WHO’S KIDDING WHO?
August 28-29, 2004
It’s in the air. You can feel it. Football season is here! Isn’t that great? There’s nothing like football season. Texas and football, man, it goes together like chips and hot sauce. Maybe you like to watch high school football on Fridays. Maybe Saturday you like to hit the college games. Maybe Sunday you’re into the NFL, especially the Cowboys. Maybe that’s your scene.
When a football game is played right, it’s something to behold. A shoestring tackle, a diving catch, or a long run will bring any crowd to its feet. Conversely, I’ve been to some sorry football games, too. And so have you. You know those games where you leave going, “Oh, man, that was a whip! Let’s get out of here early. Let’s beat the crowd. That was horrible, it was so sloppy. The game was marred by fights and fumbles and injuries. Ugh!” we say.
The family is a lot like that. When the family is running right, when you have some discipline going on, when you have some continuity going on and grace and love and vision, it will bring any crowd to its feet. But, when the family is not working right, when it’s marred by fights and fumbles and turnovers and injuries, it’s pretty ugly.
Well, today in this series, I’m going to talk about something that is very controversial. Whenever I mention this topic questions arise, opinions are expressed, and basically, confusion ranks. I want to talk to you about discipline in the family. Discipline.
When I say the word “discipline” what comes to mind? Some of you might think some negative thoughts. Others here, maybe you might think some positive thoughts. Over the next several moments, I’ve got some goals in mind. I want to talk with you, not at you, because I’m a fellow struggler. My wife, Lisa, and I have been married for 22 years; we have four children ranging in age from 18 all the way down to 10. I’ve not cracked the code on discipline. Nor have you. So understand that.
Another goal is I want to come along side you and challenge you from Scripture. I want to basically tell you what God’s Word says about discipline. What’s the skinny on the subject? What’s the deal? Because my opinion is fine and dandy, but what the Bible says, that is the ultimate.
Also, I want you to understand that God wants you to win. God wants your family to score touchdown after touchdown. He wants you to be a success. He has an amazing season planned for every family here. I don’t care if you’re in a single parent family, a blended family, or the typical nuclear family with 2.3 children, God has great stuff in store for you.
At this time, though, I’m going to do something that I’ve never done before. I’m going to make you a promise. I’ll promise you that over the next 25 minutes or so I’m going to exhaust this subject on discipline. I’m going to tell you everything I know from the Bible regarding discipline. In other words, when you leave Fellowship Church today, you’ll have the tools you need to be the kind of parent that God wants you to be. You might be going, “Well, man, Ed you’re going to do that in 25 minutes? I thought you knew more about discipline than that!” Well, just trust me. Just trust me today.
Whenever we watch football, what do we do? We watch it in person or we watch television. We basically stare at a football field. And we’ll spend large blocks of time just staring at a football field over the next three or four months. When I walk into a football stadium, see a beautiful field with those hash marks and goal lines and yard lines and the logo of the team right at the 50 yard line and the end zones decorated beautifully, I usually don’t think this, “Wow! Huh, they must have some kind of grounds crew! Boy, I bet the grounds crew spent a lot of time making this field happen.” I don’t think that. And most of you don’t either. A few of you might, but most of us don’t think along those lines.
I’ve learned something. As a parent, one of my major responsibilities is to be a member of the grounds crew. It’s to line off the playing field. I’ve got to chalk the field. I’ve got to decorate the field. I’ve got to explain to my kids why the out-of-bound lines are here, why the hash mark lines are there, why this means a touchdown, and that means a penalty. I’ve got to explain the rules. I’ve got to dissect the game. I’ve got to line off the playing field because if my kids don’t know where the lines are, they’re going to live a messed up life. They’re going to follow my leadership, which would be bogus if I’m not taking the time to line off the field.
Remember last time I told you about my friends, the Blackstones? I talked to you about walking down to their house and playing football in their yard? Well, the Blackstones are kind of weird. You could only play football with the Blackstones in their yard. They would never venture into our yard or the other neighbor’s yard, just the Blackstone’s yard. Well, I got tired of that, so I decided to line off my own football field in my backyard. I’ve always loved football fields. I wanted all the neighborhood kids to come over to my house.
So I took our little yard and took some flour from my Mom, and I began line off a football field. Problem…after about two lines the flour was out. I said to myself, “Man, what am I going to do? What am I going to do?” Then I saw a sandbox, my brother’s sandbox. I just swiped a bunch of sand from him and I lined off this football field with sand. It was a beautiful field, maybe 15 or 20 yards long. It was unbelievable. And I stood on our deck and looked down; and I felt so proud because I had my very own, lined off football field.
