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AOLFF http://aolff.org Arms of Love Family Fellowship Mon, 19 Feb 2018 17:37:00 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.6.10 The GBD Alternative to Traditional Time-Outs http://aolff.org/the-gbd-alternative-to-traditional-time-outs.html http://aolff.org/the-gbd-alternative-to-traditional-time-outs.html#respond Fri, 01 Mar 2013 03:00:15 +0000 http://aolff.org/?p=504

Punitive parenting is adversarial. It pits parents against children in what many punitive experts openly refer to as a war. Even Dr. Phil talks about “picking your battles” and warns parents that when you pick them you had better make sure that you “win” them. But as Christians we are told that our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against the powers and principalities of this present darkness. We are told that Satan is “The Adversary”, not our children. In fact, our children are in the position of being our brothers and sisters in Christ. The “rod”, the “Shebet”, is properly used when it’s used to beat off the adversary–the wolf attacking the sheep and the devil attacking our children. It’s not for hitting sheep or children.

But why not time outs?

It’s actually a good question when the AAP has advocated for Time Outs as a preferred alternative to corporal punishment. In truth, if the choice is between a spanking and a time out, I’d suggest the time out. But that’s not the only choice! Both are rooted in a punitive mindset.

 People who feel good act good while people who feel bad act bad.

A punishment is something that is added on to teaching to cause the child to feel bad with the underlying belief that only by feeling bad can they learn. But, in fact, they learn lots of things without feeling bad. They learn to walk and talk and spell their own name without requiring punishment, so the argument that they can’t learn if they don’t feel bad is completely unfounded.

In fact, a basic belief in GBD and PD is that people who feel good act good while people who feel bad act bad. So when a child is acting bad it is illogical to think that making them feel worse will somehow get them to act better.

Of course I’m speaking of classic time outs here. Or, thanks to Supernanny, what is sometimes referred to as a “naughty place.” The way this works is that a child is separated from the family and ignored for a time that is equal to 1 minute per age of the child. The child is told that they are bad/naughty/misbehaving/etc and the parent will get them when the time is up. They are instructed to “think about” what they have done wrong. Supernanny insists on an apology at the end .

There are several punitive aspects to this.

While Supernanny allows for young children to be viewable by the family, traditional time outs, and her Naughty Room for older children, require that the child be isolated away from the family during the time out. This gives the clear message to a child that acceptance in the family is conditional upon their behavior. If it is not acceptable they are rejected; if it is acceptable, they are accepted. For many children this translates into a message of conditional love. Also, while introverted children may respond okay to forced isolation, for many extroverted children this is traumatic.

The one-minute-per year is an arbitrary time. There is no guarantee that a child will be calmed down in that time, and other children will calm down long before that time is over.

A time-out gives the clear message to a child that acceptance in the family is conditional upon their behavior.

When an apology is required to leave the time out or naughty place this is a forced apology and not a true indicator of a child’s remorse. They are taught that an apology is a negotiating tool and not taught empathy or remorse.

In place of classic time outs, there are many GBD tools that provide actual teaching and do not have the punitive aspects.

GBD is an entire paradigm shift. Children are not viewed as “naughty.” Parents and children aren’t in battles that must be won.

Since people who feel good act good, one goal of GBD is to help people feel good. Now, happy isn’t the only acceptable emotion, and there’s lots of opportunity to use tools like reflecting feelings. The way that people learn how to feel good is to be equipped with tools that they can use to exercise self control in difficult situations. Taking a break, or what is sometimes referred to as a “Positive time out” is one way to do that.

As a means for providing this, I recommend a Comfort Corner.

A Comfort Corner is a space in the common area of a home that is set up to be a retreat for a child (or an adult). It’s a place they can go to step out of a situation, take a break, regroup. There are things there that provide them with comfort–stuffed animals, pillows, blankets, music, books, whatever will bless your child. Let them help design it if you want. It can be as simple as a chair with a blanket, or as complex as a room under the stairs full of options.

Some will argue that this is rewarding poor behavior, but if you aren’t actively slapping high-fives and saying “awesome” about their poor behavior then you aren’t rewarding or encouraging it. I’ve never thanked my child for yelling or said that if they did I’d give them ice cream.

One illustration relevant to adults is this one.  If I were to come over and you had been having a bad day and not behaving well (maybe grousing or yelling at the kids, not doing your responsibilities around the house, etc) which of the following ways would you prefer me to respond?

1) “I’m disgusted at the way you’ve been behaving today. Your children deserve better than this. What kind of a mother do you think you are? You need to go into your room for 30 minutes (1 minute per year ) and really think about how bad you are. I will come and get you in 1/2 hour and then I will be nice to you.”

or

2) “Wow, you’re having a bad day. How about I watch the kids for a bit and you go get a cup of coffee and take a break? Come back when you’re feeling better and if you want to talk about what’s going on we can do it then.”

When a child is sent to the Comfort Corner the only rule is that you don’t talk about why they were sent when they are there, and they may come out when they are ready to rejoin the family and be cooperative.

For older children there may be a need for a tool called “you hit, you sit”. When children get aggressive and violent it’s appropriate to stop their bodies and give them a chance to get their brain back in control. If you have a Comfort Corner they can be sent there, or even just sitting on the couch until they are ready to be calm in their play and make amends.

I do teach children how to apologize, including the words “I’m sorry”, but more importantly the words, “Will you forgive me?” And I teach all of my children how to forgive — because forgiveness is about casting off the burden of unforgiveness and going on with your life at peace with others. When you wrong someone you owe them a debt. Making amends is about taking responsibility and doing what you can to pay that debt. We can never undo our actions, but making an effort to repay the debt we owe someone teaches personal responsibility for our actions and is much more important than the ability to say an empty “I’m sorry.”

Saying “I’m sorry” might be part of making amends. There may also be a need to offer a gentle touch to make amends for a violent one, to return a toy and offer an additional one where a toy was taken, to do a kind act where unkindness was done. I have the offending child ask the offended child what kind thing they can do to help them feel better.

GBD is about working to proactively prevent the situations that would result in time outs.

Mostly, GBD is about working to proactively prevent the situations that would result in time outs. Knowing our children well enough allows us to structure situations to set them up for success. Using the 5 Steps makes instructions non-optional and has built in “help” if the child is not able to accomplish something themselves. Ultimately, rather than an adversarial relationship, GBD equips parents to be the coaches on the family team. There may be a time during a sporting event where someone is pulled off the field to take a Positive Time Out, or have a break, regain their cool and get ready to go back on the field. Something is very broken on the team when someone is thrown from the game in a negative time out.

When you view your family as a team it’s much easier to see that when one person fails, we all fail, but when one person succeeds, we all succeed. Success for all is the goal.

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Applying The Five Steps http://aolff.org/applying-the-five-steps.html http://aolff.org/applying-the-five-steps.html#respond Fri, 08 Jul 2011 03:35:37 +0000 http://aolff.org/?p=376

Remember The 5 Steps are a Tool, not a Rule.

I’m often asked about using The 5 Steps with children. I wanted to take a moment to explain some of the issues that come up in applying them, as well as how I use them with different children at different ages and stages.  Remember The 5 Steps are a Tool, not a Rule.  They are not designed to be a formula for behavior modification, but rather they are a tool for guiding children through situations so that they can take ownership of their own behavior and choices as they mature.

I am often asked about situations that require immediate attention.  For instance, I do not use all 5 steps with a toddler who has run into the street, especially if a car is coming.  I would move quickly to the toddler and use the wording of Step 1, “You need to stay out of the road. It’s dangerous to be in the road if a car comes,” WHILE DOING Step 4, helping, as I pick up the toddler and move him or take his hand and walk him to the side of the road.

Because I am consistent, the child learns more quickly…

This is also the combination of steps that I use when I am working to establish myself with a child.  That might mean I’m dealing with my baby and creating the foundation of our relationship.  A baby who gets her hand wrapped in my hair is going to hear, “You need to not pull Mommy’s hair. Gentle my hair,” WHILE I’m unwrapping my hair from her hand (Tip: if you gently press a baby’s hand in the palm she will release her grip and you can remove hair or other things from her hand).  It might also be what I do when I’m dealing with a 3yo who is persistent at something.  Every single time he jumps on the couch he will find me flying them to the floor (helping — Step 4) AS I’m telling him, “You need to keep your feet off the couch. Feet on the floor.”  Because I am consistent, the child learns more quickly that he will not be allowed to jump on the couch and stops trying, moving on to whatever his next persistent effort will be.

