Generation Cedar

There are two ditches in parenting, both with negative outcomes.

My grandfather was a “ditch parent.”  Many of his generation were.  He grew up in the tail-end of the Great Depression and life was hard, mainly about surviving. He was strict, enforced the rules, but lacked a warmth and affection with his children and grandchildren.  He didn’t cultivate relationships.

No doubt he was brought up with a stern father who, perhaps, didn’t invest in fellowship with his children.  My own father did a great job overcoming this lack of relationship-building with which he was raised, but still he struggled with the obvious effects.

There’s another ditch many modern parents have fallen into.  In an effort to “give their children more” they have given them liberties that aren’t healthy, and they have shied away from exercising proper biblical authority and guidance. They are raising brats who they don’t often enjoy.

I called an acquaintance one day.  The answering machine picked up:  “Hi. You’ve reached the home of Kaityln.  Her parents aren’t able to come to the phone now. Please leave a message.”

It was a little like an obvious declaration of her child-centered world.  They didn’t have anymore children because her mother told me “she was too hard.”

In either situation, the parent-child relationship is harmed.  The right relationship is foundational to transferring values, to discipling and bringing up children who will walk in “the paths of righteousness.”

It’s also foundational to the promise that “children are a blessing.”  That is not a one-sided promise.  They are blessings (generally speaking) IF we hold up our end and labor to be the parents God has called us to be.

The answer?  Balance.

Understanding authority.

Despite modern teachings that try to place parents and children as equals, the Bible declares that parents are in authority over their children and that children must obey and honor their parents. It is for their growth and maturity that such command is given.

It seems obvious, but I’ve observed that many parents truly do not know what should be expected of their children as it relates to obedience.  They allow disrespectful responses or they allow the child to bring them to his terms (through manipulation, tantrums, etc.)

A child must know his parents are in charge, that they are wiser than he, and because of the position God has placed them in, they operate on the basis of his best interest.

Know your position and own it.

Yet, as we require obedience from them, we must not exasperate them, and we must keep our fellowship with them tender and sweet.  My authority is only an expression of my deepest love and care for my children. I remind them of this by the friendship that I seek to cultivate.

Tie heart strings by:

Listening. I mean really listening.  It can be very hard, especially with little ones who chatter all day, to stop and listen to them.  But eye contact, a smile and a response lets them know you value them as people.

Seeking their friendship.  Pursue them.  Ask them questions and converse. Take them on walks.  Play with them.  Ask them to join you with a chore.  In general, they know when you enjoy them so remind yourself that they will be grown soon and plant the seeds of friendship now that will continue to grow into your adult relationship.

Tell them. Remind your children, verbally, that you love being their mother, that you are glad they live with you and you feel honored that God would bless you with such a gift.

Affirm them physically.  Smiles go a long way!  Greet them in the morning like they are a long lost friend!  Hugs, squeezes, holding hands–all these things express tenderness that tie heart strings.  We do a lot of touching–at home, in church , in public–kisses and hugs can’t be overdone.

“Oh that God would give every mother a vision of the glory and splendor of the work that is given to her when a baby is placed in her bosom to be nursed and trained!  Could she have but one glimpse into the future of that life as it reaches on into eternity; could she look into its soul to see its possibilities; could she be made to understand her own personal responsibility for the training of this child, for the development of its life, and for its destiny,—she would see that in all God’s world there is no other work so noble and so worthy of her best powers, and she would commit to no other hands the sacred and holy trust given to her.”  -JR Miller

If we have cultivated sweet relationships with our children, our authority will be sweet to them too, and they will glory in the love and security they feel by our boundaries and expectations.

Just a quick example from our week:

Three-year-old comes upstairs for breakfast.  She asks for cereal but today we are having oatmeal with fruit.  She begins to whine that “she didn’t get any cereal”.  Cheerfully, I say, “No one had cereal.  We all had oatmeal today and you are going to have oatmeal too.”  (Begins to cry.)

(Cheerfully, again…)  “Sweetheart, go back down to your room and whine there. You may come up when you are cheerful.”

She returned 2 minutes later with a smile and happily ate oatmeal.

It took only a moment of attention, but remembering to be deliberate, NOT doing the easiest thing (“Oh, fine, you can have cereal”) will go a long way to enforcing authority.  Oatmeal vs. cereal isn’t a big deal.  Training a child to get her way by whining is.

