than I was a year ago?” And they all agreed.
Seriously, though, this is an area where we can make assumptions and be totally wrong. One reason that we easily think we’re better is the fact that we actually don’t think about it. We parent just like we do everything else, by feeling, by the seat of our pants and the skin of our teeth, by wafting along in the cultural trends, but we don’t carefully evaluate our parenting by the Bible. So, when asked if we’re a better parent this year than we were last year, it’s easy to say, “Yes.”
Another reason we wrongly judge our parental trajectory is that we’re using the wrong standards. Maybe we’re following the world, or we’re following an errant interpretation of the Bible.
So, this leads us back to point 1. We have to know, understand, believe, and change according to the Scripture. And we need to continue that momentum day after day, month after month, and year after year.
But there is another, really joyous way to evaluate your parental reproof.
3. Are you experiencing reconciliation with your kids?
I’ve said it before, but if I’m pouring myself into helping my kids become something—a martial artist, a beekeeper, a sports fan, whatever—and they become that thing, then I’ve probably been doing a pretty good job guiding them in that direction.
In the same way, if I reprove my child and my child responds correctly, then that’s potentially a good sign that I’ve done my job well. However, I have some warnings for you. We’ll talk about the warnings, and then we’ll talk about the best case scenario.
A. Just because your kids look like they’re submitted to your reproof doesn’t mean they actually have.
Let’s be honest, your kids may simply want to placate you or avoid consequences, so they pretend to submit. Whether you reproved well or not, such a response is not a good evaluation of your performance.
However, being able to correctly evaluate your child’s response is a huge part of Phase 2 of Biblical Reproof.
If you’ve listened to any past episodes I’ve done about this, then you understand that the first two Phases of Biblical Parenting are extremely cyclical. You must teach even if your kids don’t learn, and you must reprove even if they don’t respond. And—most of the time—they don’t. That’s why we cycle through these two Phases so often.
However, you absolutely cannot move on to Phases 3 and 4 of biblical parenting until your kids genuinely respond to the Reproof Phase.
Yes, if we aren’t careful to scrutinize our children’s apparent submission, we can think we’ve moved to Phase 3 when in actuality, we haven’t. It’s impossible to move to Phase 3 without a Christ-honoring response from our kids. We’re going to look at that correct response shortly; hopefully, that will help us correctly evaluate our child’s response.
Needless to say—and I’m still going to say it—an obviously superficial or snide acquiescence to our reproof is not good enough.
But this is not the only pit into which we fall when evaluating our reproof by our children’s response.
B. Just because your kids genuinely submit to your reproof doesn’t mean you did it the right way.
It’s quite possible that despite the fact that you reproved poorly, the Holy Spirit still used the situation to turn your child’s heart. In this case, your reproof wasn’t to thank.
This is why we always need to circle back around to our first point. The best way to know if you’re reproving well is to lean hard on the Bible’s expectations for your reproof.
I’ve interacted with many parents who thought they must be great parents because they had genuinely great kids, but it only took a casual observation of their parenting to recognize that the kids’ greatness had absolutely nothing to do with their parenting—it was nothing more than a miracle of God that flew in the face of their parenting.
This is why this third point is more of an add-on. If you’re submitting to and growing in God’s will for your parenting, that’s awesome. And if your kids are cooperating with the process . . . that’s the icing on the cake.
So, let’s talk about said icing.
C. Christ-honoring reproof followed by Christ-honoring reconciliation should encourage you to continue reproving God’s way.
If you have carefully followed the Bible’s teaching concerning reproof, and your children respond biblically, we can all praise God that He used your reproof to draw your kids to repentance. And then we need to continue to grow in that reproof by further and more consistently submitting to God’s expectations as well as refining and maturing that reproof.
So, what evidences will there be that you’re in this category?
Let’s take the rest of our time to define reconciliation and walk through its most basic stages.
Merriam-Webster defines reconciling as “to restore to friendship or harmony.” That’s an okay definition, but the Greek word defined reconciliation in II Corinthians 5:18 and 19 refers to an exchange. Vine’s Expository Dictionary calls it “a change on the part of one party, induced by an action on the part of another.”
