Discipling a 3-year-old

Today was youth Sunday at my church. Youth lead worship during the service, high school and college students shared testimonies about how God is growing them, our youth leader preached, and during the Sunday school hour the whole church met together for coffee, donuts, and a Q&A session with all the pastoral staff (who have all served as youth pastors at our church). It was really special.

The passage our youth leader preached on was Matthew 28:16-20, commonly referred to as “The Great Commission”. The central command in that passage is make disciples by going, baptizing, and teaching.

The idea of making disciples was the main thrust of the whole morning, and it got me thinking: As a parent, my first job is to disciple my children. That is my call, it’s the biblical model, and particularly as a stay-at-home mom it is my 24/7 occupation. So, how do you disciple a 3-year-old? God has given parents clear instructions to follow, and examples to imitate from Scripture.

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1) Teach them who God is and what pleases God.

  • “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” – Proverbs 22:6
  • “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” – Ephesians 6:4

This is key. Parenting is not about us, it’s all about pointing our children to God. His Word, and obeying Him is what matters. God gave us our children, but we don’t get to keep them. They are not our possession, they are His, and this is what we must teach them.
We are to train our children up in His Way, not ours. We pray diligently that they would conform to His Way, not our way, because only God’s Way can redeem them.
Our children will be provoked to anger when¬†we deviate from God’s Way too! We need to stay on His Way too, “in the discipline and instruction of the Lord”. If we are¬†not pursuing the discipline and instruction of the Lord in our own lives, how will we hope to teach our children? We will not be able to do it.
This leads to the next point…

2) Model what it looks like to live for God.
We will not be perfect in this, but the work of the Holy Spirit is to be continually transforming us into the image of Jesus Christ. This is sanctification, and our children need to see this! This is the power of God practically on display in everyday, normal situations. We aren’t supposed to show our children how great we are, but how great our God is. How much more is this on display than when we mess up? It’s hard, it can be embarrassing, we may even need to apologize to our children, but what a clear illustration to our children that everyone needs a Savior! When we show our children our daily need for the truth of the gospel, and God’s grace we can agree with Paul when he said:

“I¬†do¬†not¬†write¬†these¬†things¬†to¬†make¬†you¬†ashamed,¬†but¬†to¬†admonish¬†you¬†as¬†my beloved¬†children.¬†For¬†though¬†you¬†have¬†countless¬†guides¬†in¬†Christ,¬†you¬†do¬†not¬†have many¬†fathers.¬†For¬†I¬†became¬†your¬†father¬†in¬†Christ¬†Jesus¬†through¬†the¬†gospel.¬†I¬†urge¬†you, then,¬†be¬†imitators¬†of¬†me.”¬†– 1 Corinthians 4:14-16

Here Paul points to how he has been, and continues to be, an example of the gospel to these believers, through his teaching and through his life. That’s why he can urge them to imitate him! What a challenge! Live in such a way, parent, that you can say to your child, imitate me not because I’m great, but because I am imitating Jesus, and He is the Greatest! (1 Corinthians 11:1)

3) Discipline and correction. This is the not so fun one, because it’s hard!

As parents, we want our kids to be happy. When we discipline our children, they typically don’t express the emotion of happiness. When we do discipline our children we need to do it completely and biblically.
First, let’s remember that the two above points are the “why” behind disciplining our children. We discipline to point our children to God, and to expose how they are not doing what God would want them to do.
Second, let’s take a look at the perfect example of how God disciplines His Children. David’s life gives us a great example of this, especially in conjunction with his writings about God’s character in the Psalms. This is what David says of God in Psalm 103:

The LORD is merciful and gracious,
slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
He will not always chide,
nor will he keep his anger forever.
He does not deal with us according to our sins,
nor repay us according to our iniquities.
For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him;
as far as the east is from the west,
so far does he remove our transgressions from us.
As a father shows compassion to his children,
so¬†the¬†LORD¬†shows¬†compassion¬†to¬†those¬†who¬†fear¬†him.” – Psalm 103:8-13 (emphasis added)