How do you tie heart strings?

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39 Responses

  1. This is SO encouraging…I have been amazed at how simple (not to be confused with always easy) it is to achieve the attitude we want, and what I believe God would want us to strive for, in our home. It’s pretty much as you’ve described here, along with a lot of forgiveness (including Mom forgiving herself for the inevitable “fail” we all experience on occasion).

    1. “including Mom forgiving herself for the inevitable “fail” we all experience”

      Amen, and amen. Did I mention a 3-hour break down recently where I just cried out to the Lord to empower me because I felt so helpless?

      I want those reading to know that writing about the ideal way to handle relationships doesn’t mean that I always do it right. I don’t want others to be discouraged in that way. I’m walking right alongside everyone else.

  2. Kelly, I have been soaking these posts up.

    Not having grown up in loving homes ourselves, we desire such different things in our home and for our family than what we experienced. Sometimes it seems so difficult…not having seen the example/framework for a godly home first-hand. These posts have been a real encouragement and blessing to my husband and myself as we strive to be the parents that God would have us be and cultivate loving relationships within our home.

    Thank you!

  3. Such right on posts!
    Just to add to why it is important to use our authority in sweetness. How we use our authority is how children view God’s authority. When they see we make the rules and guidlines out of our deep love for them (by doing the thing Kelly (WW) said in this post, they will understand that God does the same. We teach them to love the rules because they love the rule maker (not religion, just God). THey have a much slimmer chance to rebel against God because we have done our best to raise them in the way they should go!

    Really loving these series. Reminding me to lsiten to my little girl more.
    Thanks you!

  4. Thank you for this series. I know it is true, I’ve worked on these things… and then I get busy. This is a great reminder. My 16 month old is needing a constant companion right now (her curiosity gets her into trouble every moment of the day!). It is hard to juggle.

    I think it was yesterdays post that mentioned always going back to the standard. I actually said “you guys are driving me nuts” and had to come back later and apologize for my selfishness. It is God’s standard not mine. *sigh*

  5. Thank you so much for these posts. I was actually reading this one earlier today when my 15yo and 10yo got into an argument. The argument left the 10yo crying at her brothers injustice. I found it very hard to feel sorry for either of them when they were not doing what they were supposed to be doing. But, instead of being angry I went into the closet, where my 10yo was hiding and crying, and held her for a minute. The result was so much better than scolding them both and being mad myself. Thank you for reminding me with this post to take advantage of the opportunity to love on her and build a relationship.
    Btw, I did scold them but not in the heat of the moment and it was quick in a ‘lets get back to our work’ kind of way. It wasn’t worth me being “right”, and shoving her feelings aside, in the end.

  6. So please tell me then what I am supposed to do when my very difficult child refuses to go to his room to cool down? What if I just end up spanking him for not going to his room? What if I then put him timeout so he can think about it and he proceeds to tell me, I hate you so much. If you could please tell me what I’m doing wrong, I’d love to know. Your glib little posts seriously rub salt in my wounded heart. I do not know what to do with this child. And for the record, my husband and I were both raised in Christian homes and are striving to do the same here. I am so jealous of parents like you who just seem to know what to do in every situation. I am sick of parenting. I actually hate it right now. And I’m seriously questioning whether or not we should have more than three since obviously something has gone seriously wrong.

    1. Laura,
      I just got done listening to a podcast on focus on the family, with John Rosemond and he talked about how exhausting parenting is today and what we can do about it.

      I went through hating parenting too, I read “raising Godly Tomatoes” by L. Elizabeth Krueger here is the website this book ( based on biblical child rearing) totally changed me and gave me the pleasure to be a mom that I had lost.

      I have a 3 year old and a 4 year old and I was very sick for a long time, it was hard and I had no patience and my little ones were so close in age. This book really helped me.