Sometimes the issue is more the personality of the child. Sometimes the issue is more what I’m addressing.  Sometimes the issue is maturity or readiness.  I fully believe that when children are able to understand and comply with the instruction and have the impulse control to do so, they will move to do it themselves with the wording of Step 1.  I expect them to show me when that readiness occurs.  It might be instant moving without a need to escalate the steps, or it might be a foot stomping “ME DO!” from a toddler.  Either way, I let them do it themselves and rejoice in the fact that they are maturing and I don’t have to help with everything anymore.  If they move into a new stage of pushing limits or events change in their life and they are pushing limits because they feel unsafe, I have no problem shortening the gap and moving back to a truncated version.

I must also admit that even I sometimes need help with some things.

The goal is to have teenagers who respond without help to Step 1, even though sometimes Step 2 is necessary.  I must also admit that even I sometimes need help with some things.  My husband laughs when I’m eating one of my favorite treats and don’t want to stop and eventually look at him and say, “Please help me stop — I need help.”  We laugh as he takes the plate away.  Sometimes it’s just too hard to find that self-control.

It also has to be okay to fail.  When people don’t believe it is safe for them to fail, they don’t ask for help in advance of failure and they work double time to hide their failure. This results in scandals.  I don’t want to raise adults who end up in scandals. I want to raise adults who know their personal limitations, and areas of greatest temptation; I want to raise adults who can and do ask for help when it’s needed; I want to raise adults who know it’s safe to fail, but also know how to succeed.

The language of The 5 Steps is respectful and assigns responsibility where it belongs.  It is kind and firm.  There are situations that require us to be firm and kind.  The 5 Steps are adaptable. Remember: they are a Tool, not a Rule!

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Foreword by Dr. William Sears http://aolff.org/foreword-by-dr-william-sears.html http://aolff.org/foreword-by-dr-william-sears.html#respond Sun, 30 Jan 2011 21:26:18 +0000 http://aolff.org/?p=251

Foreword to Biblical Parenting:

Christian parents have been accustomed to thinking about discipline as punishment – something you do to a child rather than something you do with a child. However, discipline is more about developing the right relationship with your child rather than the right techniques. Throughout this book you will learn how the “rod verses” are grossly misinterpreted, and that you don’t have to spank your child to be a godly parent. Besides there being no biblical basis for spanking, in my thirty years in pediatric practice I have rarely seen spanking work. Instead, it creates a distance between parent and child, plants a seed of anger (and sometimes violence) in the child, and often tends to worsen a child’s behavior. It is also interesting that the “rod verses” are only mentioned in the Old Testament. In the New Testament, Christ taught a gentler approach, as stated by Paul in 1 Corinthians 4:21:  “Shall I come to you with the rod, or in love and with a gentle spirit?”

Throughout this book you will learn that discipline is creating an attitude within the child and an atmosphere in the home that makes spanking unnecessary. Scripture is clear that parents are to be authority figures for their children. Yet, authority begins with developing a mutual trust between parent and child:  “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart.”  (Proverbs 22:6)  This implies that parents know the individual bent of their child. To teach your child to trust you, and to become an expert in your child, begins with practicing a style of parenting we call attachment parenting.  Throughout this book you will learn how this style of parenting helps you get behind the eyes of your child and direct behavior from within rather than applying force on the outside.  Attachment parenting will help you teach your child how to develop inner controls.  You will also learn that attachment parenting does not mean permissive parenting. On the contrary, one of the “B’s” (in addition to the other B’s of birth bonding, breastfeeding, babywearing, belief in baby’s cries, and bedding close to baby) is balance – knowing when to say “yes” and when to say “no.”  Attachment parenting implies a balance between meeting the child’s needs and also saving enough energy to meet the needs of your marriage.  Finally, it is my hope that in reading this book parents will discover the true joy of living with a well-disciplined child.

–Dr. William Sears, author of The Complete Book of Christian Parenting and Childcare

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Words as Magic http://aolff.org/words-as-magic-2.html http://aolff.org/words-as-magic-2.html#comments Wed, 05 Jan 2011 02:06:56 +0000 http://aolff.org/?p=245

One of the questions I am asked most often about parenting young children is what to do when they lie. I believe this demands some attention and it covers quite a few areas of parenting so let’s tackle it here.

Imagine your 2 year old walks into the room and has evidence of having eaten a cookie all over her face. You ask her if she ate a cookie and she says no. 

Do you really have a huge problem on your hands and are you the parent of a liar?  I do not believe so at all.

So if your 2 year old isn’t lying about the cookie what are they doing?

They are entering the words as magic stage and the more you learn about it the better you will be able to teach and enjoy your child while they are in this stage.

Two year olds are becoming able to do things on their own and they are proud to do them. They are also eager to please their parents and very concerned when they fail to please them. When a toddler perceives that they have displeased you they will seek to make things right and they truly believe that their words have power. Words are magic to them. When they ask for things, they get them. When you tell a story they experience it. And when your 2 year old says they didn’t eat the cookie they believe they have undone the act. With their words they have fixed the problem and Mommy can now be pleased.  And if a child really believes their words are making things so then they are not lying. They aren’t trying to deceive you into thinking they didn’t do something if they really believe that their words made it so it never happened.

If the child is firmly in this stage how can a parent teach honesty?

Thankfully the words as magic stage is ripe with opportunities to teach all sorts of moral and godly character lessons . . . including honesty. I’ve offered a few here and indicated what age example I’m using it with, but they are interchangeable and work for all ages and stages.  They might need some finessing for a particular age or a particular child but that is part of knowing your own child.

Natural Consequences (2 year old example):

If the 2yo who ate the cookie after being told not to was my child I would do a few specific things.

First, I’ve learned not to ask questions of my children when I already know the answer. So instead of asking if he ate the cookie I would say, “You ate the cookie. Mommy said not to eat the cookie and you did anyway.”

If they argued with me or tried to deny it I would state very honestly that I did not ask and I see that they ate the cookie. And I would then focus us on how the child could make amends. Perhaps the cookies were for after dinner and I would tell him that because he ate his cookie now he chose to eat his dessert early. Now there was not a cookie for him after dinner. When he was upset after dinner I would reflect and validate his feelings and without throwing in guilt. I would talk about how next time they could wait and eat the cookie when everyone else was eating theirs. I might talk about how wonderful it is to do things at the proper time or, if my child was really upset, I might stop talking and let the lesson teach itself.

Social Stories (4 year old example):

One of my favorite approaches to character training is to create fairy tales or fantasy stories that contain characters very similar to my own children, who have quite conveniently done something very similar to what they have done. As we develop the story we address the issue and teach the proper response and the dangers of an improper one.

For example, let’s imagine that a 4 year old has gotten frustrated and hit his 2 year old sister.  He denies having done so either because the parent asked if he did or because his sister is obviously hurt and crying and he’s trying to undo it.  Generally I do not specifically address the issue of honesty in the social story, though you could.  I prefer to address what actually happened and give the child real ways to change the situation without trying to rely on words as magic to change things.

 I might take them into the Comfort Corner and sit for a few minutes while reflecting their feelings (most likely the 2yo sister got into the 4yo’s things and possibly messed up the tower they were building with their legos). That is frustrating and that is upsetting and being sad and even angry is a normal feeling under the circumstances. To acknowledge and validate this is not the same as saying the way the child acted in their anger and frustration is acceptable. So once the child is calm I might say I’m going to tell them a story . . .

