Bridging The Generation Gap

Bible Book: Ephesians  6 : 1-4
Subject: Family; Parents; Youth; Children; Teenagers

I read something recently about childbirth that I have never really thought about before. And when I share it with you and you think about it, I think you'll agree it's very profound.

"The pain of childbirth is twofold. There is the pain of bringing the child into the world and there is the pain of bringing that child up in the world. And the latter is greater than the former. The physical pain of bearing a child is tremendous, but it usually lasts only a few hours. But the pain of rearing that same child lasts a lifetime and never lessens."

Have you ever thought about this: Children represent about 25% of our nation's population, but they represent 100% of our nation's future. That is why raising children is one of life's greatest challenges and one of life's greatest privileges.

Every time I preach on the subject of parenting I want you to know right up front I feel very, very inadequate. I don't come with a know-it-all attitude this morning.

Now I know some of you are wrestling with those terrible toddlers. Some of you are fighting with those terrifying teenagers. And either way, as you well know it is not a picnic to raise children in this day and age in which we live.

I heard of a young preacher who had not yet gotten married and did not have any children. He preached a sermon he titled, "Ten Commandments for Rearing Children." Then he got married and he had kids. Those kids turned into terrible toddlers. He preached that sermon again but he changed the title to, "Ten Suggestions for Rearing Children."

Then those terrible toddlers became terrifying teenagers. He preached the sermon again and changed the title to, "Ten Hints for Rearing Children." When the last child was grown and left home he very quietly went out in the backyard and burned that sermon.

Now I can relate to that preacher. I know exactly what he went through. It hit me as I prepared this message, that probably never before has the generation gap been larger and greater than it is between parent and child right now.

Everything has radically changed from the time most of us were children: You think about how music has changed. We have gone from the Grand Old Opry and American Bandstand to Gansta Rap. All in one generation.

You think about how dress has changed. When I was a kid, we used to patch holes in jeans, now they cut them out. You think about how fashion has changed. When I was a kid, if a boy came to school wearing an earring, we'd beat the dog out of him. Now everybody has an earring.

Now, we've even joined other cultures in wearing nose rings. Of course some husbands have been wearing nose rings for years, that's not been a big deal.

Entertainment has changed. We're not excited about outer space, we're excited about cyberspace. Everything has changed.

Raising children is not easy, and if you have a teenager it is doubly difficult. The greatest advice I ever received about raising teenagers I heard from Mark Twain. He once said, "When a kid turns 13, stick that kid in a barrel, nail the lid on top securely and feed him through the knothole. When he turns 16, plug up the knothole.” He knew what he was talking about.

Now many of you are facing this on a daily basis. You're trying to bridge the generation gap. Now it is tough to bridge the gap, but it is not impossible.

God has given some truths in His Word that can build a bridge between parents and children that will last through any storm.

Now as I conclude this series of messages on blueprints for building a happy home, I am focusing on parents. And here is why. When it comes to bridging the generation gap, it has to start with the parents.

If you are a parent, let me make something very clear: You are either building bridges with your children, or you are burning bridges with your children. Now I want to talk to you this morning about how not only to turn your children into productive adults, but also how to keep them as life-long friends.

Now parents, I'm going to boil down the one assignment God has given to you as a mom and a dad. Now it sounds very simple. Look down in V.4, "Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.

"Now don't be thrown off by that word "fathers." It is a general term that means parents.

In Hebrews 11:23, we are told about Moses who was "hidden by his parents." This is the same word that is used here in Ephesians chapter 6.

God knows it takes two to raise a child. If you're a single parent, it takes a double measure of God's grace to get the job done.

Now look at those three words in the middle of the verse, "bring them up." That's three words in the English, but it's one word in the Greek language. It literally means, "raise them to maturity."

Now that is a comprehensive term. It's not just enough to make sure they eat their spinach and drink their milk and brush their teeth. It means to bring them up to maturity in every way. Bring them up physically, emotionally, socially, spiritually.

Mom and dad, you and I are to be producing devoted disciples who will grow up to have a burning, flaming, passionate love for the Lord Jesus Christ and impact their world for God.

It doesn't matter if your child grows up to be the greatest lawyer on earth, or the greatest doctor on earth. It doesn't matter if they grow up to make more money than Donald Trump or hit a golf ball farther than Tiger Woods. The acid test of whether or not you've done your job as a parent is whether or not that child possesses a burning love for the Lord Jesus Christ.

