Summary: The parent who balances love and discipline without compromising either produces well-adjusted kids who maintain a positive relationship with Mom and Dad.

We are looking at the building blocks of faithful families in our series; and this week we’re gonna look at the topic of discipline. About twenty some years ago when Beth and I were just starting on this journey called parenting, we hosted a family conference here at Southeast that was very helpful to us. And if I were to boil down the most beneficial concept that I learned that entire weekend, it would have to be the lesson that I received on the four stages of parenting. Countless times I have referred and returned to that topic because it helped me to pave the way in raising and releasing our kids into adulthood. And it was Gary and Anne Marie Ezzo who were talking, and they talked about these four stages.

So you might want to take notes today, but I just want you to understand the importance of every stage and how you must progress through those. If you miss a stage, you have to go back and basically cover it again. It’s kind of like in baseball, if you’re rounding second and heading toward third but you miss second base, well, you have to go back and touch second base before you can advance onto third. And that’s how it is with these stages.

Let me share them with you. The first stage is that of discipline—birth to five years of age. This may be the most important. Your primary goal as a parent is to establish your right to lead their little lives. It’s a stage of tight boundaries and there are limited freedoms. And your task is to get control of your child so that you can effectively train them.

The second stage is that of training—six to twelve. Don’t get hung up on exact numbers, but this gives you some idea. This is when you are seizing every opportunity. You are training alongside of them. You are hand in hand. You’re trying to give them more opportunities, but you are right there beside them. You can stop the game at any time, at any point, and offer instruction.

Now if you have done the discipline stage well, then it is not a daily battle at this stage of training of who is in charge. Your children know at this point that it’s not up for debate any more if you have taught them the discipline stage.

The next stage that you progress through is the stage that we will call coaching—ages thirteen through nineteen. This is a time when our children are in the game of life for themselves. We can send plays in from the sidelines; we can huddle up during time-outs, but we can no longer stop the game for extended periods of time and show them how to act and how to treat others. They now progressively are learning to call the plays themselves and to move forward, and parents are an active resource during this time as they provide assistance to them.

The final stage is the one that we’re all working towards relationally, and that is friendship—twenty and older. This is the crown. This is the reward. It is the relational goal of our parenting, and that is friendship with our children. This is a new season of life when our kids become adults and they become our friends.

Now in the friendship stage the parent/child relationship does not cease. It’s just that the parent and child relationship enters into a new stage—a new season of life. It is a disciple-making relationship that has progressed through the years, and it now culminates in this form of friendship.

But beware that there are a number of permissive parents who make the mistake of trying to enter the friendship stage earlier than they should. It may be when the child is six. It might be when they’re twelve. It may be when they’re sixteen. And they try to be their child’s buddy. But you are not your child’s buddy. You are to be their parent. And if you can remember that and work your way through those stages, you will know when the time for friendship is right. You can be close to them. You can do things that friends do together. But they are looking to you to be their parent.

So keep plodding through those stages. We can harm our children by trying to be their friend when they still need a trainer or a coach. You are not their peer; you are their parent. And like me, you probably have made some mistakes in your parenting. I make mistakes every day, every week. We all have. But there come times where we have to regroup and we have to refocus.

You know, I don’t enjoy reading parenting books that make me feel guilty. I don’t like listening to sermon series that I walk out of and I say, “You know what? I will never measure up.” And I hope this one is different in that instead you’ll walk out of these services and you will say, “You know what? I can do this. I can do this with God’s help. I can do this if I really come back to God’s Word and rely upon Him.”

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