True Success

in Child Training


by Marilyn Howshall

developer of the Lifestyle of LearningTM ministry




At the time we were just beginning to homeschool, the only books that seemed to be available on child training from a Christian perspective had more of a psychology emphasis. This was the very thing we wanted to get away from, having thus far raised our children based on secular psychology. We felt that Christian psychology differed little from secular. Somehow, even though I was very young in the Lord, my mind not yet renewed to His Word, I felt that God's way had to be different; His Spirit had already been teaching me this.


As I became exposed to more homeschool resources, I was aware of only a couple of books at that time that dealt with the subject of child training What the Bible Says About Child Training by Richard Fugate, and Hints on Child Training by H. Clay Trumbull. The latter appealed to my heart, but I did not know how to "do it." I then pursued the ideas in Fugate's book as there seemed to be clear definitions and practical application I could understand.


My children had never been spanked, so we began a process of learning how to recognize signs of disobedience and followed through with spanking sessions. It was not long before we even learned how to spank correctly in love instead of anger! However, there were times when I felt that maybe we were not spanking them enough. Fugate's message had to do with this one aspect of child training, so I felt like I was supposed to be doing a lot of corporal discipline. 


However, I realized that the Lord had give me His wisdom and I was practicing and growing in my ability to hear the instruction of the Holy Spirit's direction and guidance in dealing with my children. I was learning how to train them in character, and eventually in their hearts as well. 


The more I yielded my own heart to the Lord, the more I was able to see clearly into their hearts an area to which I was blind before. The more I trained them, the less In needed to spank them. I not only had outwardly obedient children but inwardly yielded hearts.


In time, I came to see that parents who are young in the Lord are more likely to latch onto teachings that give them a tangible model for external control over their children. A certain amount of this is necessary but requires the correct spirit which is often dangerously absent in immature, carnal Christians. 


What we want to achieve is Spirit control over our children instead of carnal control. While I continued to spank when necessary, I went beyond these limitations to an emphasis on the heart aspect of child training. I had no help in the form of any book for this, only the wisdom of the Holy Spirit. As He dealt with my heart, likewise I dealt with my children's hearts.


I never read another child training book nor became aware of new books until 1996 when I was given a copy of To Train Up a Child by the Pearls. This I found to be a gem of a little book for early child training in obedience. I had applied similar principles in my children's early years and had experienced good fruit. However, it, too, presents only one aspect of the child training picture. I knew the Lord would eventually lead me to write about child training, but in the meantime I wanted to be able to recommend books to you readers that possessed a more powerful and complete message of heart discipleship, one that I could wholeheartedly endorse. 


Several readers have either sent me a copy of Shepherding a Child's Heart by Tedd Tripp or asked me if I have heard of it. Many have told me, "It it fits so well with your message!"  I found this to be true. And while it is the most complete (grace-based) child training book available, I knew that the other books offered such a unique perspective regarding their particular emphases that I felt I would not want to miss out on even one of them. I believe that collectively they possess as close to a complete picture of child training as is available at this time. I only wish they had all been around when I needed them!


The message I want to convey to you through this book review introduction is that it takes maturity in the Lord to go beyond mere corporal discipline and methods of external control over our children. Grace-based discipleship of the heart and gracious training in character while dealing with the heart requires God's love to be operating in us. This love cannot be manufactured, but can only flow from and be demonstrated by a parent who is submitted to "Holy Spirit heart surgery" of their own.


Successful Christian parenting will include only about 1% child discipline in the form of correction with the rod, while the other 99% of the focus and effort will be devoted to training the child's character and discipling his heart to the Lord. 


When we are weak in our parenting skills, it is easy to focus more heavily on the discipline aspect of their training and then to exert all sorts of ungodly external controls and manipulation techniques over our children that do not build their character, thinking we are doing the right thing. By the time the children approach adolescence, they may show signs of rebellion that are often irreversible until God Himself gets their attention. Changing the Heart of a Rebel by Dr. S. M. Davis may be the tool for you if you are dealing with "run away" rebellion in your home.


True success in child training will be reflected in a child whose heart is teachable, open to his parents and the Lord all the way into adulthood.


When we sow seeds of godly training now, we will avoid the fruit of rebellion later. (Rebellion is not natural or to be expected.)  The Key to Your Child's Heart by Gary Smalley is especially helpful to learn how to recognize a closed heart, how to prevent closing your child's heart, and how to re open it. A true godly loving spirit in the home is the tool for bringing this about, coupled with much wisdom, under standing and grace. I believe these books will help you in training your children up for the Lord.







Used with permission from the October 1997

Lifestyle of LearningTM Newsletter by Marilyn Howshall.


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