Do You Have Ugly Kids?

What mom would admit that?
One son gave me a tea mug that says, “Mom, no matter what life throws at you at least you don’t have ugly children.”

Children or adults alike are unlovable because of the sin nature.
“It’s mine.”
“Me first.”
That’s what all of us are—without God.
As parents we can’t implant God’s Spirit into our children, but we can create an environment where God’s Spirit can be heard.
Family devotions (where you read and explain the Bible, learn verses, and talk about applications from what you have read) provide you with teachable moments to share with your children how to apply the Bible to life.
By reading through the Bible, our boys have been exposed to real-life issues. 
Read about Lot and explain why the city’s men wanted the angels.
Read about David lusting after Bathsheba, when he already had more wives than he could handle.
Read about the scribes and Pharisees, religious leaders of the day, breaking every rule to make sure Jesus was crucified.
You may ask, "What if my child asks a question I don't know?"
They will. It's a teachable moment to show that God knows it all and some questions are for God alone to know the answer.
Or that God may reveal that answer later.
That the beauty of the Bible—we always gain new insight into Who God is.

That’s how we instruct our children in what is ugly and what is not.
We help to establish the truth of God’s Word in their minds.
But we cannot make our children take that Word to their hearts.
Nor can we make them be a Christian.
They must decide.

As parents we are responsible to discipline our children. 
In a sense we mold their conscience to know truth by what we allow them to do.
The Bible speaks of us instructing our children while we are eating, sitting, and walking.

You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up.
Deuteronomy 6:7

That was so important that God said it again.

You shall teach them to your sons, talking of them when you sit in your house and when you walk along the road and when you lie down and when you rise up.
Deuteronomy 11:19.

Today it is harder than ever to do this.
Most parents don’t see their children more than three hours a day.
School, sports, practice, even church take them away from our direct contact.

How are we to train them to do what’s right in so little time?
We see the results of this little training.
Children don’t even know what table manners are let alone Who God is.

Often we expect the church to do it for us.
The church should support you in your work, but it should not replace your work.
When my husband was deployed, I realized our younger boys weren’t memorizing the Bible. 
I needed help.
I took them to a local church for their AWANA program.
Classes were loud. How could they even think to recite their verses?
Children were disrespectful, rude and not listening during game time.
Youth ran the announcements. 
Leaders shouted to be heard.
There was no discipline.
I spent the rest of the week, un-training bad habits learned from that two-hour session.
It wasn’t worth it.
After a month, I stopped going.
Scripture memory is important, but without obedience the Scripture can’t be heard.
My children were learning bad habits from church kids.

These children had grown up in the church.
This lack of discipline with Christian children is not isolated.
When an outsider cannot tell the difference between Christian’s children and a non-Christian’s child, we are doing something wrong.

I feel for parents in today’s sports arena. 
In order to play, they play on Sunday.
And all year.
Parents must decide what is important.
It is hard.
We did not participate in events unless it was after church.
Now they schedule games all day long.
Children must participate in one sport all year to even make the team.
We allowed our boys one sport a year—they all had to do that one sport.
During that season, life was so hectic! I was so glad when it was over.

Are my boys lacking in life because we only allowed one sport per year?
My grown boys don’t look back on their experiences in sports when they determine how to live their lives. 
But they do, remember their father’s words when they are tempted to take out a loan rather than wait until they have the money. (Advise from Proverbs)
Maybe it’s time to remove our kids from good things to make sure they know the best things.

Do parents even know their children?
We are so far removed from instructing our children, we don’t even see their problems.
If there’s a problem, we send them to counseling.
(I’m not against counseling or seeking advice—Proverbs is full of admonitions to seek counsel,
but sometimes, instead of looking to God, we find someone who may fix it quick, when it took a life-time of bad habits and choices that got us there.)

I’ve been told I should have a camp to “teach their kids to obey.”
I would need more than one week.
And it wouldn’t be for the kids— it would be for the parents!
Parents need to see their responsibility.
Recognize their “ugly” child.
Laughing at a toddler telling an adult what to do may be cute, but not for long.
Recognize it  as sin and deal with it. Every time.
Discipline isn’t learned in one week.
It’s correcting every time. (Which implies you must be with him.)