You see, when a child learns to relate to God, when he learns how to love God, he will learn how to relate to himself. And if he learns how to relate to God and to himself, then he'll know how to relate to others. Jesus said, "The greatest Commandment is to love God with all of your heart, and the second is like it, to love your neighbor as yourself." You see, they are all tied together.

Now with that as an introduction, let me point out for you the three needs that every child has. And by the way, although the times change, the basic needs of children are still the same.

I. Give Them Constant Affection

Here in V.4, we are told first what not to do. It says, "Parents, do not exasperate your children." Your translation may say, "Do not provoke them to wrath."

Notice, we are not to provoke them to wrath, we are to provide them with warmth.

The first step to being a good and godly parent is simply to love that child. And to love that child with a godly kind of love.

Now let me point out two ways you are to love that child:

A. Give Them Positive Affirmation

Paul gave this same warning in the book of Colossians 3:21, "Fathers do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged."

When you provoke a child, when you nag a child, aggravate a child, or irritate a child. When you always look for the bad and always try to criticize and put that child down, you discourage that child.

You will do one of two things with a child. You will beat him down, or you will build him up.

Dorothy Briggs has written a book called, "Your Child's Self-Esteem." There is a paragraph in that book that is worth the price of the book. "Your child's judgment of himself influences the kinds of friends he chooses, how he gets along with others, the kind of person he marries, how productive he will be. It affects his creativity, integrity, stability, and even whether he will be a leader or a follower.

His feeling of his self-worth form the core of his personality and determines the use he makes of his aptitudes and abilities. His attitudes toward himself have a direct bearing on how he lives all parts of his life. In fact, self-esteem is the main spring that slates every child for success or failure as a human being.

"You see she is saying the same thing God is saying. What you say to a child is crucial. I believe the most important thing you will do next to leading your child to faith in Christ, is to affirm that child and encourage that child and to build that child up.

Jay Kessler wrote a book about 10 years ago called, "The Ten Mistakes Parents Make With Teenagers." In that book he offers a very practical list of common mistakes.

1. Failure to be a consistent model - That's when you say, "Don't do as I do, do as I say."
2. Failure to admit when you are wrong. - That's when you say, "I'm the adult, therefore, I must always be right."
3. Failure to give honest answers to honest questions. - Like when you say "Because I said so that's why."
4. Failure to let your teenager develop a personal identity. - "You want to be what when you grown up?"
5. Failure to major on majors, and minor on minors. -"This room is a pigpen, you'll never amount to anything."
6. Failure to communicate approval and acceptance. - "Can't you do anything right?"
7. Failure to approve of your teenagers friends without making any attempt to get to know them. - "Where did you find him?"
8. Failure to give your teenager the right to fail. - "You did what?"
9. Failure to discuss the uncomfortable. - "Can we talk about something else?"
10. Failure to take time. - "I'm too busy right now, can you come back later.

"My parent friend, untold damage is done when you say things like..."Why can't you make better grades like your brother." Or..."Why can't you be a good football player like I was?" Or..."I can't believe the dumb things you do." Or..."I can't believe how stupid you are.

"Remember this principle - when you nag, their shoulders sag. But when you praise, their shoulders raise.

Be on the lookout for whenever they do something right and do something good. Try to catch them doing something right. Point it out. Emphasize it.

I was reading the other day about a world famous method of teaching children to play the violin. It's called the Suzuki method. Do you know what they teach children two, three, and four years old when they are learning to play the violin? The first thing they teach that child is how to take a bow.

Do you know why? They know the audience always reacts with applause when a child takes a bow. They know that's what they're supposed to do. And here is what they say, "Applause is the best motivator we have found to make children perform better."

You say, "Well if I don't give him positive affirmation, he'll get it in school. "A recent survey by the National Parent Teacher's Association revealed, "In the average American school, 18 negatives are pointed out for every one positive. Therefore they have discovered that in the first grade, 80% of children feel good about themselves, but by the time they reach the sixth grade, only 10% feel good about themselves.

"Parents, we need to spend less time in negative evaluation and more time in positive affirmation.

When report card time comes, focus on the A's and not the C's. Now I'm not saying you ought to let C's, D's, and F's slide. By the way, if they're bringing home D's and F's, maybe you need to focus on something else altogether. But focus on something positive.

I heard about one little boy who brought home his report card. He had five F's and one D. His father took one look at that report card and said, "Well son, one thing is for sure, with grades like this you're definitely not cheating.”

