God offers something to you and I that we need. He offers us loving emotional closeness and trust. PLUS He offers us the structure, discipline, and framework of correction.  Many of us turned away from God and church because we saw a version of God talked about that was either “all rules and punishment” …that turned us off.  Or, we saw an oooey-gooey God that loved everyone, but had no backbone.   God offers BOTH, the things we all need to be the most confident, healthy, and successful people in life.

So, that’s how God parents us… Emotional closeness like a perfect father, plus structure of connecting rebellion to gain and righteousness to gain.  So, if that’s how God connects the dots with us…


Correction has two goals. First is teaching children to take ownership of their decisions and the second is helping them learn how to make good decisions.  The best way to show and bring attention to a poor decision is to allow children to experience consequences from their choices. Rebellious and defiant acts sometimes produce their own consequences, but often the consequences are delayed and parents must step in and structure an appropriate form of consequence to motivate change.  In both cases, children learn faster from consequences.

I’d like to offer 4 junctions we can use to determine how to connect the dots between rebellion and pain and righteousness and gain.  Our first junction is SKILL vs Behavior.

1) Junction #1 – Skill or Behavior

As parents we need to separate moral behavior from non moral behavior. Not all activities in a child’s day are moral in nature, flowing from their heart. Some activities are skill based: piano playing, computer, swimming, etc.   If this situation is a Skill Junction rather than a Behavior Junction, we handle skills with VERBAL PRAISE.  Link cause to effect, “Your hard work is really paying off.” Link with touch, a high five, a hug, a squeeze, a “way to go.”

For skills, you can also offer GOAL INCENTIVES.  Different from Bribes. Use goal incentives with non moral behavior.  Must be Age Appropriate. Why not reward “moral behavior?” like obedience, honesty, etc?   If you do, you train them to think one should be moral only when you get a reward.

There is a story told of an old man who was frustrated that two teenagers kept sneaking into his yard and throwing rocks at this windows.   He had tried yelling, screaming, but they kept coming back.  So, one day he caught them and said, “Tell you what, I’ll give you $5 each to come back and throw rocks at my house tomorrow.”  They were surprised, but gleefully agreed.  They threw rocks, he paid them, and asked them to come back again the next day. They threw more rocks, but he explained that his Social Security check was not cashed yet and could only pay them $2 each. They were saddened, but understood. He asked them to come back the next day. They came, threw rocks, and this time he handed each of them a quarter and apologized for the lack of funds. The teenager got bad and said, “A quarter! We’re not coming all the way over hear to throw rocks for only a quarter.” They stormed off and never returned.

See how “rewarding” or not rewarding moral behavior sets up a system that makes children think that they should always be rewarded immediately for doing the right thing.     So our first junction is SKILL vs Behavior.

Now, if this is a “behavior” vs a skill, we move to the next junction.

2) Junction #2 – Correction or Encouragement

Any behavior that flows from the heart is a moral behavior. As parents, we motivate heart behavior by encouraging children and correcting them. And one of the greatest ways God parents us and we can parent our kids is with Encouragement. What does that look like?

1. Giving them pre-activity encouragement.  “Alright, we are going to Grandmother’s house, I want to hear you offer to be helpful with the dishes and thank her for the meal. Then we offer Verbal reminders. You encourage them to  do what’s right by reminding them of what’s expected.  Dialog is used when we encourage so we know that our children know what is expected… “Tell me what you heard me say…   What do you need to do today?”

I’ve had my kids in boats since they were 9 months. I used to grab them in the tube and roll into the water with them. They were scared of falling out of the tube, I would assure them I “had them” and that we were going to face their fear together and learn how to fall, how to get back up, and how to face our fear.  “NO NO NO…” they’d say, but we’d barrel role out of the tube and I’d take the blunt force of the hit.   And they learned how to fall and face their fear. It was a very specific map. And today, they still don’t like to fall out of the tube, but love the water, faced their fear, and know what it’s like to have dad’s arms wrapped around them. I reminded them, “We can do it together. We can face the fear and we’ll be okay.”

2. Positive words are important. As parents we are quick to jump to nagging, yelling, and complaining, but THE most powerful tool we have is encouraging words.  As often as possible use encouraging words to encourage rather than negative words to restrain.