Once upon a time there was a little boy who was four years old. He was a builder of tall towers and he was very proud of the towers that he would build. He knew that his towers provided homes for little people and sometimes soldiers had to use his towers to fight for the good guys to win. They all appreciated that the little boy took time to build his towers and the world was right and good. One day the little boy had a sister and when his sister was 2 she started being the destroyer of towers. She didn’t realize the destruction she was doing but she loved to see the towers fall over. Every time a tower fell she squealed with delight. But every time a tower fell over some little people lost their home or some soldiers wouldn’t be able to win their fight for good. This really upset the little boy. He had worked so hard to build these towers and when his sister knocked them over he felt very big feelings. He was frustrated, he was angry, he was sad, and he was mad. Sometimes he would try to hold those feelings inside but they were so big that his body couldn’t hold them in. When that happened they would erupt out of him like a big volcano and they would fly all around the room. Usually they would knock over his little sister. Sometimes when that happened the little boy felt bad; sometimes he was glad it happened.

Usually by this point in the story my four year old would be verbalizing his affirmation and telling me what was right or altering the story. For example, he might correct the feelings that the little boy had, or he might insist he always felt bad when the sister was knocked over or that he was always glad. I adjust and alter the story as this information is shared so that the child more firmly relates to the little boy and what has happened. But because I have not identified him as the little boy it’s okay to listen—I sometimes refer to these sorts of teaching moments as going in the side door. And back to our story . . .

When the little boy would knock over his little sister with his big feelings his mommy would get very upset. She understood how hard he worked on his towers and she was sad that they were knocked over, but she wondered why the little boy didn’t use his words. He knew how to say things like, “Sister, stay away from my towers. Find something else to play with.” And he knew how to say, “MOMMY! Sister is getting into my stuff.” Even if he couldn’t think of his other words he knew the very powerful word, “HELP!” And mommy was always ready to help. When he didn’t use his words and his sister got hurt then his mommy would feel frustrated. Sometimes she might say words that she would feel bad about and then she would really understand how her little boy felt. Even big people sometimes don’t respond correctly. But how could this little boy have reacted when his towers were knocked over?

And at that moment I invite the child into the process as we move into problem solving solutions for next time. This serves two purposes. First, it helps me to understand how much they have matured in this process and how good they are getting at finding new solutions and second, it helps me to find out what solutions they already know and where to focus my energies in helping them put into practice what they have already learned. After this part of the story we go on . . .

Now that the little boy knew what to do next time the mommy reminded him of what he needed to do this time. Because he had done something that hurt his sister he needed to make things right with her. It’s not okay to hurt someone and not make amends. So the little boy went to his sister and said, “I’m sorry I hurt you.” And offered a hug to make things right. After they hugged and she forgave him they knew everything would be okay.

Coming back out of the story I would ask my child, “Are you ready to do what you need to do?” And prompt them as necessary to make amends with their sister. Effective discipline has taken place and now the child knows what to do next time. Even though they may forget, and may need more stories, this is the process of discipline. Teaching, teaching, teaching.

This same approach can be used with any situation where a child speaks untruth. The story may be about a little girl who ate a cookie after her mommy told her not to and when the mommy saw her and got upset the little girl felt bad about it and wanted to undo it. She tried to use her words to put the cookie back in the cookie jar. The mommy understood that the little girl felt bad but she also knew that the cookie was still in her daughter’s tummy. The little girl knew too. The story could introduce ways to make amends for not doing what mommy said and a plan could be made for the little girl in the story to be more successful at following rules next time.  And if untruth is a large problem and coming out in all sorts of areas the reliable “Boy Who Cried Wolf” can be used as a teaching moment or adapted into a social story involving a child just like yours.

 ( Social Stories are an invaluable resource for helping autistic children learn how to behave when in new social situations and I have merely adapted them. You can find books containing all sorts of social stories if you are struggling with creating your own.)

Teaching about language (especially between ages 6-8):

It is important when dealing with the issue of honesty to delve into the world of nuances in the use of language that as adults we too often take for granted. There is not just truth and lie. There are jokes, pranks, and tricks; there is sarcasm, irony, and exaggeration. As children mature they will need to learn to navigate all of these subtleties. Truth and untruth is merely the beginning.

Eventually my children start to learn about jokes and we play around at that for awhile. Inevitably this is followed by learning about tricks. I’m very clear with my children that jokes and tricks are only successful if everyone is having fun and laughing. It’s not a joke if it’s at someone else’s expense—that’s just mean. It’s not a trick if someone gets hurt on their body or in their feelings. And we work out the kinks in those areas of language. During this stage they always try out the untruth that, when caught, they assure me was, “Only joking.” Rather than getting angry I teach—and this is where we move into the difference between the truth and a lie! Because they are intentionally telling an untruth and covering up with the excuse of joking it’s time to really make sure they know what a lie is.  A lie is when you tell someone something that isn’t true and you do it to intentionally deceive them and protect yourself. This maturity with language becoming a focus, starting around age 5 or 6, is when I know my child is moving out of the words as magic stage.

With more obvious understanding of language comes greater accountability for how language is used.  It’s important to remember that we’re still learning and approach it as a coach or guide rather than with frustration at a lesson not yet fully learned.  When my child knows what a lie is from being in this stage I will ask them, “Is that a lie? Are you trying to deceive me (or whoever)?” and give them the same chance to own it and make amends they’ve had at every other stage up until now.  It’s important to learn that, even if they do lie, they still can and need to make things right and work things out.  If lying carries extra weight or consequence then they will not be motivated to move fully out of the words as magic stage—they need to understand that they can own their words, even when they make the wrong choices with them. They need to know that taking responsibility is how you fix things—even lies.

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How to address the issue of sin with children http://aolff.org/how-to-address-the-issue-of-sin-with-children.html http://aolff.org/how-to-address-the-issue-of-sin-with-children.html#respond Thu, 30 Dec 2010 13:35:05 +0000 http://aolff.org/?p=237

First of all, I think there are two issues that are important to distinguish between when it comes to sin:

1. The impact of sin in the world and in our lives.  Jesus took care of this 100% and I always point my children towards Jesus as the only answer to their problem of sin (even though I don’t explain all of that to them too young)

2. The impact of actual sin actions which are damaging to ourselves and others and things that I *can* teach my children how to avoid. I keep my focus on what God gave me to do–introduce them to Him and teach them how to live.

I focus them always on what TO do. I do not talk about their actions as being sin. That leads to shame and is a heavy burden to put on a young child. I talk about what sin is–I start from the beginning with

 God tells us to live this way . . . . God says He wants us to . . . God designed our bodies to . . . .

At preschool ages, they ask spontaneously about what happens if they don’t live that way. My initial answer is that God says His children WILL live that way and those who don’t live that way aren’t his children. Everything is relationship focused and we talk about being children of God. Keep in mind, this is going on while teaching both factual sides of things AND making sure that they are, as much as possible, only able to do what is right.

They never have the choice to not do what I say and get punished–they are always going to do what I say and life may come to a screeching halt or go on parallel to them until that happens depending on the child and the issue, but they will do what was stated would be done. There isn’t another option.

I work to avoid the word “sin” in relation to what they are doing and instead focus on “what God wants us to do” and “God says we’re not to do that”, because “sin” is a more mature concept and a word that doesn’t have inherent meaning.  In this way, I’m giving them the understanding before I give them a name for it.

I’ve heard many people say they understood that sin is disobeying by the time they were 4, but this isn’t what sin means. This further emphasizes to me the importance of not introducing the word too early or without securely rooting it in a proper definition.

The age of eight is when pre-logic kicks in and it’s the first time that they start to really understand cause and effect in advance. With each child there has been something that was chosen intentionally.

This is obvious because their reaction to being caught reveals extreme guilt and embarrassment that, if I responded wrongly, would become shame and haunt them for the rest of their lives.

Instead of that response, I address it this way.

  • After praying, each time I have taken them aside and reminded them that we’ve talked about different things not being what God wants us to do, that they aren’t for His children to do.

  • I explain that what God says He wants in the lives of His children is like a target in front of us.  God asks parents to fly their children straight to the target and the target is Jesus.

  • “Sin” is a word that means “missing the mark”. So Jesus is the target and when you sin you aren’t flying straight.

  • I then explain to them that what they are feeling right now is guilt and embarrassment–and that feels bad, but it’s a good thing. It is what God gave them to help them know if they aren’t flying straight–if they are sinning. The only way to feel better is to acknowledge that what you’ve done goes against what God says to do, apologize to God and thank Him that He has already forgiven you and loves you, and then make amends to whoever you have wronged AND not do it anymore.

