1. If you are raising children, which phase of parenting are you in and what is the biggest challenge for you about this phase? If you are not raising children, who are you close to that may need your support in their parenting journey?
2. Is your schedule creating chaos or rhythm for your family? How do you keep the Sabbath holy together? Do you need to create some boundaries to be sure you are spending quality time together as a family?
3. Do you tend to take the posture to win the argument or to win the heart of your child? What are some ways you can remember to side WITH your children AGAINST their sin nature?
Welcome to Hope City Everyone! My name is Pastor Peter. I’m glad that you’re here for our series “It’s Just a Phase” in which we are taking a look at the phases of life from a biblical perspective. Last week we kicked off this series by defining a phase as PHASE= a distinct period or stage in the development of your life.
These phases are fascinating… because they are consistently evolving and developing! We said that life is made up of all different kinds of phases, and if we’re not careful, we can miss them.
We’ve anchored this series in what King Solomon writes in Ecclesiastes chapter 3, when he says,
3 There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven:
There is a phase of your life that shaped you in ways that no other phase in your has. You may be thinking it’s the college years, or your early career decisions, and yet, this phase has an even greater impact than that, and it’s your family phase.
We all need to acknowledge two things about our family phase… 1. You didn’t choose your family. You get what you get, and you don’t get upset. There are families like this one…
Funny 1- Star Trek Family… Just took it a little too far.
Funny 2- Taped Up Family… If you didn’t follow directions, break out the tape
Funny 3- Talk about getting HOSED as a kid. You never felt like Daddy loved you huh? I wonder why?
No matter how good your family was, 2. Your family wasn’t perfect. There are no perfect families in this church—we have traditional families, blended families, single folks & grandparents raising kids, adult children living at home, families where mom & dad work and are stressed out. None of them are perfect.
That’s why today I want to talk about Thriving Parenting… because everyone in this room has relationships with children. Parents with sons & daughters. All the way from toddlers to teens. Some of you are brothers & sisters. Teachers & mentors of our kids. Grammy’s & Granddads, stepparents. And I think we all could use a little encouragement when it comes to influencing children for the Lord.
This is why Solomon once again drops some wisdom for us and for every phase along the way. Look at this, this time it’s found in the old testament book of wisdom, called Proverbs specifically 22:6
Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it. – Proverbs 22:6
How do you bring up kids in our culture like ours, to love God, love others, and be confident in themselves? The writer of Proverbs suggests that the way you BEGIN parenting a child in the EARLY YEARS will impact how they FINISH as an adult.
Just like every other part of life, the parenting phase can be broken down into some sub phases as well, let me show you a chart of these phases. If you think about it, parenting can be broken up in this way…
Discipline Years (1-5) The days are long & hard… Those of you with babies know this. You’re not asking how to raise a tweenager… you’re just trying to survive your toddler! But you know what? It’s just a phase. Only 5 years- Until Training… that’s the heart of discipline.
Training Years (5-12). We’re going to train up a child in the way she will go & when she is old she won’t depart from it. These are the grade-school years where some of my kids are right now. These days are filled with repetition and reminders… We’re in the training phase. And then my son Noah has us in the:
Coaching Years (12-18). This is where you come alongside your kids as adolescence. If Discipline is teaching kids “what” to do (do this, not that). And Training explains the “why”… Coaching is the “how.” It’s coming alongside a Middle or High Schooler and coaching them “how” to do something on their own. To navigate relationships… to think for themselves… become more independent. And this is a turbulent time—most parents barely survive it… but those who do attain the final stage of:
Friendship Years (18+). Full disclosure: Our goal as parents IS NOT well-behaved kids. Or materially successful people who go to the best college & have high-end career. That’s not a biblical goal.
We want our children to be relationally rich. Have deep abiding friendships with us and friendship with God. We want their faith in Christ to be their own. To know God’s love & affection for them; discover their God-given gifts; and the role God created them to play in His story.
Tiffany and I have set this goal in our parenting. We know we have about 5 years left with Noah, and a few more than that with our girls but we want to make them count! Our goal is that when they leave for college, enter their single years or start families of their own that we will have raised them in a way that they’d naturally want to spend time with us as friends because of the bonds that we are building now. But as you can tell, there is a lot of work that needs to be done before you get there.
