This month's excerpt is from Creative Correction by Lisa Whelchel.
"The transition from correcting our children's behavior to motivating their hearts is vital. If our kids don't learn to own their decisions, to understand why they should make good choices, they will suffer for it. We can't always keep them from making bad decisions; eventually they must make their own choices. That's what God intended when He gave us free will. He wants our hearts to be in the right place when we make a decision. He says, "If you love me, you will obey what I command" (John 14:15). Our attitudes are more important to Him than our actions-so much so that He doesn't want us to do the right things for the wrong reasons. In fact, God condemned the religious leaders of His day for obeying out of fear, pride, and habit instead of love (see Matthew 23:26).
As a parent, I think I understand why God wants this. Love and obedience that are coerced aren't nearly as wonderful as when they're given freely. For example, as much as I love the kisses I steal from my sleeping children, they're not nearly as sweet as the ones they give me when they wake up in the morning, run down the stairs, and climb onto my lap. With God, the principle is the same. I envision Him sitting on His heavenly throne, anxiously waiting for His children to wake up and pour out their love on Him.
God has given our children the free will to choose or reject Him, so we, their parents, must give them good reasons to follow His ways. The goal is for our kids to make obedient choices because they know it's the right thing to do, because it pleases God-not because they want to avoid correction. If our children are motivated to obey only out of fear, they'll miss the whole point of obedience.
I must confess that if I'd been able to force my children to obey me out of fear while they were young, I would have parented that way. It is so much easier-but it's the wrong approach. In hindsight, I am glad I was unsuccessful at using fear tactics. It would have made life simpler while my kids were young, but I'd rather see them obey me, and God, wholeheartedly, out of love.
Of course, there's always the temptation to let the pendulum swing too far to the other side and neglect to discipline the flesh. If we do not discipline them when they're young, they will have a difficult time disciplining themselves when they are older. We have all seen lives cut short because of self-indulgence. One of the reasons parents often pamper and indulge their kids is that they want to have a wonderful relationship with them. I want that too-but placing too much emphasis on friendship is risky. When we try to be best buddies with our children too soon, giving them lots of pep talks without any corrective discipline, we put ourselves on their level, and they lose the security of knowing someone bigger and wiser is looking out for them. What our children really need when they're young is a parent, not a best friend.
One of the greatest rewards of parenting is friendship with our children; but if we get the prize before we finish the race, the ones who end up being penalized are our children. Our friendship with them will evolve later, as they mature."