I’ve heard the phrase, “We love our kids.”
And yes we think we do.
But without discipline there is no love.
He who withholds his rod hates his son, but he who loves him disciplines him diligently. 
Proverbs 13:24

In today's world, a parent must be careful when he administers punishment. 
A watching world is quick to take our children.
But that doesn't mean we don't do it!

Discipline requires you to love the child enough to remove sinful habits.
I instruct my child in table manners, not because I like to make dinner an unpleasant event every meal as I remind one not to chew with his mouth open.
But because I love my child enough not to have him do those things around others. 
Now chewing with your mouth open is not sinful. Just unpleasant.
How about lying?
I spanked my child if he lied.
Lying is sinful.
No one wants a friend who’s a liar.
In fact, you can’t be a friend and lie.
Integrity and trust are essential for friendship to exist.
But it’s more than “Just getting along with other people.”
God is truth. And God hates liars.

Teaching involves instructing them to love what God loves.
We form our child’s conscience to be in-tune to the Bible and God’s Spirit. 
We can’t make him be a Christian, but we can help form character traits pleasing to God.
Some of that “forming” is by modeling. 
If they hear you lie, but demand them to tell the truth. They will not hear you.
(If you are needing guidance on how, please see these articles: HERE.
This article is more on why we discipline, not how.)

Discipline takes consistency. 
That requires us to know what our children are doing.
That requires us to sacrifice, when we don’t have energy, when we don’t feel like it, when we don’t want to fight—to correct our children.
I must love my child enough to discipline him not just once, but until he gets it right.
I am here to tell you on the other side of all that sacrifice, energy, and struggle—it is worth it.
All my grown children bring me joy.

Of course, I am not finished yet with some. And my joy isn’t always full, but my children bless me.

Did they bring me joy when I carried around a stick in my back pocket and used it every hour when they were little?
Probably not.
Did I want to give up?
I thought they would grow up to hate me.
One son, who seemed to need that rod used A LOT, told his brothers years later that he never got spanked.
His brothers laughed heartily. I was amazed at his lack of memory.
No residual harm done there.

When parents don’t spend time with our children, they don’t see the ugliness of their children.

Know how communism and socialism became acceptable in America?
Parents weren’t careful with who taught their children and what they learned.
Parents allowed others to “watch” their children—of course for good causes—work, church instruction, and the children’s own education. 

"It's for the children"takes away more parental responsibility than any other phrase.

“The state must declare the child to be the most precious treasure of the people. As long as the government is perceived as working for the benefit of the children, the people will happily endure almost any curtailment of liberty and almost any deprivation.”

Know who said that?
Adolf Hitler.
He also said, “If you get a child when he is seven, you’ll have him forever.”
He also said, “Let me control the textbooks, and I will control the state.”

He added, “He alone, who owns the youth, gains the future.”
When an opponent declared, “I will not come over to your side.” He answered, “Your child belongs to us already…What are you? You will pass on. Your descendants, however, now stand in the new camp. In a short time they will know nothing else but this new community.”

Hitler knew the value of educating and disciplining the children.
Parents have forsaken their duty to discipline and educate. 
Satan has willingly taken our children.
And parents don’t even know it!

The church has adopted some of the world’s philosophy with child care. 
We have a nursery for your child.
Children make too much noise during the sermon; here let us take them.

I've visited several churches where everyone stays together for Sunday school and church. 
They may have a children's time when children come to the front to receive a lesson geared for their age level, while the adults listened too.
But they also sat through the sermon or series of sermons. 
They were taught to be quiet and listen.
They were capable.
Those parents understood their responsibility to train their own children.

Know who poses the greatest threat to this government who wants to take our children?
They are disciplined and educated (with real facts, not changed history).
And they don’t believe the socialism now taught in schools.
They understand the value of the dollar, because they’ve earned it.
And they don’t want their dollar given to someone who hasn’t earned it, unless they say so.