Dorothy Law Nolte has written this:

If a child lives with criticism, he learns to condemn.

If a child lives with hostility, he learns to fight.

If a child lives with ridicule, he learns to be shy.

If a child lives with shame, he learns to feel guilty.

But on the other hand...If a child lives with tolerance, he learns to be patient.

If a child lives with encouragement, he learns confidence.

If a child lives with praise, he learns to be appreciative.

If a child lives with fairness, he learns justice.

If child lives with security, he learns faith.

If a child lives with approval, he learns to like himself.

And if a child lives with friendship and acceptance, he learns to find love in the world.

Now we are talking about how to love a child. Not only do they need Positive affirmation, but ...

B. Give Them Personal Affection

There are three words that every child should hear every day, it ought to be written with pens of fire on tablets of concrete. And they are the three words, "I love you."

"No matter what you do, no matter how often you fail, I love you.

"Now kids cannot just be told that they are loved, they must be shown that they are loved. You show love by giving. And the greatest gift you can give is yourself. You can give without loving, but you cannot love without giving.

"For God so loved the world, He gave." The greatest gift you can give is S.E.L.F. wrapped up in T.I.M.E.

Too many parents give their children everything they want, without giving them the one thing that they need.

Let me be honest with you. One of the things that is so wrong with children today is they have been given so much, they don't appreciate what they have.

Did you know that American children are given over four billion dollars worth of toys every year? That is more than the gross national product of 63 foreign nations. Think about that. Four-billion dollars worth of toys! I spend one-billion dollars on Christmas all by myself.

Now there is nothing wrong with giving gifts, but let's be honest, sometimes, we give them gifts to satisfy their greed and our guilt. Sometimes, the reason we give them what they want, is because we are unwilling to give them what they need.

If you really want to demonstrate how much you love your child, don't look at how much money you spend on them, look at how much time you spend with them.

So, the first thing a child needs, the first thing every child needs regardless of what generation he's in, is constant affection.

II. Guard Them With Constructive Correction

Now notice again in V.4, "Instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.”

Now the word there for training, is the word discipline. "Bring them up in the discipline of the Lord."

Over in Hebrews 12:6, the Bible says, "Those whom the Lord loves, He disciplines." That's the same word that is used here for training. A disciplined parent, disciplines his children. Now I know that no parent feels that he does a perfect job in disciplining his child. There is only one perfect parent and that is the Heavenly Father. And that Heavenly Father had a perfect Son.

Now I have heard people say, "Well I just don't believe in disciplining my children." Well let me ask you a question. "Are you a better parent than God the Father?" You see the Bible says, "Whom the Lord loves he disciplines.

"You see a parent that says, "I love my son too much to spank him and therefore I don't." Is actually saying, "I love my son too little to discipline him." Remember, "It's those whom the Lord loves, that He will discipline.

"I heard of a mother who told her son over dinner one night, "If you misbehave one more time, you're going to eat your dinner alone." Well sure enough, a few minutes later he did something wrong. His mother took his plate, set up a TV tray in the den and he sat in there by himself. A few minutes later the rest of the family could overhear him praying. He said, "Lord, I thank thee that thou hast prepared a table before me in the presence of mine enemies.

"Parents, let me talk to you candidly as your pastor. I am appalled at how some parents let their children behave in the house of God. The way some of our children get up and walk in and out of our services, we might as well put revolving doors at the back.

And what really amazes me, is that if you go to some of the parents, and sometimes our children and youth workers have done it, the parents get offended.

I heard of a mother one time who asked her son, "Well how did you behave at church today?" He said, "Well I must have behaved wonderfully." His mother said, "Well how do you know that?" He said, "Well after church a lady behind me said, 'I've never seen a child behave that way in my life."

When the Duke of Windsor came to America many years ago and he was asked, "What impressed you most about America?" He replied, "The thing that impressed me most is the way American parents obey their children."

Now as difficult and as challenging as it is, if you're going to be the parent that child needs, you must discipline that child.

Now the Bible tells us both the how and the why of discipline.

Let me first deal with the motive - why?

A. Because Of Their Sinful Nature

Listen to Proverbs 22:15, "Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of correction will drive it far from him.

"Now I know you think he is a little angel all of the time. But that little angel carries a pitchfork.

The Minnesota Crime Commission studied the cause for juvenile crime in America. Listen to what they said, "Every baby starts life as a little savage. He is completely selfish and self-centered. He wants what he wants, when he wants. He is dirty, he has no morals. He has no knowledge, he has no developed skills.

