The book of Proverbs teaches that wisdom begins with a fear of the Lord. Some want to soften this verse by saying it means that we should revere the Lord. And, indeed, we should. However, when we appreciate the power and demands of a holy God, we manifest the epitome of foolishness not to fear Him in the truest sense of the word. Depending on the Bible translation, Hebrews 10:31 uses words like dreadful, terrifying, awful, and fearful to describe falling into the hands of the living God.
This is lesson parents need to teach their children. However, children must first learn to have a healthy fear of their parents since mom and dad serve as the first authority children are commanded to honor (Fifth Commandment). From the outset of interaction with sons and daughters, parents need to be firm, consistent, and trustworthy, keeping their word, and following through with stated consequences. To do otherwise sets a detrimental precedent.
One of the things I learned early on in parenting was not to threaten my children with consequences, but to promise them. Prior to this insight, I used to threaten like this, “If you don’t finish your work, we won’t go to the party.” It did not take long for my kids to realize that I was unlikely to deprive the entire family of an outing because of one child’s disobedience. Therefore, I decided never to announce something I was unprepared to carry out. By promising consequences I was prepared to carry out and follow through with, my children learned to alter their behavior sooner rather than later.
Here are some scenarios that played out in our home that my daughter still comments on to this day. She attributes them to helping shape her character.
Respect for Parents
My daughters played competitive junior golf. Parents often spectate by walking along during competitions. Some competitors were downright rude to their parents, at times ordering them off the course because they did not want them there as spectators. Astoundingly, many of the parents “obeyed” their defiant children.
Having witnessed this more than once, I promised my girls that if they ever behaved in that manner to my husband or me, I would promptly walk on to the golf course, pick up their bag, and carry it back to the car. They knew that there would be no second chance when it came to dishonoring us in this way. As my daughter recently commented, “I never doubted that you would do just that.” She had a healthy fear of mom.
Another bad habit often displayed on the golf course included juniors throwing clubs or slamming them to the ground after a bad shot. My daughter knew that this was unacceptable. However, she did get into the habit of imitating players who would slap themselves forcefully after a mistake in play. At first, I thought this would pass, but it didn’t. I chose a different approach to this unwanted behavior. My daughter had just ordered a CD with her own money. It was due to arrive within the week. After noting that she failed to take responsibility to discontinue this habit of slapping herself, I informed her that for every slap she delivered, it would be a week before she could listen to the new CD.
She was shocked that I would prevent her from listening to something that she had paid for. She quickly realized that I was serious. Within 15 minutes of my promise, after she hit a bad shot, she gave herself a swat. “That’s one week,” I announced. She looked at me dumbfounded, somehow expecting me to give her another chance. I did not relent, and by the time the practice session was over, she had added two weeks to her wait. I told her, “Keep this up, and it could be months!”
The next day during a tournament, she was playing well. When she got to one of the final holes, she missed a putt she hoped to have made. She began the slap motion when she saw me intently staring at her, and redirected her hand using it to fix her ponytail. She glanced at me and we both smiled! Knowing that I would not back down, she managed to figure out how to redirect her disappointment after a bad shot on the golf course.
Homeschooling gave me the opportunity to schedule piano lessons in the late morning or early afternoon, since I created my own schedule. I expected my daughter to accomplish certain tasks before we left. Sometimes she would dilly-dally and cause us to leave later than we should. Since I was being charged for lessons, I required her to pay out of her own money for the lesson time lost because of her tardiness. There were some occasions when her failure to complete a task resulted in my decision to skip the lesson altogether. At those times, I required that she call the teacher and explain why we were not coming. This proved so embarassing for her, that in the future she accomplished her assignments and chores so that we were on time for her lessons.
As she got older, there were fewer and fewer instances of having to apply such measures. When done faithfully, external discipline is replaced with Biblical self-discipline. This is how wisdom grows, along with knowledge, understanding, and discernment.
How blessed is the man who fears the LORD, Who greatly delights in His commandments. (Psalm 112:1)
He will bless those who fear the LORD, The small together with the great. (Psalm 115:13)
How blessed is everyone who fears the LORD, Who walks in His ways. (Psalm 128:1)