I called my friends over. The Blackstones couldn’t come over, but everybody else came over, and we played a game. It was the best football game we ever played because for the first time in our lives, everyone knew exactly where the lines were. There were no fights, quarrels. It was cool! It was great! One problem, though, the next day it rained and it rained and it rained. And before my eyes I watched my football field vanish. Then I just got some more sand and lined the field off again. And it rained again. And finally I got tired of the drill and no longer did I line off the football field.
LINE OFF THE PLAYING FIELD
Parents make a mistake when we line off our football field with sand and flour. Because the rains of fear, the rains of exhaustion, the rains of being ill-informed and ill-equipped wash the stuff away. And what was a touchdown yesterday is a penalty today. And what was off-sides a long time ago is now a shoestring tackle.
Kids love lines! They’re begging for boundaries. And they will kind of venture out and they’ll look and they’ll test the waters and kick the tires because they want to know where the lines are. They want boundaries. And they want to hear that voice say, “Ah, ah, ah…that’s a boundary.”
Parents, we can’t just draw lines and then say, “Hey, you crossed the line. You’re in trouble.” We’ve got to explain why the lines are the way they are. We’ve got to explain where they are. And also, we’ve got to explain, as God’s agent, as God’s parent, “I’m simply doing for you, son, or for you, daughter, what God has graciously done for me.” Because the Bible is a book of lines. That’s what it is. It’s a football field. And God says, “Man, I have a great game for you. Man, I’ve got a great season for you individually and now for your family. You do what I have done for you.” It’s pretty heavy, isn’t it Mom and Dad?
You realize that our children get their concept of God from us. That’s heavy. What a responsibility! You say, “Wait a minute, Ed. You’re telling me my son or my daughter, they get their concept of God from the way I treat them, the way I draw lines?” Yes! Yes! And we’ve got to draw the lines lovingly and strategically and with discipline.
In Proverbs 29:15, “A child,” it says, “who gets his own way brings shame to his mother.” So as a parent, I can draw lines and I can change the lines, but I shouldn’t do that. As a parent, I can also give my kids the opportunity to draw their own lines. I shouldn’t do that because that’s wheels off. I’ve got to draw the lines. If I allow my kids to get their own way, to do what they want to do, to do what makes them feel good, what makes them look good, what gives them pleasure, they’re going to bring shame to family team. And it shouldn’t be that way.
We ask our kids too many questions. “What do you want to eat? Where do you want to go? What do you want to do? What time do you want to go to bed?” Now I’m all for asking questions. But sometimes we OD on questions, moms and dads. Remember, we’re the leaders. We’re the veterans. Our kids are the rookies.
Proverbs 22:15 says, “Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child.” How many people believe that? How many are a public testimony of that fact! Go to Barnes and Nobles today. The shelves sag with books on parenting. And so many of the parenting books are still batting around this question: “Are kids good? Are they basically good? Do they start out as little cherubs who fly through life and get stained by the sin of the world? Or do they have a bent towards badness? Do they have a sin nature? Which one?”
Sometimes, I talk to people and they’ll say, “You know, I think kids are good. I think kids are basically good.” “Really?” I say, “Are you married?” “No.” And I say, “You know what? Get married and have a couple of kids and then talk to me.” Because we all have the sin nature. We have an incredible opportunity and a great capacity for greatness, but we have this sin nature.
Think about a little kid. That little kid is swinging in maybe a Graco swing, and he’s looking around and maybe mom is making the bottle and dad is watching Sports Center and the older sister is doing something else. And he’s kind of casing the joint. He’s saying to himself, “I’m going to take over this team. I’m going to own this thing.” It’s just a natural desire we have.
Kids beg for boundaries. They love the lines, and they’re feeling for the lines. They’re searching for the lines. And the best kids I know come from parents who have drawn the lines.
Hebrews 12 talks about this in Verses 5 and 6, “And you have forgotten that word of encouragement that addresses you as sons: ‘My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when He rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines those He loves.’”
Discipline is not something we do to our children. It’s something we do for our children. It’s a gift. I talk to a lot of people who are in this post-modern deal and, and there’s definitely some trends toward post-modernity. But some of this post-modern mumbo jumbo goes like this: “You know, man, love is like this positive vibe, this positive force. And discipline is like this negative vibe, this negative force. It’s like this dualism going on, man.” Come back?!