Many people enter the Parenting Stage and make 2 big mistakes. 1) Some try to be Friends with their kids too early. (I want to be friends with my Middle Schooler… what? He’s a terrorist!) They neglect the hard work of discipline & training when kids need it most in the early years.
The second mistake is: After failing to discipline in the early years, the kid starts to rebel in Middle or HS. So the parents decide to crack down & start disciplining here… and BOOM! Major problems. They’ve mixed up the 4 phases of parenting.
Today I want to walk us through the Four Phases of Parenting so that we can not only survive parenting, but thrive as a family. Let me warn you though, I like what the 17th century poet, John Wilmot, famously said about raising children. John Wilmot said:
“Before I got married I had six theories about bringing up children; now I have six children and no theories.”
For Christians, our model for family comes from God. God is our model parent. He is our Abba—our Heavenly Father. And what we know about God from the Bible is that He is a parent of both Love & Discipline. 1 John 4:8 says:
Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.
God is the perfect loving parent. He loves you perfectly. And for those who put their trust in the Father’s Son Jesus Christ as their Savior—we are adopted into the spiritual family of God forever! This is good news!
God is love. But Scripture says:
The Lord disciplines those he loves… 7 Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? — Hebrews 12:6-7
Discipline in the Bible doesn’t just mean punishment. It means “to teach and to train.”
And discipline sounds negative to a lot people today because they remember being treated in a harsh way. But God is the source of PERFECT love—and that means, he doesn’t correct us because he enjoys inflicting pain. But because loving discipline is a gift to our development.
So if you’re going to thrive through the Parenting Phases, let’s break it down in a way that you can apply both LOVE & DISCIPLINE in every phase.
Let’s start with the first five years. The Discipline Years.
When we first had kids, the days were long, and the nights were short, AMEN? Any young mama’s out there know what I mean? And I can remember looking at Tiffany like, how are we ever going to make it through this? I just want to survive.
This first stage of Parenting is simply about survival. If you’ve got little ones under 5, keep it simple by Create a family rhythm.
Rhythm – the daily & weekly structure or organization necessary for your family to flourish. Our kids know we love them in their hearts. But in this early phase—they see our love through the words we speak & schedule we keep. We all lead busy, hectic lives. But the reality is: You need to love your kids through your calendar.
One of our family rhythms includes Popcorn & a table. I know… Sounds SILLY, right? For us it’s STRATEGIC. At the end of the day, we will typically pop a bag of popcorn and debrief the day.
We have a simple question that we ask most nights… SO WHAT WAS THE BEST PART OF YOUR DAY? I loved when… I got to play Uno Ball in gym. I loved hanging with my friends a bit before school. WHAT WOULD HAVE MADE IT BETTER? I wish they didn’t spill milk all over the table. And before you know it, you are able to hear what’s going on inside their hearts, and what’s really going on. What would happen if you stopped long enough, and built a rhythm that allowed you to hear from your kids regularly. I’ve put a bag of popcorn on every person’s seat today, because I want you to try this and then email me and let me know how it goes. It doesn’t even have to be with your kids, this could be a great habit to start with your spouse or friends.
The second priority we set in the Discipline years comes from Exodus 20:8-11
8 “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. 9 Six days you shall labor and do all your work,10 but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God.
On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter… 11 For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth… but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.
We’re going to Celebrate the Sabbath Together. Sabbath is a Spiritual Boundary Marker for families. No work, no school, we rest, we unplug. We get to what’s really important. We go to the beach, we hang around the house, we play board games. We go fishing. We learn new hobbies. We go to the park.
Parents, we live in a constant state of distraction. I remember being at Skyzone one time with the kids… and every parent was on the sideline, no one was watching. Everyone is checking their iPhone. That’s a Major Problem for The Family Phase—we’re PRESENT with our kids, but not PAYING ATTENTION to our kids. Love pays attention. Put down the iPhone and Engage.
