Today, many parents struggle with children who have bad behaviors and are often at a loss of what to do about it. Our society teaches us not to biblically discipline, yet expects parents to somehow be able to raise good and productive citizens. Our juvenile delinquent centers are filling up with children as young as 8, 9, and 10 years of age who are committing horrific crimes, often with parents who won’t even claim them or who are also in jail. Children are often placed on drugs prescribed by a physician, moving from one foster care home to another with no stability, and learning more bad behaviors. The cycle continues as they pass those behaviors and habits on to their children at even younger ages as we see “children having children”.
How does this happen? Society seems to be falling apart because the family unit is falling apart. As we look back over history, we can see that much of the blame is on how we have been told to rear our children, especially when it comes to how to deal with bad behavior.
What is Behavior Modification?
The clinical definition is the “alteration of behavioral patterns through the use of such learning techniques as biofeedback and positive or negative reinforcement.” However, we know from the Bible that God has a system of management to lead us by His Spirit through our inner man. Steve Curington taught this very clearly in all of his preaching, teaching, and writing. And, here’s some good news! This can be developed from a very young age.
The world pumps so much money, time, and effort into influencing our children from the outside. They try to get children to produce good behavior by relying on their own flesh or their own senses. Humanism is taught from a variety of methods and words that sound good upon first hearing it. However, this causes children to be driven by the mind, will, and emotion. Children develop strong wills or become very emotional over things of little to no consequence which manifests itself in ways such as throwing a temper tantrum because they had to stop playing their video game or because they couldn’t have a certain toy from the store. Some children become defiant; others become compliant, but only in the flesh out of a will and mind to get something in return. And this causes parents to react in the flesh by using various forms of outside pressure to try and get their children to behave or to at least stop crying and throwing temper tantrums.
These efforts to simply control a child’s behavior from the outside simply do not work. You end up with either compliant or defiant children, based on whether or not they get their way. But wouldn’t you rather have personal relationships with your children? Wouldn’t you prefer to have children who are actively engaged and motivated by deeper things?
It’s all about the Relationship
God created man to have a relationship. He built the family unit around the idea of relationships. The idea was that God would love men, and men would love God; a man would love his wife and his children, and his wife and children would love him. God and the family unit were to be built on a mutual love and respect for each other and His Word. This was called Eden.
However, since the Fall of Man, that relationship has been broken. And it is evident even in our children. We have to build and restore that relationship with God and with our children. Because children do not automatically have this relationship, we need rules and discipline, but only with the understanding that these are temporary. If all a child has are rules and discipline, what happens when that child grows up and leaves the home and now there are no rules and discipline? It breeds rebellion as Bro. Curington used to say.
But God’s intention was not necessary to have all these boundaries and rules of conduct put on us by man, but rather that we would be under the influence of the inner man, the spirit of God so that we would behave differently. There is no need for a law, or rule of conduct if you have the fruit, or outcome, of the Spirit of God. – Steve Curington | Behavior Modification
How do we Start?
First, it is imperative that we take every opportunity to show our children, at an early age, God’s love through His Son Jesus Christ. We need to reach our children and see them receive Christ as their Savior. After all, you must first have the Holy Spirit in you before you can expect to manifest the Fruit of the Spirit.
Secondly, we must work to help foster the development of that relationship between them and God. Help them understand that God is personal and wants them to know Him personally. Children can be taught from an early age to read their Bibles and to pray every day. And we can take it a step further by teaching them to learn not just what God’s Word says, but what it means and how it can apply to their lives. This requires that we take the time to help bring God’s word to their level of understanding. And there is no easy route. Parents will have to take the time to invest in their children in this area.
Thirdly, we must lead by example. Do your morning devotions and invite your children to join you. Show them what you are learning. For them to see the benefits of having a relationship with God, they must first see your relationship with God. They will also learn from your relationships with others. Simply put, your personal relationship with your children will set the example for their relationship with God.
Go Beyond the Rules
To modify the behavior of children, you have to go beyond the rules and beyond the rewards for doing right. You have to do more than just discipline for doing wrong, although this is a vital part as well! What really solidifies the right behavior in children growing up into adults is a right relationship. This includes a right relationship with their parents, their teachers, their pastor, and most importantly, the right relationship with God. As they grow up with these relationships, they will also develop the right relationships with the government, public officers, employers, and eventually their spouse and children. This is how to break the cycle of wrong behavior and create a cycle of right behavior.
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