As a parent, we can’t truly discipline unless we are a true source of love. Discipline and love aren’t separate. They’re not positive and negative. They go together. There’s great connectivity, there’s great harmony there. Whenever I discipline my children, whenever you discipline your children, we’re mimicking the majesty of our Maker, which is God himself, who drew the lines. We’re drawing the lines and we’re doing it because we love our kids. We’re doing it because we are crazy about them. And they might not applaud us at the time and go, “Yea, Mom! Yea, Dad!” But one day they’ll turn around and thank us.
As a kid, my parents were season ticket holders to watch the University of South Carolina Game Cocks play football. They always had a sorry team, but I enjoyed going to the games. There was a guy that sat behind us and this guy would get drunk every game. And here’s how he would boo, because watching Carolina play, you had a lot of opportunities to boo. But here’s how he would boo. [Ed mimics this man by stopping his feet and yelling.] “BOOOOOOOOOO! BOOOOOOOOOOO!” And he’d just do it over and over. And if I’d been older I would have gone, [Ed punches his fist] But, I was too young. [Ed mimics again] “BOOOOOOOOOO!” Ugh!
Why do people boo at football games? Like that’s going affect the coaching staff and the referees! It’s hilarious. Go to Texas Stadium. “Hey, Bill Parcells, you should have called another play.” [Ed chuckles] What? Bill Parcells has forgotten more about football than this frustrated All-American knows. You know? It’s just hilarious.
Anyway, sometimes our kids will boo us parents. We’ll do something, “Hey, you stepped over the line. Hey, hey.” “BOOOOOO, Mom! BOOOOOO, Dad!” And parents usually mail it in and cave in and go, “Oh, no! Don’t boo me! I want to be your friend, your buddy. I’ll change the call. Really, I didn’t mean that. I mean, everything is cool.” We have got to stand up. We have got to hold up. You know?
When I say the word “discipline” in the parental zone, I’m saying that we have the opportunity to mold and to fashion our kids along with their unique God-given abilities and aptitudes. And basically we have the opportunity to help them maximize the nature and character of God in their lives. That’s what discipline is all about. So we’ve got to be a member of the grounds crew.
How about a referee? Parenting is refereeing too, wouldn’t you say? My wife and I have four kids and we spend some time refereeing, throwing flags. Let me give you a “for instance.”
What if you are watching the Cowboys play and you saw someone get involved in a flagrant face mask? You saw this guy, #79, grab one of the Cowboy running backs by the head gear and just almost break his neck. And what if you were watching and the ref did not throw a penalty flag? You’d probably go, “BOOOOOO!” you know! You’d go nuts. So would I. What if you heard the referee walk up to the guy, #79, who was involved in the flagrant face mask, and what if the referee said, “Hey, man, you shouldn’t have done that. That was bad. That was a no-no. The next time you do that, time out for you!” Would that be ugly? Would that be horrible?
Or what if you saw the flagrant face mask and you saw the referee, you know, throw the flag, but what if he didn’t take away any downs or penalize the team with yardage? What if he said, “You know, I threw the flag, but…I almost took away a down. I almost took away some yards. But, but I’m not this time. One, two….”
We laugh at that, but sometimes as a parent I fall into that. I’ll see my kids misbehave, step over the line; and I know they have committed a penalty, a flagrant face mask, but we’ll sometimes cave in and just, ya know, “It’s okay. Don’t do it again.” Or maybe we’ll throw the flag and get right next to them and think about taking away yardage or whatever, but we won’t do it. Parents, we’ve got to be referees.
CALL A CONSISTENT GAME
And a great referee does what? A great referee calls a consistent game. You show me a great ref, and I’ll show you somebody who’s consistent. Parents, we cannot be inconsistent. We cannot be cruel, we cannot be condescending. We’ve got to be consistent. God is consistent in his refereeing. God’s consistent.
For example, sin has to have a payment. I can’t pay for my own sin. Well, I guess I could in hell. But God did something for me. God sent Jesus Christ to die on the cross for my sins to pay, to do all the work for my iniquities. And then He offers me eternal life. That’s how consistent God is. As parents, we have to be that consistent. And it’s difficult to be consistent. It’s difficult to say, “Okay, here’s the line. You can step over the line, but I’m going to throw the flag and I’m going to back it up with consequences.”
Here’s what I’ve found in parenting. Watch this now. Consistency leads to reliability. In other words, if my parents are consistent, man, I can count on them. They’re reliable. And because they’re consistent and because they’re reliable, what happens? I am a person who is secure. So, consistency plus reliability equals security. It equals a great self-esteem, a great self-concept.
