We want to be careful not to crush a child's spirit while we are training them but instead help to shape their will. Our culture teaches us it is okay to haphazardly parent but we need to be purposeful instead:
"... do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord." Ephesians 6:4)
Examples of crushing a child's spirit includes:
- punishing for disobedience and childish "accidents" in the same fashion
- verbally demeaning them
- punishing while angry
We need to train our children rather than provoke them.
How to not crush a child's spirit:
- Carefully select your tone of voice and words when your child disobeys (this will reinforce their personal responsibility of choice and the consequences that will follow thereafter) .
- nurture your child's curiosity for life by allowing them to ask questions with freedom
- understand the difference between willful acts of disobedience and unintentional accidents.
- allow your children to fail without becoming angry
Children will fail and sin--there is no question about it. We need to be prepared on our end by responding biblically and not just reacting.
We definitely want to avoid raising children that merely have an external compliance. It's easy to become focused solely on trying to conform their outward behavior. We need to remember to nurture the heart that encourages children to do what is right because they love God, as their behavior will flow out of the heart. (Mark 7:21)
It's been said:
"Man cares about externals, but God cares about inner qualities. Man values beauty, brains, wealth, and power; God values a pure heart. Integrity and faithfulness have greater value to God than success."
In the midst of it all we need to show our children their own sinfulness and need of a Savior.
Parents, if you have been crushing your child's spirit, go to them and ask for forgiveness. Let them know that you need a Savior too and that is why Jesus died for you as well. Children are very resilient and forgiving. Let them see the transforming work of Christ in your life too. Pray together that the Lord would help you to encourage and build him up from this point on.
God is a forgiving God and He can make all things--even your parenting, new.