  • Instead of “don’t spill your cereal…see how carefully you can carry the bowl.”
  • Instead of “don’t get out of bed…obey mommy and daddy and stay in bed.”
  • Instead of “don’t hit your sister…you need to show kindness to your sister.”
  • Instead of “don’ talk so much…you need to be a better listener.”

Then after an activity, affirm the behavior. “I like the way you said thanks. I saw you offer to play games with your sister.   I like the way you stopped talking and asked your aunt a question.”

Our next junction brings us to realizing that encouragement didn’t work, and now correction comes into being, so we need to decide now if this situation represents…

Junction #3 – Foolishness or Childishness

When a decision is made by a child, a parent needs to distinguish the heart motive of the child? Is this malicious?  Was this accidental? Is this a mistake or malicious intent?   As a parent, we distinguish this action as FOOLISH or CHILDISH.   Correction changes depending on this junction.

Childishness:  Innocent immaturity or lack of experience, mistakes they made with no evil intent.  

If it’s childishness, you don’t punish. Don’t punish children for mistakes (accidentally dropping food, etc).   Instead we admonish them and put into their mind the correct behavior or lesson. We also offer “related consequences” to childishness.  We may remove a privilege for a time to help them remember, “you keep forgetting to eat breakfast in the morning because you run to play video games. You will lose your games for today to help remind you.”  This is a softer form of punishment because their is not a willful heart defiance.

Sometimes part of disciplining childishness is to give them additional personal responsibility. Help clean up this mess, help pay for this, etc.

Consequences and the pain of rebellion is a loving act that helps them learn restraint and the pain of rebellion.

Foolishness:  Willful defiance and open rebellion or lack of teachability.

As a youth pastor for 10 years and a parent of a teenager, I am shocked at the way teens talk to their parents on the phone. We had a few 14 year-olds at our house. One of them called their mom to pick them up. The tone, the words, the disrespect in the conversation was palpable. “Yes Mom. I said I was ready!  I told you what time.  I can’t believe you got lost.”   This is clear willful defiance and it must be immediately confronted and corrected.  Mom showed up, smiled, let her in the door without even mentioning it.   This reinforces the behavior and doesn’t help the child address their inner foolishness. Father, the first thing the parent should do is pull the car over and say, “The way you talked to your mom was out of line. Totally disrespectful.”  Then say why… “When you use words like, I can’t believe… or a tone of  I know better than you when speaking to your mom and I, that is unacceptable.”  And tie that to consequences… I am taking away your phone. You are grounded. You lose the car, etc.  My mom and dad made a deal with me. They said to me, “You don’t embarrass me in front of others and I will do the same for you.” My parents would pull me aside rather than correct me in front of others, unless I was outwardly disrespectful in front of others, then they launched into action.

I received a phone call from a friend one time. He was in tears and confessed that he had hit his wife.  They’d been married over a decade and he admitted it happened “only a few times.”   I thanked him for calling and began to dig into the truth.  “Only a few times…”  Do you think that that is okay since it was only a few times?  He said, “Well no, but I want you to know this isn’t a pattern…”  My friend was rationalizing already.   I replied, “When you say a few times over ten years, did the few times occur within the last year?”   (PAUSE)  He said, “Yes.”  So you hit your wife more than once in the last month? (PAUSE)  “Yes.”   I asked him, “Do you see how you are rationalizing this by trying to spread out the frequency and the severity of this in your mind? “Yes.”   “Is your wife going to press charges?” He said, “No, it doesn’t matter anyway. They just take you in the jail and you get out the next day.  It doesn’t do anything.”  How do you know?  “My dad was taken to jail a dozen times for hitting my mom.”  His father was a very successful business man that I knew.   I said, “So you’ve learned and told yourself that hitting is okay in some situations, and consequences are irrelevant?”   “Hmmm, I guess…”   Another friend and I walked with him over the next year as he got counseling. We challenged him to go deep into his childhood pain, apologize to his wife, and we told him that WE would call the police if he did it again because he needed to feel the pain and consequence of his actions.   Many years later, the power of grace, love, consequences, and encouragement restored their marriage and family to health.

Rebellion Causes PAIN, Righteousness Will Cause GAIN.

Some of us are angry at God right now.   We think he is a non existent or bad parent because there is pain in our life. But He is trying to get your attention. If your parents did a bad job training you, God will make up for it. He loves you unconditionally, but loves you enough to pick up where they left off. You can go to a psychologist and they can tell you what your parents did or didn’t do right, but now the ownership is on you.


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