In this same passage David speaks of God chiding and being angry, and showing deep, fatherly compassion for His children. Remember the story of David, Uriah, and Bathsheba? Yeah. Bad, sinful, messy. David was definitely NOT doing what pleased God. Selfishness, deceit, adultery, and murder! Not good.
God’s discipline of His beloved child, David, was also drastic. The child conceived through his adulterous act with Bathsheba became sick and died. Yet, David says that God is:

  • gracious
  • merciful
  • slow to anger
  • abounding in steadfast love
  • removes our transgressions far away
  • compassionate

This is the example we need to follow as parents. Discipline, yes. Exhortation, yes. Correction, yes. Follow through in consequences, yes.¬†In conjunction with grace, mercy, compassion, and a love that is steadfast and “keeps no record of wrongs” (1 Corinthians 13:5 NIV). This is how God disciplines His children, and how we should discipline ours.

 

 

This is discipleship.
This is parenting.
This is what I am called to do. This is what you, parent, are called to do.
Yes, this is how to disciple a 3-year-old, and a 6-year-old, and a 11-year-old, and a 15-year-old.

 

Soli Deo Gloria!

Being tired is not an excuse

I’m just over a month away from my due date with Baby #3.
I have a 3-year-old boy.
I also have a not-quite-2-year-old girl.
I stay at home 24/7 with them.
I blog, crochet, read, participate in church activities and ministry, am always with family (I have three siblings), and have to walk up a flight of stairs every time I go to the bathroom during the day.
I’m a lot of things. Bored is not one of them. Tired is always one of them.

Can you relate? I’m pretty sure every parent out there can! Even if our situations are different, it seems like being a parent and being tired just go hand-in-hand!

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Being tired makes things harder for sure!

Harder for me to make decisions.
Harder for my children to obey me.
Harder for my body to keep up with my children, and take care of me and my unborn child.
But, all these things need to happen!

Being tired is not an excuse.

As believers too, we have an added calling to not let tiredness be an excuse for our attitude, behavior, or lack there of.
Why is this? Because we are called to be like Jesus.
Jesus knows what it is to be tired, to be down right exhausted. He was fully human! He knew hunger, He knew heartache, He knew exhaustion (He slept through a storm while on a boat in the middle of it! That’s exhaustion!). In these times of human weakness, even Jesus did not rely in His own strength, but on the strength supplied to Him by God the Father, through the ministry of the Spirit.

As Christ-followers, fellow heirs, children of God, we are called to live like Jesus Christ. “But as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct” (1 Peter 1:15). Yes, even when we are tired.

Again, in our weakness of being tired, we are called to be like Jesus. What did Jesus do when He was physically, mentally, emotionally drained? He relied not on His own strength, but on the strength of the Father.
Jesus knew this reality, that His strength came from the Father. “The¬†LORD¬†is¬†my¬†strength¬†and¬†my¬†shield;¬†in¬†him¬†my¬†heart¬†trusts,¬†and¬†I¬†am¬†helped;¬†my heart exults,¬†and¬†with¬†my¬†song¬†I¬†give¬†thanks¬†to¬†him.” (Psalm 28:7)
Jesus even preached on this in Matthew 6¬†when He said, “But¬†if¬†God¬†so¬†clothes¬†the¬†grass¬†of¬†the¬†field,¬†which¬†today¬†is¬†alive and¬†tomorrow¬†is¬†thrown¬†into¬†the¬†oven,¬†will¬†he¬†not¬†much¬†more¬†clothe¬†you,¬†O¬†you¬†of¬†little faith?¬†Therefore¬†do¬†not¬†be¬†anxious,¬†saying,¬†‚ÄėWhat¬†shall¬†we¬†eat?‚Äô¬†or¬†‚ÄėWhat¬†shall¬†we¬†drink?‚Äôor¬†‚ÄėWhat¬†shall¬†we¬†wear?‚Äô¬†For¬†the¬†Gentiles¬†seek¬†after¬†all¬†these¬†things,¬†and¬†your heavenly¬†Father¬†knows¬†that¬†you¬†need¬†them¬†all.¬†But¬†seek¬†first¬†the¬†kingdom¬†of¬†God¬†and his¬†righteousness,¬†and¬†all¬†these¬†things¬†will¬†be¬†added¬†to¬†you.” (v. 30-33, emphasis added)