  • I explain that sin makes your heart feel dark and dirty and like you’ve covered Jesus’ light–but repentance (or turning around and flying straight to the target again) cleans up your heart and lets the light of Jesus shine bright again.

  • I then encourage them to pray and apologize to God, and thank Him for having already done so (because I believe that was 100% accomplished at the cross) and then we talk about everyone they wronged with their actions–me and/or daddy, whoever else was involved, etc.

  • Then we practice the script for how to go and apologize (a skill we’ve been working on since infancy but we practice how to apologize for this specific thing) and then I go with them while they make their own amends.  For the first time, I’m not going to help them do it if they get embarrassed or stuck. They take full responsibility for what they did.

This has been a HUGE turning point in each of my older children’s lives and understanding. It’s impacted them in such a deep and meaningful and non-shame based way. I believe they develop a healthy understanding of how sin works, what happens when we give in to our lusts of the flesh, the importance of flying straight and doing what God says His children will do–and because it’s for our own good, not some legalistic idea of being worthy or earning God.

My oldest is now 13 and my second oldest is right behind him at 11 and they are reflecting a very mature understanding of the importance of flying straight, making choices that are Godly, and living lives today that will take them on the path to where they want to be tomorrow.

I am confident that approaching the problem of sin this way has set them up for success and served to fly them straight—and created an opportunity to dialogue with them should they begin to veer off the path.

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So it’s the holidays http://aolff.org/so-its-the-holidays.html http://aolff.org/so-its-the-holidays.html#respond Fri, 18 Dec 2009 17:36:32 +0000 http://aolff.org/?p=203

and I’ve been doing so much with the children. I want to post pictures but it’s going to have to wait until my long ‘to do’ list is at least partially tackled. We’ve got one night left of Hanukkah, my family’s Christmas Eve celebration next week, my daughter’s dance rehearsals for the kick off to the Fiesta Bowl Parade, our last two weeks at Beth Simchat, services for Shema (www.hearunderstandobey.com) and I am so exited because I got her the perfect plantwear accessories for her dance, doctor appointments for myself, Bill, two of our children, and mischief from elves every night 🙂 I do have pictures, though, and I want to recommend you guys to click here where you will find the best Doctor options. I also want to get something to my sister that I recently found here, she’s always dreamed about it. And I’m hoping to get them up very soon 🙂

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Words as Magic http://aolff.org/words-as-magic.html http://aolff.org/words-as-magic.html#comments Tue, 05 Aug 2008 23:52:57 +0000 http://aolff.com/?p=166

One of the questions I am asked most often about parenting young children is what to do when they lie.
Occasionally the question comes from a parent of a 9 or 10 year old but most often the children are 6 or younger. I realize that lying is a very real thing and it’s a sin. I have to be careful when discussing this issue because every so often someone will hear what I say on this and think that I’m minimizing what God makes very clear in Scripture. That couldn’t be further from the truth.

Godly parents are concerned about the presence of anything appearing to be sin in the life of their child. Whether we blame a flaw in our child or a lacking in our parenting once we identify this sin we set about to figure out where the root is and pull it out.

What many don’t realize is that a two year old saying they didn’t eat the cookie when you find them with chocolate in the corner of their mouth is not a child lying.

If you believe that it is then you may spend several years fearing that your child has lying lips that are hated by God and that you are failing in your job as a parent. While living with that fear you will miss out on a lot of fun you could have with your child.

So if your 2 year old isn’t lying about the cookie what are they doing? They are entering the words as magic stage and the more you learn about it the better you will be able to teach and enjoy your child while they are in this stage. Two year olds are becoming able to do things on their own and they are proud to do them. They are also eager to please their parents and very concerned when they fail to please them. When a toddler perceives that they have displeased you they will seek to make things right and they truly believe that their words have power. Words are magic to them. When they ask for things, they get them. When you tell a story they experience it. And when your 2 year old says they didn’t eat the cookie they believe they have undone the act. With their words they have fixed the problem and mommy can now be pleased.

There is a reason that fairy tales are so popular with very young children. Disney realizes this and has capitalized on it. Fairy tales create a story of fantasy with archetypal characters representing things like good and evil, good character and bad. In the context of these fantasy stories can be introduced lessons about morality, relationship, right and wrong, natural consequences . . . the sky is the limit. To young children these stories are real, not fantasy. As they replay the stories they become the characters. And even outside of these fairy tale stories to watch a young child play is to watch them create a reality for themselves and anyone caught up in it. Some parents don’t allow their children exposure to Disney films; some don’t allow fairy tales; some try to forbid all fantasy play. No matter what you restrict you can’t skip this stage and you can’t require a child not believe their words are magic. And if a child really believes their words are making things so then they are not lying. They aren’t trying to deceive you into thinking they didn’t do something if they really believe that their words made it so it never happened.

If the child is firmly in this stage how can a parent teach honesty? Thankfully the words as magic stage is ripe with opportunities to teach all sorts of moral and godly character lessons . . . including honesty. One of my favorite approaches to character training is to create fairy tales or fantasy stories that contain characters very similar to my own children, who have quite conveniently done something very similar to what they have done. As we develop the story we address the issue and teach the proper response and the dangers of an improper one. For example, let’s imagine that a 4 year old has gotten frustrated and hit his 2 year old sister. I might take them into the Comfort Corner and sit for a few minutes while reflecting their feelings (most likely the 2yo sister got into the 4yo’s things and possibly messed up the tower they were building with their legos). That is frustrating and that is upsetting and being sad and even angry is a normal feeling under the circumstances. To acknowledge and validate this is not the same as saying the way the child acted in their anger and frustration is acceptable. So once the child is calm I might say I’m going to tell them a story . . .

Once upon a time there was a little boy who was four years old. He was a builder of tall towers and he was very proud of the towers that he would build. He knew that his towers provided homes for little people and sometimes soldiers had to use his towers to fight for the good guys to win. They all appreciated that the little boy took time to build his towers and the world was right and good. One day the little boy had a sister and when his sister was 2 she started being the destroyer of towers. She didn’t realize the destruction she was doing but she loved to see the towers fall over. Every time a tower fell she squealed with delight. But every time a tower fell over some little people lost their home or some soldiers wouldn’t be able to win their fight for good. This really upset the little boy. He had worked so hard to build these towers and when his sister knocked them over he felt very big feelings. He was frustrated, he was angry, he was sad, and he was mad. Sometimes he would try to hold those feelings inside but they were so big that his body couldn’t hold them in. When that happened they would erupt out of him like a big volcano and they would fly all around the room. Usually they would knock over his little sister. Sometimes when that happened the little boy felt bad; sometimes he was glad it happened.

Usually by this point in the story my four year old would be verbalizing his affirmation and telling me what was right or altering the story. For example, he might correct the feelings that the little boy had, or he might insist he always felt bad when the sister was knocked over or that he was always glad. I adjust and alter the story as this information is shared so that the child more firmly relates to the little boy and what has happened. But because I have not identified him as the little boy it’s okay to listen—I sometimes refer to these sort of teaching moments as going in the side door. And back to our story . . .

When the little boy would knock over his little sister with his big feelings his mommy would get very upset. She understood how hard he worked on his towers and she was sad that they were knocked over, but she wondered why the little boy didn’t use his words. He knew how to say things like, “Sister, stay away from my towers. Find something else to play with.” And he knew how to say, “MOMMY! Sister is getting into my stuff.” Even if he couldn’t think of his other words he knew the very powerful word, “HELP!” And mommy was already ready to come help. When he didn’t use his words and his sister got hurt then his mommy would feel frustrated. Sometimes she might say words that she would feel bad about and then she would really understand how her little boy felt. Even big people sometimes don’t respond correctly. But how could this little boy have reacted when his towers were knocked over?

And at that moment I invite the child into the process as we move into problem solving solutions for next time. This serves two purposes. First, it helps me to understand how much they have matured in this process and how well they are ready to do with finding new solutions and second, it helps me to find out what solutions they already know and where to focus my energies in helping them put into practice what they have already learned. After this part of the story we go on . . .

Now that the little boy knew what to do next time the mommy reminded him of what he needed to do this time. Because he had done something that hurt his sister he needed to make things right with her. It’s not okay to hurt someone and not make amends. So the little boy went to his sister and said, “I’m sorry I hurt you.” And offered a hug to make things right. After they hugged and she forgave him they knew everything would be okay.

