TLP 525: Biblical Parenting Essentials, Phase 4

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I’m your host AMBrewster, and today is the second to the last episode in our Biblical Parenting Essentials.

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Now, let’s talk about Phase 4 of Biblical Parenting, and—by the way—for those of you who are already familiar with Phase 4, I have a ton of brand new information for you today.

II Timothy 3:16-17 tells us that “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; 17 so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.”

How are we Ambassador Parents to help our kids be men and women of God, adequate, and equipped for every good work? We need to use the Scriptures to introduce our kids to God and when they have submitted to Him in salvation, disciple them to love God and obey Him better as they mature in their discipleship. 

That process is going to involve teaching our kids what’s right and wrong, reproving them when they’re wrong, correcting them when they choose to move from the wrong to the right, and finally . . . Phase 4 . . . training them to stay in the right.

Now, if you’re new to the show, it’s going to be exceptionally important for you to understand that teaching and training are two completely different things. I will explain it briefly here, but I want you to listen to an episode we did very early on called How to Train Your Child to Stay with God. On that episode we explain how the proverb “Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old he will not depart from it” is a promise, and the lynchpin has to do with understanding what it means to train.

1. What is Training?

Teaching is a one-sided endeavor. To teach is to give information. Regardless of what the student does with the information, if I’ve given it, I’ve taught. However, training is a two-sided process. Training involves a teacher giving information and a student who’s not just learning the information, but also putting it into practice.

I can’t say that I’m a trained guitarist if all I did was watch YouTube videos. Sure, the people in those videos were trying to train me. They marketed their videos as “training videos,” but if I never pick up a guitar, practice, and do what they’re telling me to do . . . I am not a trained guitarist. All I’ve done is learned what it takes to play the guitar.

And that’s the key. I hope I’ve been clear in this. Of the four stages of Biblical parenting, if your kids aren’t participating, all you can do as a parent is teach and reprove. It’s not until your kids cross the reconciliation bridge between reproof and correction and are actively participating in the process that you can you correct them and train them.

Now, as I’ve said before, each Phase includes the previous Phase. So training is obviously a teaching, reproving, and correcting process. Now, if you think about what I just said, it likely sounds wrong. If the child needs to be reproved and corrected, how are they in the training stage? They’re obviously not participating in what you’re teaching them.

And I would say that such a conclusion does sound accurate, and I’m not going to fight that way of looking at it. However, none of us are perfect. We all sin every single day, multiple times a day. We fail in some areas while simultaneously succeeding in others. Though I’ve tried to categorize the parenting process, it is far more complicated that four unique stages.

When your kids are participating, parenting is a dynamic process of teaching and reproving and correcting and training to different degrees and in different combinations all day every day. So, here’s how I simplify it.

There are those who sin, confess, apologize, and promise to repent over and over with very little to no discernible change. I argue that—generally speaking—those people haven’t really gotten in the Correction Phase or haven’t gotten into it very far.

However, there are those who sin, confess, apologize, and promise to change who—by the grace of God—achieve real maturity and are genuinely corrected and are trained in new, more Christ-honoring behaviors and life habits. However, obviously those people aren’t perfect. They still sin, but the process of reproof and correction is easier and quicker to navigate. In fact, one could easily make the case that part of the Training Phase is that the individual receives reproof and participates in correction far better than they used to.

So, picture it this way. If your kids are unsaved your parenting is going to be Teaching and Reproving over and over. That’s all you can do. 

But if your kids are born again, they have the ability to truly repent. The more immature they are, the less they will respond to reproof, but a born again believer will always, eventually respond to Biblical Parenting and the conviction of the Holy Spirit. If they don’t, they’re not born again, and all you can do is teach and reprove them. But a Christian will be able to be taught, reproved, corrected, and trained to one degree or another.

However, a spiritually mature child (which—by the way—does not necessarily require an advanced age) will move into the Training Phase much easier. And once they’re their, the parenting process looks more like Training, Reproving, Correcting, Training, Reproving, Correcting, and so on.

Again, I don’t want to oversimplify anything, but I do want to make God’s parental expectations manageable and easy to understand.

And I have three more resources that should help you become a better Trainer (assuming your children are participating in the Phase). The episode called A Parent’s 5 Jobs, Part 5 | Trainer will build out an important foundation while the episode How Do You Become a Training Parent? Will give you practical steps for growing into this practice.

