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Teaching My Children to Listen

Today on my blog, I posted an article on how and why God disciplines me. One thing I learned is that God is trying to teach me to listen to Him.

This got me thinking. How can I teach my own children to listen to me?

The Bible makes it very clear that my children must learn to listen so that they can avoid danger (“look both ways before crossing the street”). I am also responsible to teach them so many things for life, but how can I if they won’t even listen? Most of all, I want them to learn to listen to God, so that when I’m not around to guide them, they will listen to and follow Him. (Read what God says about these topics in Proverbs 1:29-33, 10:17, 12:1, 13:1, 13:3, 13:18, 15:5, 15:12, 17:10, and 19:25.)

Wisdom calls aloud in the street,
she raises her voice in the public squares;

at the head of the noisy streets she cries out,
in the gateways of the city she makes her speech:

How long will you simple ones love your simple ways?
How long will mockers delight in mockery
and fools hate knowledge?

If you had responded to my rebuke,
I would have poured out my heart to you
and made my thoughts known to you.

But since you rejected me when I called
and no one gave heed when I stretched out my hand,

since you ignored all my advice
and would not accept my rebuke,

I in turn will laugh at your disaster;
I will mock when calamity overtakes you” (Proverbs 1:20-26).

Thankfully, the book of Proverbs is filled with advice on how my husband and I can teach our children to listen. Let’s take a look at some of these principles:

  • Start young. “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it” (Prov. 22:6, KJV). Practice makes perfect, right? When my child is young, I need to teach him to listen by showing him how to look at me, to concentrate on my voice, and to immediately obey with a happy attitude. However, I’ve noticed that as a soft-hearted mother, sometimes I’m deceived into thinking that “training” my child is somehow “mean.” “Chasten thy son while there is hope, and let not thy soul spare for his crying” (Proverbs 19:18, KJV). No, I need to start while he is young, daily teaching and training him, because I know it’s best for him. It’s the most loving thing I can do.
  • Teach God’s laws. This starts by teaching my children to obey our house rules, so that they will then learn to obey God’s rules. God’s rules are recorded for us carefully in His Word. As 2 Timothy 3:16-17 says, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” In addition, the “Holy Scriptures” are to be taught “from infancy” (verse 15). (Don’t neglect the Old Testament in your teaching! Remember that when Paul wrote these words to Timothy, the Old Testament was all they had!)

My son, keep your father’s commands
and do not forsake your mother’s teaching.

Bind them upon your heart forever;
fasten them around your neck.

When you walk, they will guide you;
when you sleep, they will watch over you;
when you awake, they will speak to you.

For these commands are a lamp,
this teaching is a light,
and the corrections of discipline
are the way to life (Proverbs 6:20-23).

  • Correct your children when they don’t listen! Proverbs tells us that first we rebuke, then we use the rod. Here are a few of many verses:

“Smite a scorner, and the simple will beware: and reprove one that hath understanding, and he will understand knowledge” (Proverbs 19:25, KJV).

“Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child; but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him” (Proverbs 22:15, KJV).

“Do not withhold discipline from a child; if you punish him with the rod, he will not die. Punish him with the rod and save his soul from death” (Proverbs 23:13-14).

“The rod of correction imparts wisdom, but a child left to himself disgraces his mother” (Proverbs 29:15).

  • When your children DO listen, pour out your heart to them! As one author says, you’ve captured a moment of “non-conflict,” which is a priceless time to pass on knowledge and wisdom.

“If you had responded to my rebuke, I would have poured out my heart to you and made my thoughts known to you” (Proverbs 1:23).

“He who listens to a life-giving rebuke will be at home among the wise. He who ignores discipline despises himself, but whoever heeds correction gains understanding” (Proverbs 15:31-32).

“Like an earring of gold or an ornament of fine gold is a wise man’s rebuke to a listening ear” (Proverbs 25:12).

I know that I need to teach my children to listen, but day by day, in the thick of mothering, sometimes I wonder if my children will start to hate me because I’m constantly correcting, molding, pushing, disciplining and even punishing. Sometimes I wish I could just be my children’s friend. Sometimes I wish mothering were just a little more… fun?

God has an answer for this, too:

“Better is open rebuke than hidden love. Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses” (Proverbs 27:5-6).

“He who rebukes a man will in the end gain more favor than he who has a flattering tongue” (Proverbs 28:23).

“Discipline your son, and he will give you peace; he will bring delight to your soul” (Proverbs 29:17).

I’m inspired to work on my children’s listening skills. You, too?

P.S. I’ve been helped by an article by Harold S. Martin, called “Five Pointers for Disciplining Children.”

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