    2. Hello Laura,
      I second the recommmendation of Raising Godly Tomatoes. Kelly’s posting is not glib at all, it is brief. She promises no easy answers, she’s just throwing out some basics – not a specific guide for specific needs. And she is reiterating some very good observations and advice others have gone into in more depth elsewhere (devoting whole chapters and books to the subject). I truly believe that some children are just more willful than others. All people have different strengths and weaknesses (pet sins I guess you could say). So of course some kids will be more willful than others. At the risk of sounding glib myself (and I am so sincere, and don’t have your answers), I would urge you to seek friendships w/ other parents in real life, preferably further along the parenting road than you, who have had experience raising strong-willed children. They are a great comfort and often have more helpful advice than a lot of your run-of-the-mill MOPS companions. Also, if they are older you can see the fruits of their parenting by which to evaluate their advice. Allow those parents who have successfully raised strong-willed children into godly adults to help you, disciple you (correcting you if necessary), and encourage you. And pray for divine intervention (I say this w/ a smile, but still am serious).

      1. Thank you, Natasha and Lori. I also want to apologize to Kelly for saying she was being glib. I know she is not, but I have been feeling so bitter about parenting the last little while and in my frustration I spoke out of turn. I am going to check out the book you recommended. I’m feeling so burned out and at the end of my rope. I’m glad I’m not the only one though. And Lori, honestly I hear you about praying for divine intervention. Ps. 55:17 – I utter my complaint and moan, and he hears my voice. 🙂

        1. Laura,

          I’m so sorry the post not only didn’t encourage but “rubbed salt”. That is the last thing on my heart to do. I labor over these posts for the express purpose of helping and encouraging.

          It’s hard to “diagnose” and tell you what to do when I know little of your situation. That’s one reason the posts have to be rather general concepts than specific how-tos. (That and I can’t discuss spanking on the internet.)

          How old is your child? Do you feel like you’ve struggled with obedience since he was little? Did you establish authority early or is it something you’re having to “redo” now that he’s older?

          In addition to the recommendations given, I HIGHLY recommend “Shepherding a Child’s Heart” by Ted Tripp.

          When my first son was 2, he was angry and defiant. I was at my wits end and cried a lot. This book changed our perspective dramatically. I also had an older woman tell me to “shut my life down” until we came to grips with this child’s behavior. No phone calls, no outings–nothing while I focused on regaining control and obedience. It took time, patience, and a deliberate effort to address what was going on in his heart. But it was so worth it.

          This post is not written from a mother who “always knows what to do”. I feel ashamed that you deducted that because it means I’m not communicating reality very well. (I suppose there’s a fine balance between lending advice and making it clear that said lending doesn’t make the writer an expert ;-))

          I struggle all the time. Some days are harder than others. And some days I feel like I don’t know what to do either. But I DO know that it’s important to keep our “Kingdom perspective” and that’s the passion of my heart as I seek to encourage you here on this blog. But I’m walking alongside you; I’m not a mom who has it all figured out.

          Perhaps a regrouping is necessary. Sitting down as a family and looking at all the elements you feel are involved in this struggle you’re having. You may even have to repent to your children for not requiring them to respect you and then declare “a new game plan” and follow through with it. I don’t know where your husband falls into all this, but he can step in too and enforce your authority even while he’s away during the day.

          Feel free to email me if you want to talk more specifically.

          1. I had a crisis time as a mother about 2 years after our 3rd child was born (we now have 9) and praise God I had an older, godly woman to turn to. I was near the quitting point. She gave me the advice you just gave, Kelly – to shut down. I was running around all over the place with so many responsibilities at church and she said “All you know right now is that God has called you to be a wife because you are married and He has called you to be a mother because you have children – do that well and then add in extras as you and your husband KNOW you are called.” Oh my, so very, very wise. We did just that – that day – I called and pulled out of everything. I read several books on parenting and slowly but surely we began to get a handle on our family. I am so thankful the Lord put that woman in my life. I also agree with another comment earlier about not being raised this way so it will take us a little longer and with more deliberateness (is that a word?) and time – we need to give ourselves a little grace but never to despair for God is our hope!

        2. So sorry you’re struggling! It can be so tough.

          I would also recommend Sacred Parenting by Gary Thomas. We have 3 strong-willed children and it’s a heart-check for parents more than a “How To” or advice book. It left me feeling renewed for battle! 🙂

    3. Hi Laura, I want to recommend this book to you: The Heart of Anger: Practical Help for Prevention and Cure of Anger in Children by Lou Priolo
      I’m still reading it now & it’s shining the brightest light through Scripture that I’ve ever seen before where parenting is concerned. I’ve gone through the “Shepherding a Child’s Heart” classes & Tedd Tripp is GREAT, so read that too!
      But, seriously, this book is just ground shattering when it comes to showing us how to relate to angry children. I can’t tell you enough how much this book has helped my husband & I with our 7 children (ages 14 – 1 all boys, one girl)!