But I also have an episode called Training Your Children to Rebel. The reality is that you or someone else can teach, reprove, correct, and train a child to do sinful things. The process works exactly the same way, but since we’re all predisposed to sin, it’s actually easier to train our kids to sin than it is to train them to glorify God. Therefore, since you’re a sinner just like I am, you and I are training our kids to rebel . . . and we probably don’t even realize it.

So, if you want your Christ-honoring training to be the focus, you need to evaluate your life in order to diminish the self-glorifying training you’re doing.

Alright, let’s move to . . .

2. Methods for Profitable Training

As I was carefully thinking through the process of training, I realized that I had already developed this content in great detail. It just took me a minute to realize that the two projects were actually intimately related.

This other project I’m referencing is called “How Much Should a Counselee Talk during a Session?” Now, this material hasn’t been published or taught in any other format, so this will be an introduction to the material, and there won’t be any other study resources available just yet.

But, hey, at least you’re the first to hear it!

Let me set the stage. As a biblical counselor, I work with lots of people and families. And there’s a lot of talking that occurs during a session. Sure, there are times of silence and tears, but—let’s be honest—these people are coming to me because they need help, and we’re not going to accomplish anything staring at each other.

And you can imagine how many thousands of hours I’ve been in formal counseling, informal counseling, casual conversation, parenting, and so on. And I’ve seen the same conversations and situations over and over and over. So, here are my observations concerning how much a counselee should talk during a session and why. And for the sake of this episode, I’m going to change the word “counselee” to “child.”

  1. The Three Most Important Things to Talk about in all Parenting Sessions

    1. Truth about God
    2. Truth about Ourselves
    3. Truth about Change

As you can see, I’m consistent in my teaching regardless of the application. The point of this point is that whether it’s the parent, friend, child, counselee, or whoever, those are the three most important topics to discuss in matters of spiritual maturity. Counseling sessions, discipleship, and parenting should obviously be focused on spiritual maturity.

The second point of my outline acknowledges the benefits of counselee talking even when their talking doesn’t conform to the above topics.

  1. Gathering Fruit

    1. It’s good for children to talk.
      1. It is vitally important for biblical parents to listen to their children so that they can learn as much as possible about them and the situation. 
        1. Proverbs 20:5, “A plan in the heart of a man is like deep water, but a man of understanding draws it out.”
        2. James 1:19, “Everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak.”
        3. Proverbs 18:17, “The first to plead his case seems right, until another comes and examines him.”
        4. Luke 14:28-32, “For which one of you, when he wants to build a tower, does not first sit down and calculate the cost to see if he has enough to complete it? 29 Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who observe it begin to ridicule him, 30 saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ 31 Or what king, when he sets out to meet another king in battle, will not first sit down and consider whether he is strong enough with ten thousand men to encounter the one coming against him with twenty thousand? 32 Or else, while the other is still far away, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace.”
      2. Therefore, we parents should utilize various forms of information gathering . . .
        1. Questions
        2. Role Playing
        3. and Investigation
      3. We need to do everything we can to get our children to open up and share with us the specific details of their pain, their deepest secrets, and their most uncomfortable questions.
      4. For these reasons and more, it’s exceptionally important to allow our children to talk and talk and talk during our initial sessions. The more they say, the more they reveal their thoughts, and the more fruit we can gather the better as we try to determine which truth in love they need the most right now.
      5. And regardless of how long we have been parenting our kids, this process remains important.
    2. But what about after you’ve gathered enough fruit to proceed to the topics of God, Ourselves, and Change? 
    3. We’ve all either parented children (or will parent children in the future) who—after detailing their current struggle and questions—stop talking while others won’t stop. 
      1. With the silent types . . .
        1. Some parents feel the need to fill the time because no one is talking.
        2. Others try the tough love approach and sit quietly waiting for them to engage. 
          1. Sometimes this approach works, and the parent’s patience wins out.
          2. Other times hours are wasted.
      2. With the children who won’t stop talking . . .
        1. Most parents are content to let them talk the whole time. 
        2. Others do their best to break in, but—quite often—the children view it as an interruption that’s counterproductive.
    4. So, after the fruit has been gathered, we need to ask the question, “Is there a biblical standard by which the parent can gauge a child’s input and also with which they can help the child grow in their maturity?”
    5. Parents who have been taught that you need to talk, but not too much, might wonder how to judge the right balance. 
    6. Other parents may give preference to listening while others only ever lecture.

And it’s at this point in my outline that I move to a consideration concerning . . . 

