Thursday, June 2, 2005

On Training With Joy

Joshua was playing in the bedroom when I called him. I tried to use just the right tone of voice - not loud enough for him to think I was emotional, not so soft that he couldn't hear me. He peeked around the corner at me, somewhat hesitant. I was a little disappointed that he didn't immediately come, but when I smiled my biggest smile at him, it was just what he needed to push him in my direction. The smile changed it from "I know she wants me to come, but I really want to be in the bedroom" to "I know she wants me to come and I want to go and be with her because she enjoys me!" This may sound like a trivial distinction, but when you consider that training is merely building habits of obedience into little hearts and minds, it becomes an essential tool. Add to the mix that the parent, in focusing on the smile and enjoyment of the child, is training a habit in themselves of reacting to that child with enjoyment - there is truly a recipe for successful training.

On the other hand, if the child is trained without joy, he may learn to obey most of the time, but I am convinced that this a sure way to lose his heart. He won't be obeying out of love and a desire to please you, but because he wants to avoid negative consequences or pain.

The power of it is overwhelming! To think of a child who is raised with a pattern of wanting to please the parent who takes great delight in him! In the hands of the Lord, such a child would truly capture the heart of God. Who knows? Maybe that's how King David was raised.

I am certain that such an attitude was not bred into me, but by the grace of God I am what I am. I have seen that will to please the Lord in myself, and the fruit it has produced in my life. This bears witness that there is a God who has made provision for us in the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. "...we also should walk in newness of life" (Rom. 6)

Being joyful at all times is something I have by no means mastered; but it remains a main focus, and I have observed something worth noting about patterns of behavior: They are unique to each relationship. Building a pattern of relating with joy to your 2-year old does not mean that you can, humanly speaking, turn to your 8 year old, with whom you have a pattern of relating with criticism, and suddenly relate to them the same way. So, early attitude training becomes vital, because it is a much more difficult endeavor to suddenly change all of your patterns at once than it is to build each pattern correctly from the beginning.

I can sense the questions... How can I build this pattern? And how do I change wrong patterns of relating to my children? The book To Train Up A Child by Michael & Debi Pearl is the best book that I have found on child training, and they emphasize the joy aspect like no one else. They also have lots of great articles on their site and they were named by The Old Homeschool House Magazine in 2004 as having the best character training material available. So I defer to the experts. :-)


  1. I love what you say about communicating with joy to your children!

    I've got to disagree on the recommendation to use To Train Up A Child by Michael & Debi Pearl. I find it quite lacking, theologically. And that works out practically, in that I've seen in many families how it leads to children believing they can be "good enough" rather than in daily need of the Gospel and God's grace.

  2. Wouldn't raising the standards of obedience and behavior show more of a need for the Gospel and God's grace?

    In regard to the Pearl's theology, "To Train Up a Child" is not a theological work. Yet the presuppositions are based more solidly in scripture than anything I've read on the subject of childtraining. (I admit I haven't read everything:)

    I'd be interested to know more of your viewpoint. You've purported that a child believes they are "good enough" and unlikely to see their need for Christ when they've been raised with Pearl training techniques. How do you believe that happens?