That’s the whole goal of reproof. We want to act in such a way in our child’s life that it induces change.
Therefore . . .
First, reconciliation must start with reproof. There is no need to change unless there’s a need to change, and we mustn’t wait around for our child to recognize that something needs to change.
Second, reconciliation requires conviction. Remember, just telling our kids something doesn’t mean that the child will submit to it. Just like Matthew 5 lays out, true spiritual change starts with a realization that we are spiritually incapable, then that leads to appropriate grief, and that leads to humility.
Only God can bring life-changing conviction, but we can help. That’s the goal of reproof, to create an atmosphere where conviction can flourish.
How can you know your child is experiencing the conviction of God? The answer lies in the content. The Bible says that the Spirit convicts people of sin, righteousness, and judgement. If we have done our jobs well, then the child should be able to easily communicate the truth about their sin, the truth about an appropriate righteous response, and even the truth about the consequences they deserve for their sin.
I often like to test the understanding of a child by asking them what consequences they think they deserve. Those who don’t really see their sin as being that bad won’t dare to suggest a consequences that’s too big, but many (if not most) genuinely contrite children will recognize that they deserve far worse than you, the parent, would ever give them.
Valuable responses are responses rooted in the truth of God and the love of God. A response that’s not biblically truthful or loving is likely not a genuine response of true conviction.
And then comes . . .
Third, reconciliation requires confession. Confession comes in two parts. The first part is to mentally see your sin the way God sees it. This part happens simultaneously with the conviction of God. But the second part is equally important. We need to confess with our mouths the reality of our choices.
As was stated in the last point, the child’s ability to biblically define their sin is the confession step.
Fourth, reconciliation requires apology. Now, I really wish there were a better one-word way to describe asking for forgiveness. But I’ve never found one and am not brave enough to make one up. So, I go with the commonly accepted idea of apology.
Now you may be wondering what else apology may mean, but I don’t want to muddy the waters right here. Suffice it to say, using the word “apology” to refer to asking for forgiveness is not the most accurate use of that word. But, with a lack of better options, we’ll going to use it for now.
Here’s a rundown of the necessity of apology.
Romans 13:8 says, “Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law.”
Your child owes everyone love. When your child sins against someone, they have failed to give that person what they own them. Now, even though it’s rarely helpful to reduce our interpersonal sins to a form of accounting, we’re going to continue the biblical metaphor.
According to God, your child owed you love every minute of every day, but let’s say that for 5 whole minutes they didn’t love you as they should. By the decree of God, they owe you that love, so how do they repay that debt?
Your children are finite beings who have been commanded to love everyone at all times. Your children owe you 1,440 minutes of love, and if they only give you 1,435 minutes of love, they won’t be able to make that up tomorrow because they will already own you 1,440 minutes of love for that day. There won’t be any extra time. It’s not like they don’t have to love you on the weekend, so they’ll be able to make up those 5 minutes then.
Therefore, your children will be in debt to you—spiritually speaking. Therefore, if they are going to respond to their sin correctly, they need to acknowledge their debt by confessing their sin. They also need to ask for forgiveness. Just like someone who can’t pay a financial debt will ask their lender for debt-forgiveness, a sinner needs to ask the person against whom they’ve sinned for forgiveness.
Since it’s impossible for them to ever make up what they owe, the process of asking for forgiveness is a verbal request not to have that debt held against their account.
Please understand, asking for and receiving forgiveness is not mystical or contractual. The verbal request and granting of the request is simply a necessary step in the reconciliation process.
We can’t take the time today working through all the biblical data concerning forgiveness, so I will direct you to an episode I did for The Celebration of God where I talk about forgiveness within the context of living a gracious life. We work through plenty of passages on that episode.
Okay, so in order to experience Christ-honoring, genuine reconciliation, a child must be reproved and convicted. Then they need to confess their sin and ask to be forgiven.
Fifth, reconciliation requires repentance. A person can be forgiven without changing. The Bible is very clear about that, but true reconciliation requires change, otherwise the relationship will always be in a rut of sin.
Remember our definition of reconciliation? It requires change on the part of one party as induced on the part of another.