  1. How Children Talk

    1. The Silent Children

      1. They may not know the truth about God, themselves, or how they need to change. 
        1. This is understandable because—if they did—they wouldn’t be in this situation anyway.
        2. And it is also potentially their learned habit to remain silent in confrontation.
      2. The Silent Ones may also simply not want to talk about the truth they know about God, themselves, and the process of change.
        1. This may be a result of discomfort.
        2. It is often a result of defiance.
        3. Have you ever had a child who would just not talk? What kind of person were they? Why didn’t they engage?

And then after introducing each kind of child, I ask some basic question to get us considering ourselves, our kids, and the situation. However, I don’t provide any answers. So, take some time to carefully consider the questions if you think I’m describing your child.

    1. The Dishonest Children

      1. This child’s issue is that they’re believing lies and therefore communicating things that are not true about God, themselves, and their need for change.
      2. It’s also possible that they’re purposefully lying.
      3. No doubt we’ve all met children willing to go on and on in their own personal delusion. What are some examples of this kind of communication? 
    2. The Curious Children

      1. These kids recognize that they don’t have the answers and ask questions in order to find the answers. 
      2. This is valuable talking and should be encouraged.
      3. Though we’re hoping to teach all of our Silent and Dishonest Children how to seek for God’s answers for their lives, what percentage of your children start in this category? What are some examples of questions Curious Children ask? Are all questions created equally?
    3. The Mature Children

      1. These kids talk honestly about God, themselves, and change.
      2. They know truth, understand truth, and are speaking wisely. They are self-parenting. This is the goal toward which we are working with all kids.
      3. This should be encouraged as much as possible. 
      4. Have you ever been able to witness God work in your children to the point where they went from Silent and Dishonest to Curious and then to Mature? 

And then I move into my final point. The goal is to help the child talk the right way, and the degree to which they participate will answer the question as to how much they should talk in the parenting process.

And keep in mind that this comes after the fruit gathering stage. We’ve already asked our questions and heard their thought process and descriptions of the event, and we’ve already given them plenty of time to tell us what they think and how they feel and so on.

  1. How to Help Children Talk the Right Way

    1. The Silent Children

      1. If the child doesn’t know the truth, we need to teach them how to ask the right questions of us and the Bible.
      2. Whether they’re ignorant of the truth or not, if they don’t want to talk about it because they’re uncomfortable, then there are a couple courses of action.
        1. Ask if having another person in the conversation would help.
        2. Ask if removing someone from the conversation would help.
        3. Identify with the discomfort.
        4. Explain the hope that can come from dealing with the issue in a Christ-honoring way.
        5. Ask questions that don’t seem related to the main issue, but that will help the child feel more comfortable and still reveal important information.
        6. Use any and all of the available tactics to get them to interact well.
      3. Whether they are ignorant of the truth or not, if they don’t want to talk about it because they are defiant, then there are a couple courses of action.
        1. We want to get them interacting, so it’s extremely important to . . .
          1. Ask good questions.
          2. Tell good stories.
          3. Roll play.
          4. Speak the choices and ask them to pick the one with which they most agree.
        2. If they are so rebellious that they absolutely refuse to engage with our attempts . . .
          1. Take that time to speak the truth in love. 
            1. Sow the truth about God—speak well of Him.
            2. Sow the truth about us—include yourself in the examples identifying that this is not you versus them, but you and them both needing help.
            3. Sow the truth about the necessity for and the process of change—again, include yourself.
        3. You need to be very careful about giving up on a child who refuses to participate.
          1. That may be exactly what they want.
          2. However, not removing a scorner could be detrimental to them, the family, and you.
          3. If the child needs to mature spiritually but is refusing to engage, follow Christ’s plan for reproof and reconciliation.
      4. But what about “shy” people and others whose silence is a learned habit?
        1. Though personality is a wondrously complicated mix of a person’s actions, words, feelings, desires, and beliefs, one’s personality is not inherently acceptable simply because it’s their personality.
        2. Maturity is—by definition—the changing of one’s personality.
        3. Don’t allow yourself or your child to function off the lie that they don’t need to engage and participate because they aren’t “talkers.” This kind of thinking is moving into the next category.
      5. Though we desire our Silent Children to become Curious and eventually Mature, sometimes it’s good just to get them to be Dishonest.
        1. In situations where someone refuses to engage, if you can get them to at least get their lips moving, be thankful for whatever comes out. 
        2. Though we should address deliberate deception, it’s actually okay—for now—if their dishonesty merely exposes their own self-deception. At least they’re participating, and you’re learning a lot about them and their need.
        3. Example: “Why do you hate your teachers?” The answers they provide may likely all be untrue or illogical or inappropriate, but they’re revealing how they think and how they need to change.
    2. The Dishonest Children