Don’t miss the Sabbath. Obviously, a part of our Sabbath in my family is that we go to church. And you know what? That’s a big deal. It’s a sacrifice. When you’ve got young kids, it’s ironic: Trying to get your kids fed, dressed, and into the car on Sunday can be a nightmarish ordeal! They’re crying, Cheerios falling out… spilling coffee, “Hurry up or we’ll be late to church!” Sometimes you have to become a non-Christian to go to church! I get it!
But listen: Whatever sacrifice it takes, parents, it’s worth it. The most significant predictor of a child’s Spiritual Development—their faith walk with Jesus as an adult—is how committed their parent’s where; how authentic their faith was; and whether or not they served & did church together.
We want to do what Solomon said…
Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it. – Proverbs 22:6
When you establish those rhythms early on, and guard your calendar, it sets you up well for this next phase, the Training Years (5-12). If we’re going to win in the training years, we need to Communicate Clear Expectations. We’re going to love our kids with clarity. This isn’t a laundry list of do’s and don’ts. This breeds legalism. If I just don’t do something, my parents will love me. NO! But clear communication expresses love clearly. In our house we have 3 main rules.
We have no tolerance for
Dishonesty – Lying is unacceptable. Our kids know they always need to tell the truth to their Mom & me.
Defiance – Don’t willfully disobey. (This is different than just “brush your teeth” and they forget… again… you disobeyed! Some of the small stuff, you just gotta let it go & pick your battles). If you fight kids on every last thing, you’ll run outta steam. We tell our kids, “Obey the first time.” Sometimes it happens, sometimes it doesn’t. But if they’re openly defiant, “Turn off the TV now.” No! We got a problem. (bc now it’s a spiritual thing)
Disrespect – Show respect to adults & their brother & sister. And I understand it can be a struggle with siblings. You gotta be creative… like how this Mom came up with a novel idea at home:
Funny Pic from Mom or Dad.
If we’re going to love our kids by Communicating Clear Expectations, we’re going to have to Discipline kids as we Correct with Compassion. Yes, there are consequences for disobedience. But it’s HOW that discipline is framed that makes all the difference. And let’s be honest: There have been plenty of times that I’ve Disciplined in anger; I’ve said things I instantly regret (What’s wrong with you?!) & wish I could take back. That’s why Paul wrote in Ephesians 6:4
Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.
Notice Paul speaks first to fathers. Dads, our words weigh 500 pounds. When our kids disobey, our natural default is to come down hard & crush the rebellion. I get it.
But when you correct your kids, you must have compassion. Or you will crush their spirit. They’ll be exasperated… or frustrated… and their heart will grow hard & bitter. So you win the battle, but lose their heart. You have to turn to the Gospel & learn to correct with compassion the way God does with us.
The Gospel tells us that in our sin—our Father’s heart was broken—but he sided with us against our sin. As a demonstration of God’s radical love, Jesus took our sin on the Cross so that we’d be free of guilt. And as God’s children, we’re forgiven, accepted by God… but understand, there are still consequences on this earth. That’s how Earthly Parents are supposed to discipline our kids when they sin—with love & compassion.
We need to SIDE WITH OUR KIDS AGAINST THEIR SIN. It’s a subtle shift, but it’s an important one. My son isn’t the problem—he’s my child & I love Him with all my heart. The problem is his sin– And when you separate the two out of love—and take a POSTURE OF COMPASSION—it communicates to the kid that you REJECT the sin but you still EMBRACE them.
That’s what your Heavenly Father does with you all the time.
The Lord disciplines those he loves… 7 Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? Hebrews 12:6-7
Discipline in the Bible doesn’t just mean punishment. It means “to teach and to train.” If we Correct with Compassion that will get you to the: Coaching Years (12-18)
I want to invite Pastor Justin to join me and share some thoughts on what He sees as opportunities for us during the coaching years.
Justin, what do you recommend to us as parents of teenagers?
Justin– Yeah… if you want to both LOVE and DISCIPLINE your kids in their teenage years, can I encourage you with this very spiritual principle? I know… this was formed in the early monastic movement… father bishop so and so wrote this down… you ready for it? Don’t Freak Out.
