This article is part of our Parenting Through the Bible Series. Click here to learn more!
Leviticus seems to gets a bad rap. If you are reading through the Bible and come to this book you may approach it with dread, boredom or both. But the word of God is complete and all of it is there for a reason. He must want us to learn something from it. If we look closely, we will find that tucked within the pages of Leviticus is a pretty comprehensive model for disciplining our children.
Take a moment to read Leviticus 26.
The points below are based on a helpful model for raising children based on how God raised His children – the nation of Israel.
1. Identify the BIG rules. (vs 1-2) Right off the bat, God identifies the keystones for following Him: no worshipping of idols and show your commitment to putting Him first by observing the Sabbath.
Do your kids know the “big” rules in your family? In a previous three-part series we addressed how to identify core family values, how to create and post family rules, and some suggestions for family rules.
Our children should know clearly what we value most and how those values inform the rules in our house. To see how you are doing, ask your kids, “What are the most important rules in our family?” You may be surprised at what the kids say because what you believe is most important and what you communicate (through words and actions) as most important might be quite different.
2. Identify the heart attitude and behaviors you want to see. (vs 3) God told His children what He wanted to see: people following his decrees and carefully obeying his commands.
Our kids may know what we don’t want them to do, but it is equally important for them to know what we want them to do. Just like a doctor gives you a prescription for medication when you are ill, Christian parents can give their children daily “prescriptions” for godly character and a soft heart. The best way to do this is to point out what you want to see more of when it happens. For example, “Hey – you set the table without being asked. I am sure there are other things you’d rather do. Thanks for putting others first.”
3. Let your kids know the blessings that come from obedience. (vs 4-13) God was very specific in what would happen if His children obeyed.
How well are we communicating the blessings that come from obedience? We addressed that very issue here. The blessings we need to communicate to our children have nothing to do with treats and TV time, but include things such as a sense of belonging, joy and forgiveness.
4. Focus on the positive. (vs 4-13) God started this conversation out focusing on the positive. He didn’t try to get compliance through threats and fear. He focused on His nature and the blessing from obedience.
When disciplining our children, we often want compliance now. This mindset leads to combative interchanges and a focus on the negative. Today, I challenge you to start any disciplinary action with a positive statement. Look for something good in the situation. Don’t follow it with a “but” – just let the positive observation stand alone. You may see it defuse the situation.
5. Identify the consequences for a hard heart that leads to disobedience. (vs 14-39) God was very clear what would happen if His people disobeyed. So clear, in fact, that they could never go back to Him and say, “You never told me that!” He laid it all out before them and gave them a choice: “Choose my way or your way. My way ends well for you – your way will end in disaster.”
This is where some if . . . then statements come in handy. “If you continue to leave your laundry on the floor, you will have to do it yourself.” “If you don’t come for dinner when called, there will be no dessert.” “If you leave your bike in the rain, it will rust.”
These are very clearly stated. Your children know what you expect. Your job is to let them chose and follow through (with either natural or applied consequences).
6. Show them a way out of their sins. (vs 18, 21, 23, 27) Throughout this passage, there are some notable transitional phrases such as “if after all of this” and “if you remain hostile.” The implication here is that ALL of what He is describing does not have to happen. There is a way out.
Sometimes our children are so discouraged by our discipline that there is no motivation for change. If, in a moment of anger, we shout, “No video games for three months!” we have sought to punish, not correct. Our discipline should always give them a choice. That is why I recommend that you discipline prescriptively. For example, if your child if prone to throwing toys in the house, you can remove a favorite toy and say, “You can have this back when you have gone 3 days without throwing anything.” You prescribe what you want to see and leave the choice in his hands. Just like God did with His children.
For younger children, try our circle of blessing printable. It is a great tool to help your younger children visually see the way out of sin and back into the “circle of blessing.”
7. Encourage repentance and confession. (vs 40) God tells them that all they need to do is confess and turn from their sins and things can go back to the way they were. No matter how far we stray from the Lord, He is right behind us, ready to receive us as soon as we turn from our way and embrace His.
There are three parts to repentance: admitting that you were wrong, turning away from that wrong and seeking forgiveness from anyone you have wronged. Walk your children through this process if they have done something wrong. Better yet, the next time you do something wrong, model it for them.
8. Offer hope and grace. (vs 40-45) Despite the doom and gloom from disobedience, God wants His people to know that there is always hope of restoration.
We can love our children in the midst of disobedience and correction by offering the hope of forgiveness and restoration. We can use every corrective intervention as an opportunity to teach them that their ultimate hope is in Jesus.
9. Show love and compassion. (vs 45) Here God says it is for “their sake” that He will remember the covenant with their ancestors. Not for His sake. Not for the sake of His name. For their sake. Why? Because He loves them. Plain and simple.
Why do we correct and discipline our kids? Because we love them! Let’s memorize Hebrews 12:11 with our kids this week:
“No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.”
We discipline our children in love, with love and because of love . . . just like God and His children.
[photo credit: hotblack from morguefile.com]