      1. The issue with these kids is that they’re believing lies
      2. If this is a regular occurrence—meaning that they’re not just Silent Children whose dishonesty may help us better understand them, and instead they are habitual self-deceivers and liars—we must not allow them to waste our precious parenting time on lies, hatred, and idolatry.
        1. They need to be taught the expectations for their communication.
        2. They need to be shown how what they’re saying isn’t true according to God’s Word.
        3. They need to submit to God’s perspective on the issue.
      3. When challenged in this way. . .
        1. Some will shut down and refuse to talk. In those cases, use the appropriate tactics.
        2. Some will ask questions. Answer them and encourage them to interact with the truth. Encourage them to compare and contrast the truth with that which they believe.
      4. The key is that you don’t want to sacrifice valuable, God-centered parenting listening to a barrage of lies. In these situations, the children should remain quiet as they listen to truth in love unless they are going to speak the truth in love themselves.
    3. The Curious Children

      1. These kids recognize that they don’t have the answers. 
      2. This is a valuable kind of talking and should be encouraged.
      3. However, the child shouldn’t view this as an opportunity to wax eloquent all the time. Some people like to pontificate on their philosophical quandaries and instead of really asking a question, they use their question to focus on how deep and introspective they are for asking it.
      4. Answer their question from the Scriptures and give them opportunities to show that they are understanding the answer by explaining it in their own words. As long as they are understanding the answers, move on to new questions. If there is still misunderstanding and ignorance, dig deeper. And finally . . .
    4. The Mature Children

      1. By their talk these children show that they know, understand, and are living wisely. They are self-parenting.
      2. This is the goal toward which we are working with all our children.
      3. This should be encouraged as much as possible. 

Alright, so let me break this down for us and apply it to the training process.

Though teaching is mostly parents talking and children listening, the Training Phase can and should start to sound different. Remember, the children are participating in training. They’ve maturely corrected much of their previous behavior, they’re actively learning, they’re actively changing, and so they should be actively participating in the training process.

That means that you should give them every opportunity to speak the truth. They need to take what they know, really understand it, and be able to explain how that truth needs to change their lives. And as long as they’re saying all of the right things . . . let them keep talking. 

Of course, they will miss important things, and they may say things that are inaccurate or unloving, and we will need to step in and get the conversation back to truth in love. We need to use The Communication House and Revolving Priorities to get the talk back to a Christ-honoring place. 

If you don’t know what The Communication House or Revolving Priorities are, I have links for you in the description of today’s episode.

But the key is that training methodology will start with more parental talking and less child talking, but then it needs to shift as the child matures to more child talking and less parental talking as long as the child is talking accurately about God, themselves, and the process of biblical change.

Let’s look at a couple quick biblical examples of this and then be done.

The New Testament is full of examples of Jesus doing this. Often people would come up to Him with questions or comments. Sometimes He asked the questions to get them to say something, but the moment He encountered falsehood, He would address it. 

In Luke 12:13-21 a man presents Jesus with a demand, but Jesus doesn’t even answer the demand. He explains why He won’t respond one way or another and then dives into the truth that man needed to hear the most.

But there were also times where Jesus asked a question, waited for the accurate answer, and then built on that truth.

For example, in Matthew 16:13-20 Jesus asked the disciples who people thought He was. They answered, and then He asked who they thought He was. Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus applauds him for answering accurately.

Consider Zaccheus. In Luke 19, this Jewish chief tax-collector wanted to see and hear Jesus so he climbed up into a tree. Jesus, knowing that Zaccheus was in the right place to be convicted of his sin, confess, apologize, and repent, acknowledges Zaccheus and invites Himself to his house.

Of course, the crowd wasn’t pleased the Jesus once again was going to spend time with people they thought were worthless. But experiencing the conviction Jesus knew he would, Zaccheus announces to the Lord before all who would listen, “Behold, Lord, half of my possessions I will give to the poor, and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will give back four times as much.”

This man understood God, himself, and his need for change. He also understood what would be required of him to change in a Christ-honoring way. And without being instructed what to say or do, he of his own accord announces his plan. And what did Jesus say in response? Did He correct Zaccheus’ application? Did He add to his plan? No. Jesus didn’t have to because Zaccheus was speaking the most valuable truth he could speak in the moment. 

All that was left for Jesus was the encourage the man and instruct the unbelieving crowd. So, Jesus turned to the crowd and said, “Today salvation has come to this house, because he, too, is a son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.”

What a beautiful illustration of the training process.

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