That means all children, not just certain children, are born delinquent. And if permitted to continue in their self-centered world of infancy and if given free reign to their impulsive actions to satisfy each want, every child will grow up to be a criminal, a thief, a killer, and a rapist.

"Psalm 58:3, "The wicked are estranged from the womb, they go astray as soon as they are born, speaking lies.

"Have you ever noticed, even a little baby will lie when it cries in the middle of the night? You go in and you think he's hurt himself or something is terribly wrong. Then you pick him up, he stops crying and starts cooing. He's just a little liar. You try to give him a bottle, he won't eat. You change his diaper, it won't matter. As soon as you lay him back down in that crib and take your hands off and tip toe out of that room, what does he do? He starts crying again. Why? He's a liar.

My mother never had to teach me to do wrong. That came naturally. She had to teach me how to do right.

Listen to me, anything you have to be taught is not part of your nature. You don't teach a child to do wrong, you teach a child to do right. And anything you don't have to teach a child is part of his nature. You don't have to teach a child to be ungrateful, you have to teach a child to say thank you.

You don't have to teach a child to lie, you have to teach them to tell the truth.

You don't have to teach a child to be selfish, you have to teach them to be generous. That is why the number one cause of delinquent children is delinquent parents.

Parents, you are in for heartache and headache if you do not discipline that child.

Listen to Proverbs 29:15 "The rod and rebuke give wisdom, but a child left to himself brings shame to his mother." You can pretty much sum up where children go wrong with those five words, "a child left to himself.

"Leonardo Da Vinci once said, "He who does not punish evil, commands it to be done.

"Listen to what the Proverb says, "Correct your son and he will give you rest, yes he will give the light to your soul.

"You will largely determine how that child views the world around him by how correctly you discipline him.

"As the twig is bent, the tree is inclined
Especially if bent to the sprouts behind."

Now let me tell you another reason you should discipline that child.

B. Because Of His Eternal Destiny

Listen to Proverbs 23:14, "You shall beat him with the rod, and deliver his soul from hell." Now don't be thrown off by that word "beat." That word literally means "to spank." The Bible is never teaches child abuse. Don't hear me saying something I am not saying. I am certainly not advocating abuse. But contrary to what we are being taught by some child psychologists, the greatest form of child abuse in America is the lack of parental discipline.

You see many times you will demonstrate your love for that child by how consistently and affectively you are willing to discipline him. Listen to Proverbs 13:24 "He who spares the rod hates his son, and he who loves him disciplines him promptly."

Now we are talking about constructive correction. That's the motive, what about the method. Now every child is different, but here are a few guidelines. You see how you do it, may be just as important as why you do it. I have two children, they are as different as night and day. You don't always discipline every child the same way. But here are a few general guidelines:

1. Discipline them promptly.

You see you need to start early. Don't start when he is 6' 3" and weighs 200 pounds. It's too late then. Listen to Proverbs 19:18 "Chasten your son while there is hope.

"One of the very first lessons you need to teach that child is to teach them to submit to authority. You see God will never give authority to those who are unwilling to submit to authority.

2. Discipline them physically.

Proverbs 23:13, "Do no withhold correction from a child, for if you spank him with the rod, he will not die."

Now he'll make you think he's dying. "Oh you're killing me." You need to see that paddle as the rod of God.

Now friend, I've learned a lesson. When you do it, do it right. If you do it right the first time, you may not have to do it very often.

Some children don't need many, but he should remember the ones he gets.

I heard Billy Graham tell the story about his son Franklin when he was a boy. Billy Graham was getting on to Franklin for something he had done and Franklin got mad and spit right in his face. Can you imagine that? Do you know what Billy Graham said later, "I don't know where he learned such an ugly habit but one thing I do know, if that boy chews tobacco when he grows up, he'll swallow the juice because after I got through with him, he'll never spit again."

3. Discipline them properly.

You should have some non-negotiable rules in your house. You don't have to have a lot of them.

Don't be constantly saying "no" to that child. But be consistent. Communicate to that child exactly what the rules are and exactly what the consequences are for breaking them. And they'll know when you mean it.

Then, if they break the rules, first the warning then the whipping. You see, don't spank first, speak first.

