On Dealing with Children

By Casey A. Carlisle

Everyone has their own ideas about how to deal with children. This is fine unless of course our ideas conflict with the precepts established in God’s word. From time to time I am asked, due to being in constant association with children as a school teacher, how I deal with children. Here I present my experiences, perceptions and ideas on dealing with children.

Establish Boundaries

In dealing with children freedom is a must, but freedom must be accompanied with boundaries. Boundaries should be established with children so that the children and you know exactly what will and what will not be tolerated. Of course the boundaries being spoken of consist of the precepts and commandments found in God’s word and also the matters of judgment you must decide, e.g. how much noise do I tolerate, when does my daughter begin dating, etc.

Be Consistent

Once these boundaries are established, consistency must be practiced, if we do not want to “provoke the child to wrath.” Nothing disturbs and distresses children more than never knowing where they stand. Nothing undermines children’s security more than an adult with wide inconsistency-anything goes today, nothing is right tomorrow. Inconsistency leads to insecurity and distrust of you as a person. Establish your boundaries and, once established, enforce your border patrol. The scripture comes to mind, “But let your communication be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay: for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil” (Mt. 5:37).

Be Fair

Children have a keen sense of fair-play. There is no room for favoritism when dealing with children, unless of course you want another Jacob and Esau (Gen. 25:281

Don’t threaten or promise unless you can and intend to fulfill the threat or promise. It will take only one unfulfilled threat or promise to sow the seeds of doubt and insecurity in the children. Don’t break a rule or boundary you have set with the children unless everyone concerned can see that it is an emergency or “have to” situation.

Always tell the child the truth. It is better to say that you don’t think they need to know than to risk being caught in even the most innocent and generous lie (Rev. 21:8) and you will be amazed at how much the children can accept and understand. If the children know you are trying to be fair they will accept your decisions without anger or resentment.

Finally, don’t be afraid to apologize if you’ve treated children unjustly. You’ll gain, not lose, the respect of the children for admitting your error, not to mention overcoming some of that “pride of life” (I John 2:15-17).

Don’t Be Afraid to Punish

Solomon, the wise man said (Proverbs 23:13-14), “Withhold not correction from the child: for if thou beatest him with the rod, he shall not die. Thou shalt beat him with the rod, and shalt deliver his soul from hell.” Solomon here sets the purpose for punishment-the ultimate saving of the child’s soul. Is not this the same purpose as the teaching of Christ in Mt. 5:2930? It is truly better to suffer some things in this life than to suffer an eternity in hell. We have the responsibility of guiding the children. Those of us who want to hide behind the facade of “love” Solomon again answers, (Proverbs 13:24) “He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes.” And for those of us who feign “tenderheartedness” Solomon answers (Proverbs 10:18) “Chasten thy son while there is hope, and let not thy soul spare for his crying.”

It seems that it is better to warp a child’s behind rather than to warp his mind. Physical punishment, once completed, allows the child to “close out the case” on that particular infraction and it serves as a very effective deterrent on repeating the infraction. There are of course many other effective forms of punishment but none so well documented and recommended by God’s word. A chinese philosopher once said “Parents who are afraid to put their foot down usually have children who step on toes.”

Be An Example

Of all the people in the world that we influence by example, perhaps the children we deal with are the most influenced. Our example must be natural or real, for children can spot phonies as far as they can see them. We must be followers of Christ and his teachings if we expect to lead children in the paths of righteousness (Phil. 3:17).

We must give attention to dealing rightly and justly with children. Children can be compared to a garden, if no attention is paid to it nothing but weeds and trouble arise. If it is dealt with properly, cultivated, watered and cared for, much fruit will abound. Let’s deal as Christians with our children.

Truth Magazine XXII: 29, pp. 470-471
July 27, 1978