Those same parents who jokingly asked me to start a camp to correct their children, have chosen to work.
They could stay at home, perhaps at a sacrifice, but they have told my husband, “I like my ‘things.’”
And staying at home is “Hard.”

We must stop saying we love our children, when we don’t make them our priority.

People want their children to turn out like mine.
They ask how, as if there's a magic formula that must be followed.
There isn’t.
Except following the Word of God.
When it says, teach your children when you sit and rise and stand and walk,
Then you have to be with your children. (And NOT on your phones or in front of the television.)

That doesn’t mean everyone must do things like we did.
(Again, it's ultimately the child's decision to submit to God and you.)
How each family works out their obedience will look different.
That’s the beauty of God’s Word— applications are limitless.
God doesn’t turn out identical robots.
Even with our boys, each one is different. God’s Spirit works on different areas of “ugliness.”
(The way we work out that verse with our children will look different from other families, though both are obeying the Word.
I give what we did as an example to help those struggling to how it can be done.)
But the world should see a difference because God is changing you and your family to be like Him.

One pastor shared how they prayed about each child every year to determine  whether they would homeschool or attend public school.
We allowed one son to attend his senior year at public school so he could participate in football and baseball. 
We had to make a conscious effort not to forsake our family devotions during that busy season. It was very hard!
Other sons were also given an option for their high school years because of sports. They chose not to.

Discipline doesn’t just happen.
It is a willful, deliberate choice.
Did I want to hand my children over for someone else to correct and babysit every time I could?
To be honest, I didn’t and I refused. It did "help" that no family was close.
It was my husband and I alone.
But many supported us as we raised our children.
Church nursery wasn’t an option for me. 
I was instilling security in my baby that I would always be with them. 
Of course, nursing for two years helped avoid that temptation of letting someone else care for them as babies, because I had to be with them.
Children’s church consisted of sitting beside me in church and listening to the sermon with me. 
That required a lot of preparation. (non-messy snacks, quiet toys, walking the halls when they were toddlers.)
Was it easy?
Not at all. I wondered why I came to church.
But we were establishing habits that assembling together with other believers was essential for life.

We attended a church for a short time that required all the children, even its youth, to leaven the service.
Then they wondered why the youth weren't staying when they became adults!

Our training taught our boys they were part of our worship.
Our boys soon found ways they could serve the congregation.
One son counted the church’s money, worked the sound system, taught a children’s Sunday School class, played guitar during the worship service–all before he graduated from high school.
Another was asked to teach the only adult Sunday School. His insight into the Word could only be explained by the Spirit teaching him. He was only 20.
God used them to help us all worship Him.

I've visited some churches where they dismiss children's church after the singing.
They worship with the adults in singing.
Then receive a Bible lesson at their age level. It's a time for instruction not a babysitting service.
As parents, you must decide what your family should do.

We also chose to homeschool. 
Was home schooling easy? 
Every year I wondered why I did it and what made me think that I could do it.
Especially in high school—
When boys are tired of listening to their mom.
And poetry is not practical!
Those times of learning, when we were sitting, standing, and walking—all those times brought fruit.

Do you know what I found?
That sacrifice. That time. That energy.
All that it required to discipline my sons pales in significance to the blessing of who they are now.

My boys are not special.
They are not super intelligent.
They are not overly talented.
Yet they now stand high in their chosen fields of service.
You can tell a difference between them and the world.
They now instruct their own children to know God.
My sacrifice—to make sure they knew God in all areas—was worth it. 
God has blessed.

Ugly kids? 
Ugly is when you allow your child to remain where he is and don’t love him enough to take the time to make him want to know God.

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I write about what you---
women, wives and moms---
about your family, faith and future.
I write about what's hard, what helps and what heals.
I show you how it's done. And not done.
I hold your hand as you find what matters to the Savior.
And let go of those things that mattered to you, but not to Him.
I write about what Him.
               Sonya Contreras

Author of Biblical fiction, married to my best friend, and challenged by eight sons’ growing pains as I write about what matters.

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