Breaking the will

I recently came across this article on Facebook. It is 5 days old now, and to be upfront, I know nothing about the book “To Train Up a Child” aside from what I read in this article.

It is a heartbreaking that someone could behave in such a way towards a child. It should be shocking that it is done in the name of Christianity, but unfortunately, it isn’t. It is disgusting the things that are done in this world, and shaming to the name of Christ when done in His name.

Again, I have not read the book, and so I won’t comment on it. I wish I could trust journalists, but in this day I really don’t feel that is something I can do. Everything must be researched and fact checked independently. And so, I will comment on something else I have heard many times from what I would assume is the same group/circle of so called “christians” who practice the things described – even if they aren’t really in the book.

Breaking the will of the child. I’ve heard this many times. I’ve heard it from people I would think have a good foundation. I’ve heard it from well-intentioned grandparents. I’ve heard it as a parenting method that needed to be done early in a child’s life. I heard it early on when we had our first child. But I haven’t seen the verse for it.

This post could be quite long if I took into consideration all the Bible does say to do in parenting children. I don’t intend to go there. Please do not misunderstand then to think I don’t know or agree with what the Bible says in other verses. Similarly in the way someone preaching the story of the Philippian jailor might not preach a subpoint on repentance because Paul doesn’t call on the person to repent. We know repentance is part of salvation, but he just says believe in the context. I know there are more verses on parenting – perhaps another time.

As unsaved we are completely and totally depraved. This doesn’t mean that the unsaved have no disposition whatever to do right (Rom. 2:14-15; 3:18), that they never do any good (Matt.23:23; Acts 10:2), that they commit every sin there is, that they are as bad as they could be (2 Tim. 3:13), or that they have all made the same progress in sinning. It does mean sin has affected the whole of man’s being (Eph. 4:17-19) – mind (Rom. 8:5-7; Titus 1:15), heart (Jer. 17:9), and will (Jer. 13:23; John 8:34). It does mean man has the native capability of committing the worst sins (Rom. 1:18; 3:10-18). It does mean when the unsaved do right, it is not for God’s glory (Matt. 6:5; Prov. 21:4)). It does mean the unsaved are completely destitute of the love that God demands (1 John 4:7-10). Finally, it does mean that the unsaved have no possible means of salvation within themselves (Eph. 2:1,8).

How does this apply to our topic at hand? Simply, the will cannot be broken. The outward actions can be changed, but the will itself is hardened in sin against God. The will is not bent towards righteousness, and nothing you or I as a parent can do will change that. We cannot break the will. We can crush their spirit. We can discourage them. We can devalue them and make them feel worthless. We can convince them they are hated and wicked. We cannot break their wills. This is an error at the very center of theology for parents to try to do what only God can do. And then, surprise surprise, God doesn’t break the will. He changes it.

Another result of trying to break the will is that it angers their children. Something they have been commanded not to do in Scripture (Eph. 6:4). The contrary is to bring them up in nurture and admonition. That is to care for, foster, enoucrage, promote, cultivate. If parents would spend their time doing these things, they would find far better results than doing something some book, or some church member told them to do.

The Bible is plain in showing how Jesus took care of children. When they were rebuked, He said let them come to me. He held them on his lap. The Bible uses words like nurture, train, and admonition because that is what we are supposed to do. The idea is not one of breaking – ever. Training is leading in the right path. These are the things we are supposed to do.

We cannot break the will of a child, but we aren’t even supposed to try even if we could. God gives enough commands to us without us adding our own. If you have been taught to parent like this, I implore you to look into the Scriptures for yourself. Look at all the good God has given for you to do and don’t allow some framework from someone else to overlay God’s commands. If you have heard this, or propagated it, don’t do it any more. When it comes up, speak out against it. It isn’t possible and it does harm to the child, and to your relationship with them. Don’t allow people to parent in ignorance if God gives you an opportunity to talk on the topic. Use that for helping people see how God does want us to parent. After all, God is our Father, and He didn’t break our wills. He changed them.


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