A Word to the Wise, Building an Ally Within — When people think of parenting, they often focus on two main things — nurturing a child’s self esteem and making sure that they confront the will when necessary, especially with consistent consequences. Much can be said about both these issues, but often another of great importance is neglected: Teaching the Mind. When a child’s mind has been well taught and adopts the principles behind his/her parent’s values, then the child begins to act in alignment with those values.
How does one teach or train the mind? An often used tool is aphorisms — short, pithy sayings that contain a general truth. Benjamin Franklin was a master at this: “Haste makes waste,” “He that is good at making excuses is seldom good at anything else.” and “He that lieth down with dogs shall rise up with fleas.” filled the pages of Poor Richard’s Almanac.
Proverbs and other scripture verses arm the mind to think God’s thoughts and follow His ways: “A gentle answer turns away anger but a harsh word stirs it up.” “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.” and “Take every thought captive and make it obedient to Christ.” are among verses that help to keep me in check.
When my children were young, I often would meditate upon their struggles to see if there was a word to the wise that I could teach them to help guide them, not only during this particular problem but also extend beyond. Some of my Christoph-orisms included: “Feelings are fallen; therefore, feelings are foolers” to teach them that they could not live by their feelings. Another one that followed that thought closely was: “We are all built with a broken compass.” to ward off the foolish thought that we should trust our hearts. This was chased with the Bible truth: “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” Jeremiah 17:9
Two other good ones were: “Who’s in the Driver’s Seat?” and “What time is it?” The first was used to help my girls to slow down and evaluate their battle within — were they being self-driven or under the control of the Holy Spirit? (They learned this well enough that they were able to help me apply this little truth to my own life upon occasion.😎) The second little saying was helpful to remind them as to the proper behavior for the occasion. As Ecclesiastes 3:1 says, there is a right time for every purpose under heaven. Often children aren’t being “bad”, just choosing behavior that is inappropriate at the time.
Once the lessons were fully taught the first couple of times around, then the aphorism could be stated simply. This “word to the wise” would trigger the principles that were now being ingrained into their minds. My daughters did not have to endure lecture after lecture. The seeds had already been planted, it was time to reap the harvest. Unending rants don’t bring about inward obedience. They may cause a child to stop misbehaving just to buy silence, but inside rebellion starts brewing.
Build the ally within. Teach and train the mind with clear principles and well-thought out ideas to deliver a child from one’s own inner battle. Often the outer behavior is just a manifestation of a child’s failure to conquer his or her own self. Let’s be like the Holy Spirit, the counselor, the parakletos, who comes alongside us and works within us both to will and to work for His good pleasure. (Philippians 2:13) In this way, we will be like God with our children, Christopher