Coming back out of the story I would ask my child, “Are you ready to do what you need to do?” And prompt them as necessary to make amends with their sister. Effective discipline has taken place and now the child knows what to do next time. Even though they may forget, and may need more stories, this is the process of discipline. Teaching, teaching, teaching.

This same approach can be used with a situation where a child speaks untruth. The story may be about a little girl who ate a cookie after her mommy told her not to and when the mommy saw her and got upset the little girl felt bad about it and wanted to undo it. She tried to use her words to put the cookie back in the cookie jar. The mommy understood that the little girl felt bad but she also knew that the cookie was still in her daughter’s tummy. The little girl knew too. The story could introduce ways to make amends for not doing what mommy said and a plan could be made for the little girl in the story to be more successful at following rules next time.

In addition to these wonderful stories (these stories can also be called Social Stories and are an invaluable resource for helping autistic children learn how to behave when in new social situations) it is important when dealing with the issue of honesty to delve into the world of nuances in the use of language that as adults we too often take for granted. There is not just truth and lie. There are jokes, pranks, and tricks; there is sarcasm, irony, and exaggeration. As children mature they will need to learn to navigate all of these subtleties. But we started with truth and untruth.

I’ve been asked why I use the word “untruth” instead of “lie”. Lie is such a heavy word. It implies the intent to deceive and it’s assigning a very negative intent to a young child. My children learn about lies, but long after they begin to separate truth from untruth. I teach my very young children, “God’s Word is always truth, mommy always tells you the truth, and truth means it really is that way.” To contrast that I teach them, “Untruth means you say something and it’s not really that way for real.” One question that arises is how does fantasy play fit into this. I take a unique approach to this because I believe that fantasy play is fun and valuable for children but I also don’t want to ever have my children think that I lied to them about anything—not even Santa Claus or the Tooth Fairy. We treat these fantasy characters the same way we do Buzz and Woody and Nintendo’s Mario who I assure you my young children believe are real not through anything that I do or say about them. As my children begin to understand truth and untruth they start to ask questions that show they are wrapping their minds around these ideas. Eventually the question comes, “Is ____ real?” Fill in the blank—it could be Santa, Buzz, or Mario. My answer begins with this very important question, “Do you want the truth? Or the truth the way you wish it was?” My answer honors their parameters. I will never forget when my oldest asked me about Spiderman. “Spiderman is real, isn’t he, Mom?” “Do you want the truth, or the truth the way you wish it was?” “The truth!” “Actually, no. He’s a . . .” “NOOOOO I want the truth the way I wish it was!” “Then, yes, sweetie! Spiderman is real and he’s a superhero!” “I knew it! He’s awesome.” And I got to hear all about how awesome he was.

If the 2yo who ate the cookie after being told not to was my child I would do a few specific things. First, I’ve learned not to ask questions of my children when I already know the answer. So instead of asking if he ate the cookie I would say, “You ate the cookie. Mommy said not to eat the cookie and you did anyway.” If they argued with me or tried to deny it I would state very honestly that I did not ask and I see that they ate the cookie. And I would then focus us on how the child could make amends. Perhaps the cookies were for after dinner and I would tell him that because he ate his cookie now he chose to eat his dessert early. Now there was not a cookie for him after dinner. When he was upset after dinner I would reflect and validate his feelings and without throwing in guilt I would talk about how next time they could wait and eat the cookie when everyone else was eating theirs. I might talk about how wonderful it is to do things at the proper time or, if my child was really upset, I might stop talking and let the lesson teach itself.

If I did ask a child if they did something because I didn’t know for sure, even if I had a strong belief about the situation, I might seek to make sure of their answer by asking them, “Is that the truth about how it happened? Or the truth the way you wish it was?” Even young children can understand the difference and will often confess that what they are saying is the truth the way they wish it was. We then move together to talking about what really happened and I encourage them to be honest with me. One thing that helps to encourage this is when I can keep my cool and exercise self control in the face of frustration. Losing my temper over something will teach my children that I’m not really a safe person to be honest with. In those moments I think of Jack Nicholson’s character yelling at Tom Cruise in “A Few Good Men”, “You can’t handle the truth!” The more my children understand that I can handle the truth—any truth—the safer they feel being honest and the less likely they are to lie to save my feelings or protect me from what really happened.

Sometimes it’s not desirable that a child be too honest—at least not out loud. “That person smells.” “He is old.” “This food is yucky.” At those moments we may wish that our children would speak the truth the way we wish it was. This can be a confusing stage for children because parents want them to be truthful but these things are truth to them—even if they are arbitrary truth. The key to handling these situations is to really introduce people’s feelings and the idea of opinions. Your opinion is your truth; my opinion is my truth. What helps me during this stage is that most people understand that little children are observing and learning to understand their world and not always shy about blurting out what they observe. My oldest would sit in restaurants and if someone had a hamburger or steak delivered to their table he would yell out, “That person is eating a dead animal!” I would immediately shh him and tell him that, “Yes. That is what he is eating. It’s called a hamburger and people don’t usually like to be reminded that they are eating a dead animal when they are eating their food. You can see that he is eating meat but you do not need to tell him or anyone else. If you need to tell me you can get my attention and whisper it in my ear.” If my children during this stage would say, “Mommy, I want to tell you something!” I would try to remember to ask, “Is it something you can say out loud or should you whisper it in mommy’s ear?” If they weren’t sure we took the safe route and went for the whisper.

Eventually my children start to learn about jokes and we play around at that for awhile. Inevitably this is followed by learning about tricks. I’m very clear with my children that jokes and tricks are only successful if everyone is having fun and laughing. It’s not a joke if it’s at someone else’s expense—that’s just mean. It’s not a trick if someone gets hurt on their body or in their feelings. And we work out the kinks in those areas of language. During this stage they always try out the untruth that, when caught, they assure me was, “Only joking.” Rather than getting angry I teach—and this is where we move into the difference between the truth and a lie! Because they are intentionally telling an untruth and covering up with the excuse of joking it’s time to really make sure they know what a lie is. A lie is when you tell someone something that isn’t true and you do it to intentionally deceive them and protect yourself. With my children this has happened around the ages of 5 to 6. And this is when I know my child is moving out of the words as magic stage.

As children move out of the words of magic stage they begin to realize that the power words have is not about creating a fantasy land or making the unreal real, but the magic words really have is to communicate our thoughts to one another, to convey who we are and what we believe to the world, and to motivate change. It’s so important that the thoughts we convey, growing out of what we believe, and the change we seek to motivate in the world be rooted in truth. Ideally it will be rooted in God’s Truth. This is evidence of a godly character growing in my children and I have not been disappointed with any of my children who are out of this “words as magic” stage. Because they do not get in trouble there is no reason to fear the truth and because I am working with them to successfully navigate these years and their pitfalls they know I’m on their team and when they aren’t sure of the truth or how to express it they come to me and ask.

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An answer to Proverbs 23 and 'beatest'… http://aolff.org/an-answer-to-proverbs-23-and-beatest.html http://aolff.org/an-answer-to-proverbs-23-and-beatest.html#comments Fri, 28 Dec 2007 13:02:59 +0000 http://aolff.com/?p=96

Q: I totally understand the idea of the rod on verses like “he who spares the rod, hates his son” but what about Proverbs 23:13-14 where it actually says “for if thou beat him with the rod…” ?

A: I’ve addressed this verse in the context of other articles but as it is one I’m asked most often, I thought I’d answer it separately. I’ve also learned a lot more about the Hebraic mind and life since I wrote the earlier articles so I’m sure there will be ideas that didn’t find their way into previous articles. I actually get excited when I study these things because the way most people are told to think about them goes so against the character of God as revealed in Scripture that the God people are being taught is not even the God of Scripture. As people come to understand Grace they find that their entire understanding of salvation and justification, sanctification and holiness deepens because they finally love God—they don’t just do what he says out of fear. If Scripture says we love him because he first loved us, this is a dramatic and important paradigm shift.

1 John 4:10; 19
Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son [to be] the propitiation for our sins.
We love him, because he first loved us.

