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A Biblical Approach for Dealing with Misbehavior

Laura Kuehn, LCSW

There are a lot of different parenting methods out there. It can be confusing. Let’s look at how God handled the very first sin of all time.

I love how practical the Bible is for daily living. Those who think it is just an old, dusty book don’t know what they are missing! The Bible has tons of applications for parents (you can take a look at all of the Parenting Through the Bible articles here).

Genesis 3 provides great help to parents who are looking for a biblical way to discipline their children. There are so many parenting methods out there, it can be dizzying at times. Let’s just stick to the basics and see how God handled the first sin of all time.

First, we need a little refresher . . .

In verse 6 of chapter 3 we read about how the “woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye . . . and she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.” Such a simple sentence with monumental consequences. Ever since, people have been sinning – whether in thought or deed. We are no exception. Our children are no exception. We cannot expect to make it through a day without having to deal with effects of sin – either our own or our kids. We do right as Christian parents when we start the day with the realization of both of these. We will have to direct and re-direct. We will have to model and ask for forgiveness. This mindset will help us to not be so exasperate when our children require correction for the exact same thing 20 times in one day. It is a battle. But we have the tools and the Holy Spirit to carry on.

God sought them out

The first thing we see that God did to address this first sin is in verse 9. We read that the Lord God called out to the man, “Where are you?” When our children mess up and are shamed by their sin we have two choices: to let them wallow or to seek them out. We hear a lot about giving kids “space” and sometimes that is the right thing to do. We even may need our own space after a particularly conflictual interaction. But if your child has fled to their room in shame of what they have done, you can quietly knock on the door, tell them that you know that they have messed up and are feeling bad and you are waiting to discuss it.

God asked good questions

Before getting to the consequences of their actions, God took inventory of the situation. It’s not that He didn’t already know, but by doing so, He was able to highlight the depths of the sin in their hearts evidenced by cover-up and blame. He asked how Adam knew he was naked and if he had disobeyed. Adam passed the buck and blamed Eve. God addressed Eve who blamed the snake. Sounds like a typical parental conversation with a group of kids who have broken a window.

Sometimes our anger at a situation can blind us to gathering information. As said before, take time if you need to but make sure you address all parties involved. You may have one child who always leaves the door open so the cat escapes. But don’t assume this is always the case.

Don’t ask questions that encourage lying. Things like, “Did you hit your sister?” can only be answered one of two ways. Kids eager to avoid punishment may be quick to answer with a lie. A better question can be framed as God did, “How did your sister come to get that red mark on her arm?”

God calmly stated the natural and logical consequences for their disobedience

In verses 14-19 God lays out the consequences. The consequences were clear and specific. We need to do the same with our kids. “You are grounded!” is not clear or specific. Grounded from what? For how long? God’s consequences are presented in this format:

“Because you did ______, ________ will be your consequence.”

Click here for some natural and logical consequence ideas.

God had compassion on them and provided a way out of their shame.

The shame that they felt about being naked came as a direct result of their sin. God could have easily left them that way – to wallow in self-loathing, shame and guilt. But he actually did something quite shocking. In verse 21, we learn that He killed something to cover their shame. This isn’t so out of character for God. He killed Someone many thousands of years later to cover our guilt and shame once and for all.

We may want our kids to “feel bad” in response to misbehavior. In fact, I hear many parents report frustration when they give their child a consequence and the seem to not even care. This can lead some parents to punish more harshly rather than provide consequences. Punishment creates shame and guilt (neither of which is biblical or desirable). Consequences provide “real time” cause and effect as well as conviction that teaches and informs for the future. Punishments create fear of external. Consequences create an ownership of the internal. To learn more on why harsh punishments don’t work, click here.

God safeguarded them against deeper problems

In verses 22-24, we see an example of the “severe mercy” of God. He casts Adam and Eve out of the garden and sets an angel with a flaming sword at the entrance. This is not another layer of punishment for good measure. It’s mercy. God knew that there was one more tree in that garden- the Tree of Life. And if they ate of it in their fallen state, their souls would be lost forever. He loved them too much to let that happen, so He sent them away.

The application for us as parents is that we need to look ahead when we are disciplining our children. Are they on the wrong road? Are they in a pattern of repeated misbehavior? Are the escalating? Are our interventions falling flat? If so, we need to do something different. Maybe even something drastically different. Adam and Eve’s life outside of the garden got a lot harder, but it was for their eternal good. Is there something that you need to do as a parent that you are hesitant to do? Something hard? Talk to the Lord about it and ask Him to give you the strength to do what He did – make things harder for the children He loved for their eternal benefit.

Clearly we are never going to be the perfect parent that God is to us. But if we lean on Him, seek His strength and look to Him as a model, He will guide our path.

Image by Pexels from Pixabay

About the author

Laura Kuehn, LCSW

Laura Kuehn, LCSW

Laura Kuehn, LCSW is a licensed clinical social worker specializing in children and families. CfP is the place she combines some of her very favorite things: writing, parenting and God's word. She loves encouraging parents to build their families upon Jesus, the one true Cornerstone. She is happily married to a wonderfully supportive husband and is the mother of two delightfully inspiring children.

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