This applies to parenting too

When you are tired, pray for strength from the Lord to faithfully parent your child. Even though you are tired, you still need to obey your Father, and faithfully parent your child. Point them to Christ, to your strength when you are weak, to the only one who can help them obey.
“For¬†the¬†sake¬†of¬†Christ,¬†then,¬†I¬†am¬†content¬†with weaknesses,¬†insults,¬†hardships,¬†persecutions,¬†and¬†calamities.¬†For¬†when¬†I¬†am¬†weak,¬†then I¬†am¬†strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:10)

When your child is tired, show them your own example (see above), and the example of Jesus. Even though they are tired, they still need to obey. God says so. “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right”. (Ephesians 6:1, emphasis added)


“but¬†they¬†who¬†wait¬†for¬†the¬†LORD¬†shall¬†renew¬†their¬†strength;
they shall mount up with wings like eagles;
they shall run and not be weary;
they¬†shall¬†walk¬†and¬†not¬†faint.”
(Isaiah 40:31)

Give God glory for understanding your weakness, for providing for you when you are weak, and for giving you strength in the midst of your weakness.
Soli Deo Gloria

Being a boy and being gentle

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This is my husband and his mini-me, our son.

They are the same in a lot of ways! Personality, activity level, tastes, how they relate to others, but it is in their physical appearance that they are the most obviously similar. They are both built big, my big boy and my big man ‚̧
Our son often gets mistaken for being older than he is. For example, he just turned three and he is the height and weight of the average 5 year old boy. It can be hard for him, because adults expect more of him than he is able.
I love being a boy mom. I love playing cars, building towers, throwing balls, splashing in the pool, running constantly, playing chase/tag, jumping off stuff, all that active “boy stuff”.

When our daughter was born, we were keen on teaching him a very important word: Gentle.

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This was the first time he tried to play with her, she was one month old.

We learned something important in teaching our son to be gentle. That is: he is still a boy. He can be gentle, but not in the same way a little girl is going to be gentle. It’s not necessarily going to come naturally for him. Being gentle seems like no fun, like he’s in trouble for just playing, like we don’t like the way he plays.
We’ve also learned something about his personality: he is extremely caring for others. He wants everyone to be happy and playing together. He does not like it if someone is crying or upset, he really can’t go back to playing until the other person’s issue is resolved.
He’s a tenderhearted bull in a china shop!

My husband has been a great example to him of how to be gentle. Our son loves to imitate the “big people” in his life. Grandparents, uncles, teachers, and especially Daddy. He has some great role models in his life. All these men are considerate of others, prefer the needs of others before themselves. They are great at helping our son be gentle, and still run around and play.

These are not even all the men speaking and acting in honorable ways in front of my son. It’s a wonderful blessing!

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These are not even all the men speaking and acting in honorable ways in front of my son. It’s a wonderful blessing!

In parenting, I always like to have a solid “why” for everything I tell my kids to do (or not do). God always gives us reasons for obeying Him, so it only makes sense that I do the same for my kids. So, why be gentle? Because it’s not about you, my son. Gentle is considering other people, before himself. Gentle is looking around, and seeing that there are others around him, affected by what he does. Gentle is seeing his sister crying and bringing her favorite baby doll to cheer her up.

In November, we are expecting our third baby, another girl. I’m very excited!
I’m not as nervous this time about my son being gentle with his new baby sister. He’s still a boy, and will want her to play cars with him instead of dolls. He’s already taught one sister how to kick and throw, and with his personality, making sure everyone is included is a huge thing. He joins with his sister now in playing with her baby dolls, so that he is included in what she is doing.

I love my son, and I’m excited to see him grow up with his little sisters following right behind him. God has big plans for this kid, I know it. ‚̧

 

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“O LORD, you are my God;
I will exalt you; I will praise your name,
for you have done wonderful things,
plans formed of old, faithful and sure.”
Isaiah 25:1

“But as for you, O man of God, flee these things. Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness.”
1 Timothy 6:11

 

Soli Deo Gloria!