Then, when that child breaks the rules (not if, because he will break one sooner or later) when he breaks the rules, you do exactly what you said you were going to do. If you say, "Son, if you pick up mama's crystal glass one more time, I am going to spank you." And then he picks up that crystal glass and makes a hammer out of it, you do exactly what you said you were going to do.

I heard of a daddy whose son had misbehaved at a family gathering and on the way home he told him, "Son, when we get home you're going to get a spanking." Well the son had been to Sunday School the week before and found out about the rapture. You know when all Christians will go up and meet the Lord in the air. He said, "Well Daddy, what if the rapture happens before we get home?" His daddy looked at him and said, "Well then, son, I'm going to give it to you on the way up."

Never ever tell a child you are going to spank him if he does this and so, and then when he does it you fail to follow through.

4. Discipline them positively.

Now you say, "How can a spanking be positive?" Well it's all in how you go about it. Never discipline them in anger. That's when child abuse takes place. When you discipline let your spirit and demeanor be calm. Remember, you are disciplining them as a matter of principle. Now that's a hard rule to follow. But discipline should be in love, not in anger.

Tell that child, "Do you understand why I'm disciplining you?" And then after you spank him, you hug that child. You love that child. You remind them that spankings are not something you enjoy.

Here is what happens sometimes. You warn that child one time, two times, three times. You try speaking, then warning, then bribing, and then you lose your patience. And then you spank them with the wrong spirit. You see, kids know the pattern of a parent perfectly. They know the perfect pitch of that scream. They know when you have reached that tone of voice that says to them, "Uh Oh, now mama means business.

"I agree with Dr. James Dobson who says, "Once you have to start yelling at a child, you've lost control of the situation." Kids know the difference between, "Well I don't have to do it right now, and I'd better do it right now."

They know the difference, they can tell. You need to tell that child one time what to do and expect that child to conform.

I heard about a young mother who went to her pastor one time and said, "I'm having trouble with my son, can you help me?" The pastor asked, "Well what's the problem?" She said, "Well last night at dinner I called my son to come eat his soup and he didn't come, the soup got cold.

I warmed it the second time, he still didn't come, and the soup got cold. I called him the third time, he still didn't come, the soup got cold, and I warmed it again." She said, "I warmed that soup ten times and finally after the tenth timed, I yelled at him and screamed at him and then he came. What do you think my problem is?" The pastor looked at her and said, "You were warming the wrong thing. If you had warmed the right thing, Billy would have come the first time you called him."

5. Discipline them privately.

Never discipline a child publicly in front of a lot of people. The purpose is not humiliation, it is education. It never does you any good or the child any good, to spank a child in public and try to embarrass him. Discipline is never an excuse for disrespecting the feelings of a child.

Now I've talked about how every child in every generation needs Constant Affection and Constructive Correction. Here is the third thing that every child needs.

III. Guide Them With Consistent Direction

Now look again at V.4, "Bring them up in the training and the instruction of the Lord." Your translation may say "admonition."

Now that word instruction means, "counsel, verbal instruction with a view toward correction.

 "Discipline is what you do to a child, instruction is what you say to a child. You see this says, "Bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord." Training deals with discipline when they do wrong, instruction deals with direction to do right.

Someone has well said, "If we do not teach a child to do right, we have no right to complain if he chooses wrong.”

And I have said before, the way you teach, is just as important as what you teach. You see if your going to train and instruct you must do two things:

A. You Must Model What You Teach
B. You Must Teach It In A Positive Fashion

I heard of a true story of a business that had a year-end banquet to honor its top salesmen. But they did it in a very unusual way. They were trying to teach the power of positive reinforcement. They sent the two salesmen out and rearranged the tables in the room. Then they blindfolded the men and brought them back in. They had set the room up in a maze. The first man, when he would take a wrong turn, they had a stick and would hit him on the head. When he took the right turn they would do nothing. It took him 7 1/2 minutes to get through the maze. And when he finished he was not a happy camper. The second salesmen, when he would take a wrong turn, they would do nothing. But when he took a right turn, they would take their spoons and they would hit it on their glasses. It took him 90 seconds to get through the maze, and when he finished he was a very happy camper.

My friend, it's not just what you teach, it's how you teach. You can either major on hitting them on the head when they do wrong, or applauding them when they do right.

My friend, if you want to be the parent of a happy child. If you want to bridge the generation gap. You do for them what every child needs the most.

Give them your affection.
Guard them with your correction.
Guide them with your direction.

And when you give them what they need, they will give you what you want: happy, healthy, and holy children.