Now, repentance is generally not an immediate thing. Many families with whom I interact have a poor understanding of repentance. For them, repenting is saying “I’m sorry,” or—in best case scenarios—asking for forgiveness.
But biblical repentance is the act of turning away from sin to righteousness. It is the actual change in behavior.
Now, sure, a child can stop screaming at his sibling, confess, apologize, and not continue screaming at them. I would say that’s the bare minimum requirement for repentance. To confess your sin, ask for forgiveness, and then go right back into the same sin is a million miles away from repentance.
But many of the things for which we apologize are things that will likely involve change over time. So, here’s how I like to counsel families.
Christ-honoring reconciliation often involves—at bare minimum—a commitment to change. The whole thing might sound like this. “Mom, I sinned against you by lying to you and watching that movie with my friend you told me not to watch. Please forgive me for disobeying and for foolishly allowing myself to be influenced by wickedness,” and here comes the commitment to repentance, “I want to grow in my Christ-likeness. By His grace and your help, I am committing to growing in this area.”
Of course, these ideas can be communicated in many age-appropriate ways.
And sixth, reconciliation requires forgiveness. It’s contingent on you to reprove. It’s contingent on the Holy Spirit to convict. It’s contingent on your child to confess, apologize, and repent, and it’s contingent on you again to grant your child forgiveness.
Now, I’m working on a whole curriculum for Biblical Conflict Resolution and Reconciliation, and I say that to say that there’s a lot more that’s practically involved. But those 6 steps cover the broad bases.
However, for the child, I like to reduce the process down to their responsibility. They are responsible to confess, apologize, and repent. Now, the acronym for that is C.A.R., so I don’t know that it’s a helpful acronym to use, but most kids can understand and remember confess, apologize, and repent.
However, I did come up with a pithy and helpful acronym you can use. I recognize that it’s a little cheesy, so that means that some of you will love it and some of you will hate it. Whatever, do with it what you please. The key is to make sure that whatever clever mnemonic device you use, the children absolutely need to understand all the applicable realities illustrated by the words.
So, my cute acronym is this. Broken relationships need to be resuscitated. Therefore, we need to practice C.P.R.—confess, petition, and repent. Obviously, it won’t be pithy and memorable if your kids don’t know what real CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) means, so feel free to use the life-saving device to show the parallels to relationship-saving.
And as you’ve already deduced, “petition” is the word I’ve used to stand in for asking for forgiveness.
Alright, let’s review . . .
1. Are you reproving your children in God’s ways for God’s reasons and in God’s power? If so, you’re reproving well. If not, get to it.
2. Are you growing more biblical in your reproof? If so, praise God and keep growing. If not . . . get to it.
3. Are you experiencing reconciliation with your kids? Remember, just because your kids look like they’ve submitted to your reproof doesn’t mean they actually have, and just because your kids genuinely submit to your reproof doesn’t mean you did it the right way. But that doesn’t change the fact that Christ-honoring reproof followed by Christ-honoring reconciliation should encourage you to continue reproving God’s way.
And what are the earmarks of Christ-honoring reconciliation?
1. We’ve provided biblical reproof.
2. The child has experienced Spirit-filled conviction.
3. The child has confessed their sin.
4. The child has asked for forgiveness for their sin.
5. The child has started the process of repentance and has—hopefully—committed to continued change.
6. The parent has provided forgiveness.
And if you’re looking for an easy way to teach your kids about the three steps that are theirs to do, try teaching them about CPR—confession, petition, and repentance.
And I have two more resources to share with you today. The first is a short series called Teach Your Children to Apologize. Honestly, I think today’s discussion was actually a little better of a presentation concerning the subject, but I did have to fly through it. That two-part series—though it lacks some of the newer conclusions I’ve learned as well as the CPR device—it goes into more detail about many of the points we covered today, and it will be helpful as you seek to teach these truths to your kids.
And the last resource is called Forgiving Your Children. Let’s be honest, this step can be really hard, and I’m not just referring to saying the words, “I forgive you.” In fact, as I did The Celebration of God episode on forgiveness, I was once again overwhelmed by how desperately I need God in order to forgive the right way.
So, check out both of those episodes if you’re struggling to forgive your child for their sin.