Let’s start with a quick recap of what the shebet is. A lot of people mistakenly dismiss me because they believe I consider the shebet a purely symbolic reference in Scripture. This would be naieve of me, if I did believe it, and reflect a lack of study on my part. The fact is, the shebet is a very real stick. It’s more like the trunk of a young tree and it was most often the shepherd’s staff, the staff held by the head of a family (this is most easily pictured by many as the stick Moses held up at the parting of the Red Sea), or as the king’s sceptre (which let’s remember, with regards to Queen Esther’s story, when it was extended to her it brought life, but had it been withheld/spared/set aside it would have brought death). At the same time, there are parts of Scripture that use “shebet” symbolically, as when the “rod of Jesse” that springs up speaks in prophecy of the coming Messiah. This does not mean that it would be appropriate exegesis to assume everywhere that we find “shebet” we can insert “Messiah”, but the Hebraic minds understanding of the shebet and its purpose reveals why it can be used to speak of Messiah. If it were an instrument intended for striking and destruction then we would need to see Messiah as coming to destroy, not redeem. In other words, while “Messiah” is not the idea we can infuse into every use of “rod”, we need to understand “rod” with the awareness that it is used to speak of “Messiah”.

The meaning of words in Hebrew is not only defined by the dictionary definition. There is an idea infused into the meaning of every word that expresses the understanding of the mind that heard the word. Hebrew is a very Eastern thinking language and cannot be understood with a Greek/Western thinking mind. To illustrate this, there are 4 words in Hebrew that translate into Rod in English, but only one word in Greek. To the Greek mind a “rod” was a stick with a powerful and destructive purpose. The gods on Mount Olympus who weilded their staff did so with ill intent and out of their anger. Just read Greek Mythology and you see the Greek understanding of God. It is appropriate for Paul to correct the Greek thinking mind’s expectation of an Apostle with the question in 1 Corinthians 4:21, “What will ye? shall I come unto you with a rod, or in love, and [in] the spirit of meekness?” The context for this question reveals that Paul’s teaching is being dismissed for the teaching of those who come with harsh demands on the Corinthians. The Corinthians understand harshness, they understand demands. It makes greater sense to them than Paul’s message of love and he must remind them that God’s message is one of love which is why his approach is the one they should heed.

The shebet, to the Hebrew mind, would not contain this Olympic/Zeus connotation. It was foreign to them. Rather, “they rod and they staff, they comfort me.” Psalm 23:4 The good shepherd would guide the sheep and use his rod to protect them by beating off the wolves and enemies that would come to steal them. The idea that a shepherd would use a rod to break his sheep’s legs is actually myth. If a shepherd did that they would certainly not be a good shepherd as a lamb with a broken leg is as useless as a horse with the same. As for what a good shepherd would do with a lamb that wandered off, let us look to Jesus’ parable which reveals he would leave the 99 to go in search of the 1.

So what was the shebet? It was the staff held by a man that symbolized his authority.

There was often symbolism in the designs at the top of the shebet and they represented different levels of authority within a tribe or family. When a stranger would ride into camp they would look for the shebet of the highest authority and that is the individual who could grant them refuge for the night. He held the authority to speak for everyone under his authority. He also had the authority to ensure the training of the children in his family. Therefore, when a Hebrew man read reference in Scripture to their shebet they would know the purpose of the shebet and assume into the reading that purpose. A Hebrew man would not read a verse that referenced his shebet and assume he was to strike someone with it unless it was speaking specifically to striking with it. For example, Exodus 21:12 “He that smiteth a man, so that he die , shall be surely put to death.” This verse is very important in understanding our Proverbs passage because it was well understood, from within Torah, that it was possible to strike a man and cause his death—with the shebet. Exodus 21:20 “And if a man smite his servant, or his maid, with a rod, and he die under his hand; he shall be surely punished.” And Torah goes on to give specific instructions for how often a slave may be struck with a shebet and specific details on where. The importance of this is that no such provisions are given for striking children. If Torah allows for something that requires a boundary, otherwise it can lead to abuse or death, the boundaries are very clearly stated. No such boundaries are provided for the idea of striking children. Torah was the guideline for life in the ancient Hebrew world. It is God’s instruction—the Way to live that Jesus came to fulfill (interpret correctly). Nothing else in the OT is to be understood as a command from God except what appears in Torah. The Proverbs are most assuredly wisdom sayings and there is wisdom in them, but a Hebrew person would never confuse the Proverbs with Torah as instruction commanded by the Lord. It’s also important to realize that the word “spanking” does not appear in Scripture and was not a concept in the Hebraic world. This is why we must encounter the concept of “beat” which we will next move to.

The Hebrew word for “beat” is “nakah” and it means:

  • 1) to strike, smite, hit, beat, slay, kill
  • a) (Niphal) to be stricken or smitten
  • b) (Pual) to be stricken or smitten
  • c) (Hiphil)
  • 1) to smite, strike, beat, scourge, clap, applaud, give a thrust
  • 2) to smite, kill, slay (man or beast)
  • 3) to smite, attack, attack and destroy, conquer, subjugate, ravage
  • 4) to smite, chastise, send judgment upon, punish, destroy
  • d) (Hophal) to be smitten
  • 1) to receive a blow
  • 2) to be wounded
  • 3) to be beaten
  • 4) to be (fatally) smitten, be killed, be slain
  • 5) to be attacked and captured
  • 6) to be smitten (with disease)
  • 7) to be blighted (of plants)

(from blb.org)

At first glance this appears to be a mighty violent word, but at second glance we find that it can be used in a violent/death-inducing way, but is not always used that way. We have meanings like “clap, applaud, give a thrust.” Out of curiosity I looked up “smite”, the word we see repeatedly in the above concordance definition, at dictionary.com and two of the meanings, amidst all of the aggressive ones, are: “to affect mentally or morally with a sudden pang: His conscience smote him.”; and “to impress favorably; charm; enamor: He was smitten by her charms.” The question then becomes, which meaning did our author of Proverbs intend?

I recently found a very interesting article that spoke of the ancient world parallel proverbs to the one we find in Scripture. They are most assuredly aggressive and violent, speaking of beating children. But they come from the Greek world where the rod was a violent implement and where it would be appropriate for the mind to go to a violent intent. I find it very interesting that Solomon used this modern day (in his world) proverb but speaks not of a stick (choter), but of a shebet. As we’ve already discussed, the meaning of the shebet would have been very rich to his audience (especially his specifically stated audience, the son of a king who held a sceptre).

So let’s look at the entire Proverb in question and see if we can determine the context and the Hebraic meaning of the passage that was intended for Solomon’s readers. From the heart of the text in Chapter 23 of Proverbs we pull:

  • Pro 23:12 Apply thine heart unto instruction, and thine ears to the words of knowledge.
  • Pro 23:13 Withhold not correction from the child: for [if] thou beatest him with the rod, he shall not die.
  • Pro 23:14 Thou shalt beat him with the rod, and shalt deliver his soul from hell.
  • Pro 23:15 My son, if thine heart be wise, my heart shall rejoice, even mine.
  • Pro 23:16 Yea, my reins shall rejoice, when thy lips speak right things.
  • Pro 23:17 Let not thine heart envy sinners: but [be thou] in the fear of the LORD all the day long.
  • Pro 23:18 For surely there is an end; and thine expectation shall not be cut off. Pro 23:19 Hear thou, my son, and be wise, and guide thine heart in the way.
  • Pro 23:20 Be not among winebibbers; among riotous eaters of flesh:
  • Pro 23:21 For the drunkard and the glutton shall come to poverty: and drowsiness shall clothe [a man] with rags.
  • Pro 23:22 Hearken unto thy father that begat thee, and despise not thy mother when she is old.
  • Pro 23:23 Buy the truth, and sell [it] not; [also] wisdom, and instruction, and understanding.
  • Pro 23:24 The father of the righteous shall greatly rejoice: and he that begetteth a wise [child] shall have joy of him.
  • Pro 23:25 Thy father and thy mother shall be glad, and she that bare thee shall rejoice.
  • Pro 23:26 My son, give me thine heart, and let thine eyes observe my ways.