I was talking to a friend of mine a couple of days ago. He’s 29 years old. He said, “Ed, my parents messed up in a lot of areas, but, man, they were consistent. And because they were consistent I knew I could count on them. And because I can count on them I’ve got a strong self-esteem. And this guy has a great concept of God because of the consistency of his parents.
Well, let me tell you about the other thing. Inconsistency leads to unreliability, and unreliability leads to insecurity. You show me an insecure person or a kid and I’ll show you a home where the rules were just kind of made up, where the rules were inconsistent, where the rules were just out there. And because of inconsistency you have unreliability. And because of unreliability you have people who are insecure. We’ve got to call the consistent game.
Three quick suggestions about consistency: Start early. Start early. Start when they’re this high. [Ed holds his hand up close to the floor.] You start lining off the field, blowing whistles, throwing flags, assessing penalties, and God will bless your life and he will bless your kids. And they will have great trajectory when they finally leave the nest. Because remember, scoring a touchdowns in the family unit, being a parent on the family team, is teaching (Deuteronomy 6:6-7) and training (Proverbs 22:6) your kids to leave (Genesis 2:24). So, start early.
ASSESS PENALTIES IN PRIVATE
Also, number two, assess penalties in private. You’re watching a football game. What happens? The flagrant face mask occurs. “Face mask on #79, defense!” And they’ll show a tight shot of number 79 and he’s like. [Ed slumps his shoulders and drops his head.] You know all that.
And parents, we mess up when we embarrass and belittle our kids in public. “Flagrant face mask, #79!” You know, we just go off on them.
“Well, Ed, what if my kids act up in a restaurant? What do I do?” Take them to the restroom and discipline them. “Well, what if we’re in a public place?” Just get in their face and go, “Stop it!” We’ve got to stand up! We’re the leaders. Kids are begging for leadership.
TILT TOWARD A TIGHT GAME
A third suggestion, when you referee, tilt toward calling a tight game. Tilt toward a tight game. The greatest parents I know are godly parents who tilt toward calling a tight game. Don’t start loosey-goosey, “Okay, whatever you want to do,” and then tighten it up. No. No. You start tight and then you can loosen it. Then you can give them more decision-making rope. It’s always best that way. Because if you are inconsistent, you’re going to run into problems. It’s like you see a wide receiver and a defensive back who have been hand-slapping and shoving the whole game. And then it gets down to the fourth quarter and one little touch and the flag is thrown and people go nuts. We can’t parent like that. We’ve got to be consistent.
So, we’ve got to be a member of the grounds crew. We’ve got to be a referee. I also think, parents, part of our deal is coaching. Wouldn’t you agree with that? We’re coaches. And we are a coaching staff. So as the coach, I’ve got to present a balance. I’ve got to present unity and harmony to my kids when I discipline them. I mean that’s a tall order.
Hebrews 12:11, “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.”
MAINTAIN A BALANCED COACHING STAFF
Maintain a balanced coaching staff. I am blown away at how kids know how to divide and conquer. They divide you, Mom and Dad. They divide the marriage. They divide the family. But what happens? Mom tells the kid to do something [and the kids go], “Whaa, whaa, whaa!” The kid goes, “I’m going to see what Dad says about it. Hey, Dad, can I wha, wha, wha?” And Dad says this, “What did your mother say?” “Well, she said blah, blah, blah.” Okay, Dad, here is the lynch pin of the deal. Here is the bottom line. What do you do? Do you mail it in? Do you cower? Do you crumble? Or do you say, “I have got your mother’s back. Whatever she said is what we are going to do. I want to present to you a balanced front. We’re on the same team. We’re on the same staff.”
Hello! That’s tough isn’t it? You know, lets say you disagree with the stance your spouse has made. That happens. You don’t disagree at this point in front of the kids. You don’t say, “Well, I wouldn’t have said what your mother said! I wouldn’t do that. No! Not me. No, no, no.” Just say, “Honey, come here for second.” Just buy time. Buy time. You don’t have to make a decision right there. “Honey, come here.” Go into your bedroom or closet whatever and discuss it. “Yeah, baby, but…. Yeah, okay. That’s your deal? Okay. Yeah, all right. Yeah, okay.” And give her a kiss! “Here is what we are going to do.” You’ve got to buy time.