  7. This was a great post! I do have a question though. I was surprised by the example. The girl is allowed to whine, as long as it’s not in front of you? It seems like that will teach her it’s ok to “argue and complain” (Phil. 2:14), but not in front of others. It seems to me that that kind of discipline addresses the behavior only, but not the sin in the heart.

    1. Ginger, I often do this with my 3 year old too. She is not allowed to whine to me about not getting her way. The idea of sending her to her room to whine there is similar to what we do. I send her to the “bad attitude” chair in the formal living room. She can whine but without an audience, what’s the point? It usually takes about 2 minutes for her to decide to get over not getting her way and she rejoins the family with a good attitude. I usually talk to her about her attitude and why “pitching a fit” when she doesn’t get her way is wrong later.
      I would like to add that another thing that I’ve found with this age that helps with the “not getting her way” bad attitude is giving her choices whenever possible. She wants to make decisions for herself. I’ll often give her little choices throughout the day and this really cuts down on the whiney “but I want” moments. Examples: which shoes to wear today, which hairbow, which fruit snack (apple or banana) etc. Always a choice of 2 so that she’s not overwhelmed. Many parents may not realize that they are not allowing this age child to make any decisions for themselves. At the age of 2, I was making all the decisions and then suddenly she wanted to make some for herself. This is part of growing up. I see a lot of parents who are still making all the decisions for their preschool aged children instead of allowing them to move into that next phase of development.

    2. Ginger,

      As Katie Grace touched on, it’s not “allowing her to whine”; it’s creating an atmosphere that makes whining pointless and therefore non-existent. Whining is a manipulation tactic. Without other people, there can be no manipulation. So a child learns that this behavior is not effective and decides to replace it with an effective one–asking without complaining.

    3. We also do this for some temper tantrums. They are sent to their room to cry and can come back down when they get themselves together. I think it teaches that you’re allowed to be angry but you can’t take it out on others or disrespect others because of it, and going to their room allows them to learn to get self-control back for themselves. And telling them they can come down when they’re back in control of themselves also motivates and empowers them that they ARE in control of themselves. You’re not trying to control them. This has worked amazingly well for our oldest boy (4 yo). My daughter (6 yo) usually still needs someone to come up and talk it through with her after a couple minutes.

  8. I normally agree with what you say Kelly but the recommendation for Ted Trips book bothers me. I found the first half of his book nice but could not finish the rest. For the person who this book was recommended too another book you could persue is Heartfelt Discipline by Clay Clarkson spanking is an option but not the only path in this book.

    1. Hmmm…it’s been years since I read it, but I loved every word and it encouraged me greatly to be more diligent but also more gentle as I dealt with the heart issues of my children. Seems Mr. Tripp is getting a bad rap from some groups. I can’t disagree with much of what I remember he says. Do you want to be specific?

  9. One of the main points that bothered my husband and I while reading this book was how he says the bible says we must spank and if we don’t we aren’t trusting and obeying God.
    We know what he uses in Proverbs to back his opinion but we don’t believe the bible says you must spank. He is also very open that he started disciplinig their child at a mere 8 months which means spanking. This bothered my husband and I greatly.
    We believe the bible is largely silent on the hows of discipling but that you must discipline. And yes Ted Tripp does have a bad rap with some groups.
    I guess the most important thing for a parent to do (in my opinion) is to follow the Holy Spirits guidence in this area. If you are feeling lead not to spank or not to spank exclusively then you need to do that. I don’t believe that God calls everyone to discipline their child or children the same way. I hope this made sense I am typing around a sleeping baby.