The verses that come before and after can be included in this but are not necessary to see the intent of this section of Scripture. We begin with a call to apply the reader’s heart to instruction, his ears to knowledge. This is akin to stating “He who has ears, let him hear.” What is “instruction” and “wisdom”? To the Hebrew man this would be nothing but Torah. This is a call to the young man to live Torah in all his life—to understand it as wisdom and knowledge. To see it as the right path. This is an important context for what comes next.

“Withhold not correction from the child: for [if] thou beatest him with the rod, he shall not die. Thou shalt beat him with the rod, and shalt deliver his soul from hell.”

There are a few very relevant words here, the first being “correction”. The reference to “beatest with the rod” is the illustration of how to “withhold not correction”, so the meaning of correction to the Hebrew mind is vital in order to understand what it means to “beatest him with a rod.” “Correction”, in Hebrew, is the word “muwcar” and means

  • 1) discipline, chastening, correction
  • a) discipline, correction
  • b) chastening

(blb.org)

There is nothing physical inherent in this word. In fact, to the Hebrew mind it was so typically used of verbal correction that it carried the connotation of, “Come let us reason together.” Many of the parables of Jesus would rightly be called muwcar as they were offered to instruct and guide wrong thinking into right thinking. Punishment, to the Hebrew mind, was not the context of life as it was to the Greeks who were always afraid of angering the gods and goddesses. Rather, punishment was reserved for sin and those who aligned themselves with it. Curses were for the 3rd and 4th generation of those who hated God, but blessings were for 1000 generations of those who loved him and kept his commandments. The Hebrew man would be raising a son within Torah—raising them to know wisdom, knowledge and understanding. Having hearkened his ear to it in the first statement here, we go on to read that it’s important to correct thinking that is wrong. How important? So important that it is described with reference to the shebet. Since this represented a father’s authority over his son, we see that it was his God-ordained responsibility to correct wrong thinking. It was never to go unchecked.

Now, if we assume the reference is to the actual stick called a shebet we must discount the next passage as a lie—because Torah makes it clear that you can kill someone through beating with a shebet. And the penalty for it is death. Solomon would not be giving wise instruction, which we know the Proverbs to be, if he was informing parents they could discount the cautions in Torah given for slaves and believe that a beating to a son would never result in death. But if we understand the reference to the shebet as speaking to the father’s absolute authority to correct his children, we can see that if you continue to correct your child until you figuratively “beat it into him” you will be able to accomplish the guarantee of the next passage—saving his soul from an early grave. This type of a beating will bring a pang to his moral conscience and entice him to do what is right. He will be smited into right thinking. Unlike the Greek mind that believed if you learn something you will do it, the Hebrew mind believed when you understood something you would embrace it. Foolish choices in a child were understood to represent a lack of understanding, and constant correction would serve to bring them into right understanding, right thinking, and right action. This idea is upheld in the rest of the passage which speaks to the father living rightly and being the man he is enticing his child to become, admonitions to buy wisdom and not sell it, and the awareness that a rightly lived Torah-observant life would bring joy and pride to the parents being honored through their sons’ actions.

I believe it is clear, based on the understanding of the different ideas represented in the words of this passage, that “beat” is intended figuratively rather than literally. I know that this can cause a stumbling block for those who have been taught to only read Scripture literally but, in truth, there is much in Scripture that cannot be read, or is not intended to be, literal. Is the glutton in Proverbs being commanded to slit their throat? Is Jesus, referenced in prophecy as the “rod of Jesse” really a stick? Reading something literally is a good place to start, until it becomes clear that it cannot be read literally within the context of the passage. In Proverbs 23, in order to read “beatest” as a literal striking with a staff, the second half of the verse would need to be discounted as outright fallacy. Beating someone physically with a rod can lead to their death, and for this the penalty to the father would be to lose his life.

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I believe in Original Sin… http://aolff.org/i-believe-in-original-sin.html http://aolff.org/i-believe-in-original-sin.html#comments Fri, 28 Dec 2007 03:15:38 +0000 http://aolff.com/?p=99

I believe in original sin–through one man, Adam, sin entered the world. We are all born infected with this virus–think of a computer virus. It doesn’t make everything your computer does mess up, but if it’s in there, it’s infected. But I do not believe this means we are born sinners OR sinning–rather, with an inclination to sin. Without God we will sin.
Then it comes down to how you define sin–whether it’s a violation of a “known” law, or any deviation from the perfect will of God. But either way–it doesn’t require punishment. See, if you believe that it’s a violation of a known law of God then very young children, based simply on mental and cognitive development, can’t be guilty of sin. This is actually what I believe. But if you believe it’s any deviation from the perfect will of God then you believe that everyone sins all the time throughout their lives, so what makes sin from young children different or worthy of some extra punishment? Because Scripture is very clear that Jesus took all of our punishments on the Cross and we cannot think that we must add something more for our children–this idea actually makes it so that children’s sins become MORE than adults and that is not even rational. In other words, Jesus’ sacrifice was enough to atone for your sins, but not for your children’s–that takes something extra.

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Moving into talking about willful disobedience—I simply do not find this to be a legitimate argument when it comes to young children. If you study the development of the mind at all you know that children don’t develop logic until ten (pre-logic begins at age eight) and reason doesn’t even come until fourteen, so the idea that a toddler or very young child is willfully disobeying doesn’t fit–they lack the mental capacity to do that. It’s also important to note that in both Greek and Hebrew the concept of “obey” is based on the assumption that the one being obeyed has earned the trust of the one obeying–it’s a voluntary variation of normal response. In other words, disobedience is the normal human response when there is no trust. When there is trust, relationship, and discipleship– then there is obedience. You can demand compliance, but not obedience. Obedience must be earned. When a parent is demanding obedience from a young child and considering any lack of obedience to be willful they simply lack understanding of how God made children.

I do understand how frustrating it can be to have a toddler do something you’ve told them not to do. But this is the age for earning trust–for making your words have meaning. You can’t just tell them to do something and expect unquestioning compliance—this is the time to make it happen. Pick them up and move them; redirect; etc. Discipline
cannot take place outside of relationship and adversarial approaches DETACH. This is why spanking “the right way” is always followed by a ritual for reattachment. But that detachment is counter productive.

Teaching done within relationship, that doesn’t ever detach, is discipleship.

Disciples imitate the master, the master doesn’t demand imitation. You cannot demand respect; you command it by being worthy of respect.

This is why I talk about discipline requiring that we, the parents, change–that we be the people we want our children to become. They will imitate us–at least until they reach a stage where they decide whether that is a wise road to continue down. Teen rebellion usually comes from (among other things and combined with other things) seeing hypocrisy from parents–inconsistency between what they say and who they really are. There is a need to individuate (separate into their own person) but this doesn’t have to be the painful, challenging thing it has become in our culture.

Another important question that this whole issue is based upon is whether or not you believe God has relationship with children–a relationship I call pre-salvific. Weslayan doctrine would call it prevenient grace. Basically it comes down to God wooing and loving children and their ability to respond to that love. Too many people, in my experience, put extra requirements on salvation that cause parents to view their children as sinners rather than humans loved by God. If you believe your child to not be able to genuinely love God until a certain age, or until they have completed certain things, then it becomes vital to push them to those things. Instead, I just enjoy my children, watch them love God, model holy living for them, teach them Truth (rather than worrying about sin) . . . both the principle that you get more of what you focus on AND the example of how bank tellers are taught about counterfeit money (by studying real money) apply here. If you focus on sin, you get sin; if you are teaching your child all about sin, you get a sinner. But if you focus on holiness . . .

Ultimately, God has to be the one to “save” your child–and you can’t make it happen. But the verse that tells us to train up a child in the way he should go . . . the word translated “train” means to “steep”–to marinate. If a child is saturated in Godliness they will know only God. The alternative will not appeal to them, it will not tempt them, it will not apply to them. And the Proverb that reads “foolishness is bound in the heart of a child, but the rod of correction will drive it far from him” does NOT mean that a child’s heart is full of foolishness–it means the exact opposite. It is the foolishness that is bound–tied up, rendered powerless. Foolishness is a Hebraic idea ONLY applied to adults raised in faith who reject it when they are responsible for themselves. This verse gives hope that we have a season (while a child is a child) that foolishness is bound up–and what do we do during this season? Apply the rod of correction–but this means the Shebet (symbol of authority) of reasoning together. (The word in Hebrew that is translated “correction” means “come let us reason together”). So if we take our authority and reason together with our children (and, as I mentioned before, the age of reason begins at age 14 so we’re talking adolescents, who in the Jewish community would have been Bar/Bat Mitzvah’d and would be “apprentice adults”, we can disciple our children into relationship with God and NOT raise fools.