And that’s why the date night is so important. One of the things you can talk about during your date nights would be disciplinary procedures. It would be lining off the field. It would be calling a consistent game. It would be presenting a balanced front. That’s why it is important to spend time daily connecting with your spouse. That’s why I said several weeks ago, make sure your kids have a bedtime. Don’t put them down when their ready. “When do you want to go to bed honey?” No, no, no. Put them down when you’re ready. Because you can talk about these issues. Discipline. Whoooo! It’s tough. It’s dicey. But I’m going to tell you something, parents. It is worth the work.
You ever sometimes kind of go too far in discipline? I do. Most of the time, you know, I’m right as a parent. And so are you. Parents, we are right. Let’s just face it; let’s just accept it. We’re right most of the time. We are. We’re parents and we’re veterans. Our kids are rookies. Just receive that. Most of the time our kids are wrong when they step over the line. But what happens, now and then, when you’re wrong or when I’m wrong? What do we do?
When my son was six, I was in the backyard teaching him how to ride a bike. He was doing okay and I said, “Okay, son, now we are going to the street where the big boys ride the bike.” So we hit the street in front of our house and we’re riding the bike and he’d fallen several times, skinned his knees. He was kind of crying, a little blood. And I just turned the heat up too much. “EJ, come on, get back on the bike! Be a man. Come on! You can do it!” You know, like that! And as I was talking to him I felt someone watching me. I looked back and there was Lisa. And when our eyes met I knew I had stepped over the line. You know what I’m saying to you? You know what I’m talking about guys, don’t you? So, like, I was pierced in the heart.
I said to myself, “Oh, man, I have stepped over the line. I’ve been too strong with EJ. He has a very sensitive spirit.” So about an hour later, I went to his bedroom. I was putting him to bed and talking to him. I said, “EJ,” I said, “Listen. Um, you know out there in the street?” He said, “Yes, daddy.” I said, “EJ, I was wrong. I’m sorry. Will you forgive me? Because I should not have said the things I said. Will you forgive me?” And EJ just grabbed me and hugged me. And then, after about a minute, he released the hug, got out of his bed, and walked over to his chest of drawers. He has this little wooden box on top of his chest of drawers, and it’s all these sea shells in this wooden box. Sea shells that none of us would pick up. I mean you know. The kind of reject shells. But to a six year old, man! These are valuable. You know what I’m saying to you? And so I saw him grab some sea shells and then come back to me. He said, “Dad, I want to give you these sea shells.” I said, “Okay.” So he gives me three of them. And he said, “You know what those mean Dad?” I said, “No.” He said they mean, “I…forgive…you.”
WOW! Six years old! What a sermon he preached to me. What a parental principle he just hammered into my life. He knew I’d blown it. He knew I’d messed up. And as I left that interchange, I think that’s one of the strongest parental days I’ve ever had because I came clean with my kid.
So parents, sometimes we let the anger get the best of us or we step over the line. We’ve got to come clean because our kids know when we mess up. They know it. They know it.
Well, about now you’re probably checking your watch and going, “Wait a minute! I thought, Ed, you were going to tell me everything you know about discipline, brother? I mean this has been cute and fine. You know, talking about lining the field off, grounds crew member, and about being a referee. That’s cool. A coach. That’s great, man. But surely, Ed, there’s more to discipline.”
Well, there is. See all these kids coming forward? [Several kids make their way down the aisles pushing grocery carts full of books.] I’ll tell you why they are coming forward. I just wrote a new book called “Kid CEO – How to Keep Your Children From Running Your Life.” I did it with Time/Warner. And Time/Warner and Fellowship Church, we’ve partnered together and we’ve done something unprecedented. We’re going to give every single person, every single adult, free of charge, a book, “Kid CEO.” You will leave Fellowship Church with one of these books today. Now, as I told you, this is pretty much all I know on what we’ve been talking about.
But don’t do this: don’t say, “Oh man, I’ve got the book. Now I can skip church for the next three weeks. Yeah! Okay! I see where Ed’s going now.” No. I’m going to talk about some different stuff over the next three weeks. But I do want you to have it. Also, I want to thank Target for providing us these carts. And this book will be available in Target and Wal-Mart (as well as Barnes and Noble and other book stores) all across the country. Just read it. The foreword was written by a friend of mine, Rick Warren, who wrote “The Purpose Driven Life.” And we feel so strongly about this message that we want you to have it. If you don’t read it, give it to somebody who will. And use this to invite someone back for the remainder of this series.
Next weekend I’m going to bring my wife and one of my children on stage to talk some more about this. And we’re going to talk about it over the next few weeks—intimacy in marriage. We’re going to talk about priorities. So just take one of these books and let’s continue to worship as we sing a song called “The Life of Praise.”