Peter– That is deeply spiritual. Yes!
Justin– But seriously though. It’s all about keeping open lines of communication! Things are changing in your kids lives… they’re changing, their bodies are changing, the way that they think is changing, and the temptation
on the part of many parents is to freak out. Don’t do it! A brilliant thought leader in the parenting realm is a guy by the name of Reggie Joyner, he wrote a great book called Parenting Beyond Capacity. He said this:
“Too often, parents think their primary goal is to get their children to follow the rules… During the formative and teenage years, it is actually more important for parents to earn trust with the child than for the child to earn trust with the parents.” (Parenting Beyond Capacity, 110).
Peter– Did you catch that? Parents need to earn trust with the child. That seems backwards.
Justin– This is a phase where your kids are going to do one of two things, open up, or close up. If your kids can’t talk to you about the real life situations that they find themselves in, they will shut you down, and shut you out.
Peter– That’s right. Last year I intentionally had a conversation with my kids about sexuality, vaping, inappropriate touching, why I keep my hands visible when I hug people, and all kinds of other things. All on the way to school! I wanted to normalize these types of conversations so that they know there is nothing they can’t talk to me about.
Justin– Correct, that is the key to effective Coaching. You won’t trust a coach or ask questions unless you believe that they’re not going to jump all over your mistakes or criticize your soft spots.
Coaching is about coming alongside and ensuring you ask the right questions. And this is critical in MS & HS because developmentally they’re out of the simple discipline & training season… and they need a parent they can trust who won’t freak out & help navigate the trickier waters of adolescence. Cause they’re gonna hear about a party where there was alcohol. Or so-and-so’s brother was found to have pot.
Parents, I guarantee: You’re gonna see a rogue text or post online that you’re not gonna like!
And what you do in that moment—whether you OVERREACT… or don’t FREAK OUT—will be decisive for your child in deciding whether they can trust you with that conversation or not.
Peter– Okay, so Don’t Freak out. Ask the Right Questions, Got it… What’s next?
Justin– Win Hearts, Not Arguments. Sometimes we forget that we can win the argument & force compliance to the rules—but lose our teenager’s heart in the process.
Every family fights, but there is a world of difference when you fight with someone and when you fight for someone. When you fight with someone, walls get built up & relationships unravel. That’s what happens when you don’t take time to understand who they really are.
But When you fight for your child (not with them), walls come down & relationships deepen.
So you may need to step back when things get heated at home… but don’t give in! Bc even though he or she slams the door. Says they hate you… they need to know you’ll stay in the game & fight for them.
They may close their door… but don’t you, Mom and Dad.
Peter– Parent’s don’t miss this. We need to show our kids that we can be trusted to fight for their hearts, not just their behavior. And then we need to be willing to do everything we can to restore a broken relationship.
See: if you can navigate this… the Discipline, the Training, the Coaching… by the grace of God, one day you may have a shot at this:
The Friendship Years (18+)
But you need the Holy Spirit at every stage in between. And you’ve gotta learn to win hearts, not arguments. If you’re gonna get the pay-off here. The Ultimate Goal is Friendship with you and with God. That’s why you have to discipline, train, and coach them when they’re young… So even when they’re old they will not turn from it. (Proverbs 22:6)
Friendship is possible. Like any relationship, it takes work. And you know what? That’s what your Heavenly Father offers you. His Friendship. And the help of the Holy Spirit.
Jesus said to his closest followers:
I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. – John 15:15
Jesus spent 3 years with his disciples. The word “disciple” means “disciplined ones.” He trained them, coached them in ministry, and loved them like brothers. And after those 3 years, he said, “You’re no longer my servants… you’re my friends.
Friendship is the ultimate goal of Jesus Christ. He says, everything I learned from my Father I’m now passing on to you. And that’s why you should never lose hope!
So whether your family is struggling or simply surviving… through Jesus Christ, you have access to the Father. The only Perfect Parent you’ll ever know. He’s called you friend—so the pressure’s off. God can teach you & coach you & provide everything you need to be the parent your child deserves. Remember, Life is Just a Phase, Let’s Not Miss it!