Ultimately it comes down to whether you focus on “through one man, Adam, sin entered the world” OR “through one man, Jesus, sin was atoned for.”

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What actually happened at the Fall… http://aolff.org/what-actually-happened-at-the-fall.html http://aolff.org/what-actually-happened-at-the-fall.html#respond Fri, 28 Dec 2007 03:07:12 +0000 http://aolff.com/?p=124

What actually happened at the Fall?

Studying Echad has caused a very large paradigm shift in my understanding of sin and our relationship with God that is foundational and explains so much of what the Lord has led me to in my other studies. I’ve preached on the Fall and the loss of Echad as a consequence, but I’m coming to see it as even more than this. As I study Genesis in the Ancient Word Pictures it becomes clear to me that there was a three dimensional picture presented to us in Scripture of what occurred with Adam and Eve and God that has been missed by modern translations into the English and I’m hesitant to share this while I’m still pondering the implications but I want to get the idea out there and then will be moving into even more researched study on this.

The language of Genesis when it comes to the creation of Adam is very rich with wedding imagery from the Ancient Hebrew Wedding. God “took” Adam, the way a bridegroom takes a bride, and put him in the Garden as a place prepared for him (as for a bride) where his needs were all provided for, where he was comfortable within the boundaries of the Garden. He had nothing withheld from him except eating from one tree. At this point it may be necessary to get rid of gender ideas that will be a hang up for understanding what I’m expressing, because I am not using the word “he” to represent the masculine or male. Rather, in the traditional use of the word that encompasses “people”. This is appropriate in two ways. First, God is neither male nor female and both male and female were created in the image of God. God is spirit and is without sexual orientation or anatomy. There is plenty of imagery of God in Scripture that speaks to the feminine as well as the masculine and that Jesus came in the form of a human male does not mean that God eternal is a man. Second, at the point that Adam was put into the Garden he was still Adam “mankind” and not yet Adam, male. The feminine had not yet been taken out of his side and created into a woman—bone of his bone and flesh of his flesh. When Eve was removed from Adam there was male and female. Prior to this separation there was Adam—mankind. This means that God put Adam into the Garden the way a bridegroom takes a bride and moves her to a place he has prepared for her.

The Shema in Deuteronomy tells us that God is One—the plural One that expresses God existing in relationship. At creation we find that God deems it “not good” for man to be alone and creates woman so that man and woman can become echad/one and share the same relationship that God experiences. The word “ezer”, often translated “helpmeet” and used of Eve in her relation to Adam, is used in Scripture of God and does not denote any hierarchy. Rather, the nature of Adam and Eve’s relationship is expressed through the use of Echad—they were in plural unity. The deepening of understanding of how they were in relation to God came in learning that the word translated “work”, and referring to the work that Adam was put in the Garden to do, refers to the work done by priests serving in the Temple. God, who exists in plural unity, created a new being and invited him into relationship with himself, and created an earthly ezer to exist in plural unity of relationship with him as well—both expressing the eternal nature of God when they are in echad and being in echad with God as well to expand the character of his love into the physical world he had created.

God walked with Adam and Eve, talked with Adam and Eve, shared with Adam and Eve, and Adam and Eve knew God intimately. Then Eve was tricked by the serpent. This is, however, an area where much tends to get murky theologically depending on who is teaching about it. Often what is presented is that the sin of disobedience destroyed what God had given to man and they had to be punished for disobeying. Yet this is not what is presented in the Biblical account or expressed in later references to this story. To present the Fall in such terms has led to a great deal of confusion about the nature and character of God as well as the relationship we have with Him both before and after salvation.

First, if disobedience were what caused the Fall then it would have been Eve who was accountable for the Fall. This is not the case. Adam is the one held accountable for the Fall. “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men . . .” Romans 5:12. Adam is held accountable for the Fall, not Eve. This means that the Fall has to do with what Adam did, not what Eve did. Yes, Eve was tricked and did not do as they had been told, but this was not the moment of the Fall. This passage in Romans also reveals that the committing of sin did not cause the Fall. Rather, through the Fall sin entered the world. So disobedience is not the issue to discuss when it comes to studying the Fall. Rather, I believe the answer lies in what the consequence of the Fall is revealed by God to be.

Genesis3, starting in verse 14, we read:
So the Lord God said to the serpent:

“Because you have done this,
You are cursed more than all cattle,
And more than every beast of the field;
On your belly you shall go,
And you shall eat dust
All the days of your life.
15 And I will put enmity
Between you and the woman,
And between your seed and her Seed;
He shall bruise your head,
And you shall bruise His heel.”

God is informing the serpent that Messiah will come and undo what was done. The serpent is cursed because of his actions.

16 To the woman He said:

“I will greatly multiply your sorrow and your conception;
In pain you shall bring forth children;
Your desire shall be for your husband,
And he shall rule over you.”

This is where going to the original Hebrew becomes very important. For one thing, the “pain” for childbirth is actually the same “labor” that Adam has to do in the fields to get food. It speaks to hard work, the painful toil of laboring in our flesh. But my main area of concern here is the relationship between the man and the woman and what we are being told is a consequence of the Fall. If we accept the premise I’m putting forth about the relationship prior to the Fall being Echad, since that is what we’re told is the purpose of why a man leaves his father and mother and cleaves to his wife, then after the Fall this very different picture we are seeing is the consequence of sin in the world. The relationship between God and man has changed. The relationship between man and woman has changed as well. The woman who was created to be an ezer, whose purpose towards her husband was to serve along side him and be a co-laborer of his burdens, is now in a hierarchical relationship where she desires that echad but he rules over her.

17 Then to Adam He said, “Because you have heeded the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree of which I commanded you, saying, ‘You shall not eat of it’:

“Cursed is the ground for your sake;
In toil you shall eat of it
All the days of your life.
18 Both thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you,
And you shall eat the herb of the field.
19 In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread
Till you return to the ground,
For out of it you were taken;
For dust you are,
And to dust you shall return.”

And it is through Adam’s action that allowed sin to enter the world; it is through Adam’s choice that the ground is cursed and death is imminent. What was his choice, though? It was much more than eating the fruit. He “heeded the voice of his wife” rather than the voice of God. He followed his wife into the path away from God. He chose echad with his wife over echad with God, not realizing that without God there is no echad.

This is a very rich picture that warrants much more attention than it has been given. Prior to the Fall we have man and woman, in the Garden echad with God and with one another. After the Fall we have man and woman cast out of the Garden and the loss of echad—between man and God and between man and woman. That is, until Messiah was to come.

All too often the choice God made to remove Adam and Eve from the Garden is viewed as punishment. In fact, it is presented as punishment for their disobedience of eating from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. But God himself presents a very different reason for why he did what he did. In verse 22 of Genesis 3 God decides, “Then the Lord God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of Us, to know good and evil. And now, lest he put out his hand and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live forever”– 23 therefore the Lord God sent him out of the garden of Eden to till the ground from which he was taken.” “Lest he put out his hand and take also from the tree of life” is God’s reason for removing them from the Garden—the only place where the tree of life grew. If they were to eat of the tree of life while in a state of broken echad with God and one another and under the consequences of sin in the world (the wage of which is death) they would have lived eternally separated from God. But God had a different plan—God planned Messiah. Romans 5:17, “For if by one man’s offence death reigned by one; much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ.)”

The opportunity to be in right relationship with God is what we are given because of the cross. And when we are in right relationship with God we have the opportunity to be in right relationship with one another. The restoration of echad is what is being discussed in Ephesians 5—from our relationship with God, to our relationship to the Body, to one another, to specifically husband and wife because this is the relationship that God intended from Creation to express to the world who God is and how he desires to relate to us. Not in a hierarchy, but in echad. Plural unity is a very different relationship than one where someone is in control. Unified is the desire of God’s heart; unified is at the heart of relationship.

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