    1. Hi Danielle – I’m not Kelly, and I don’t mean to intrude on a conversation you meant to have only with her, so I’m answering as a fellow traveler…NO, I do not believe every child should be disciplined in the same manner. My most willful child is also my most sensitive, and only took spanking personally,…she didn’t make the discipline connection, and I would only have been willful myself if I insisted that form of discipline was serving her. I would instead be quieting her temporarily as she nursed a bitter spirit. Spare the rod, spoil the child is a timeless truth, but the “rod of correction” isn’t a primitive switch from a tree, but requires a high and intimate knowledge of a child’s heart…it’s a discipline for parents themselves, prayerfully, rightfully done.

  10. Kelly, I thank you from my heart for a beautiful post. I believe where you truly shine is when you write about relationships within the family.

  11. Very encouraging post! My 3 year old gets “do-over” days when she goes back to bed until she is ready to start the day over with a pleasant attitude. (Sometimes…I’m the one that needs the do-over day though!)

  12. In response to Laura, I am new to this site, but found the information heart warming. I am checking my attitude constantly thru each day to be the mother that God intended me to be. Your articles are refreshing to me- sometimes reminding me I need more work.
    I do understand how difficult parenting can be. I raised a bipolar daughter and much of her childhhood and teen years, I could not find a time that I liked her or enjoyed parenting her. It made me feel so helpless and ashamed. We are a Christian family and we prayed constantly thru the difficult times. We did not know until much too late about her emotional condition. Later we adopted a special needs child and again we are having much of the same issues, due to a legitimate physical and emotional health diagnosis. There are some children that will not bend to obedience no matter what you do. Is it possible that your child may be in that catagory? Please pray about it and consult your pediatrician, just in case there is more going on than the average power struggle between parent and child. Please do not feel you are the one at fault when you may be doing everything right and still have these issues. I will lift your family in prayer.

  13. I have 6 children-3 married sons,then 2 daughters then our son(17). We’ve homeschooled since 1985. I never used time-out(a time-out chair). I never punished(never used the word “punish”)them by sending them to bed early. I never “grounded” them. My father never spanked me and my husband never spanked our daughters. I quoted Scripture often- Ephesians 6:1. Spare the rod,spoil the child isn’t Scripture-is it Benjamin Franklin’s Poor Richard’s Almanac as is”God helps them who help themselves”,etc. Yes, some children don’t understand consequences-we have a special-needs daughter(autism spectrum). Jessica(28) moved into a nearby group home a few years ago. She was on a 6-year waiting list-we visit her and take her out often- and she comes home on holidays. The 10 years before she moved out-at 25- were difficult,before that she was a perfect child(she’s beautiful). Our daughter Angela(20) was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes(not caused by a bad diet) ar 5-there were behaviors(tantrums concerning food-she’s thin) before the diagnosis to indicate something was wrong.

    1. Butler, like many great authors, took many of his lines from the Bible and paraphrased them. Shakespeare did this more than any I can think of.

      “He who spareth the rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him correcteth him betimes” (Proverbs 13:24)
      “Withhold not correction from a child: for if thou strike him with the rod, he shall not die. Thou shalt beat him with the rod, and deliver his soul from hell.” (Proverbs 23:13-14)

  14. It’s “funny” how those Scriptures-Proverbs 13 and 23 seem to me -as a grandmother. I, also, have daughters-in-law who were raised in nonspanking homes and think spanking is abusive(when my friends are even shocked those Scriptures are marked in my KJV Bible). A close friend recently told me she thought my children were just well-behaved and I never spanked (or raised my voice). Those Scriptures seem to be speaking of father/son discipline. Since according to the Bible, one is an adult at 20(Numbers 1:45,Num. 14:29, Ex. 30:14, 1 Chron. 23:24,27,etc.) it seems to apply to sons under 20-“child”. It, also, would be good to think of Psalm 23(“rod”) and read a book like- A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23- to learn how a real and good shepherd treats his sheep(the author gives examples of bad shepherds and their sheep). I think that the word “beat” means to swat on the bottom more than once(never strike the face as the teeth and spirit are affected). Two/three swats on the bottom are humbling-never with a belt like my friends were-that’s abuse. We want our children to be better not bitter. I have 4 granddaughters( 1 yr.,2Om.,2yrs. and 3yrs.)- I watch three of them and I can’t imagine ever giving them even one swat on the bottom. When my children were in diapers they never were spanked-not even one swat on the bottom.

  15. I read somewhere that elephants spank their young- with their trunks. I wonder if that’s true. I,also, read that they are great mothers.

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