I told you about the time I wanted to punch Josh and the time I wanted to cuss him out and the time of the showdown. I have had my mommy moments when I have wanted to take my kids out of the world that I brought them into. But how does the discipline moment for the Christian get to the point where the police are involved, not because someone in a public bathroom witnessed, disagreed with your methods and called the police, but your own child called them to your house?
By now you have heard this is what happened to Creflo Dollar, the megachurch pastor of World Changers Church International in College Park, GA. News reports say Dollar and his 15-year-old daughter argued because he said she couldn’t go to a party. At some point the verbal sparring got physical, with Dollar allegedly choking, slapping, punching, and hitting his daughter with a shoe, though he denies punching his daughter.
Dollar says he was just trying to restrain her after she hit him. According to the incident report, Alexandria Dollar, 19, sister of the 15 year old, says her father "put both hands around her sister's neck and choked her for about five seconds." She also alleges that her dad grabbed her sister by the shoulders and slapped her in the face. And the 15 year old on the 911 call says the reported incident was "not the first time." Dollar was arrested, taken to Fayette County Jail and released on $5,000 bond. He faces misdemeanor charges of simple battery and cruelty to children.
This incident disturbs me on a number of levels: that a girl seems to have been abused at the hands of her father; that the man involved declares to be a representative of God; that all of child discipline will be under greater scrutiny; and that this mars the church, God's glory and Christianity. By Dollar's own admission, he wrestled his daughter to the ground. I wasn't there and don't know all the details, but I don't believe that a 50-year-old man has any business physically restraining a 15-year-old girl for any reason. The situation got out of hand, but how does child discipline in the home of Christians get this far? I don't know for sure in Dollar's case, but let me help us be mindful of what Scripture says that gives us insight into how we might avoid his fiasco happening to us:
Perhaps the best known child training scripture is Proverbs 22:6: “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” This verse suggests very early training in do's and don'ts of God's word. Young children don't have a great capacity (if at all) for reasoning so the early training focuses on physical discipline after saying and showing what proper behavior is (Of course the physical discipline doesn’t apply to infants until they display clear rebellion and even then a tap on the hand or the thigh should be sufficient). Biblical Child Training Expert J. Richard Fugate, author of “What the Bible Says About Child Training: Parenting With Confidence,” calls this early part of child training the controlling phase, where parents set rules and boundaries for children. As children get older, from ages 12 or 13 to 20 says Fugate, parents should be able to talk to their children when they err. This is the teaching phase. The children at this point have the capacity to understand and reason, knowing full well the difference between right and wrong and the consequences for ill behavior. They are more inclined toward willful submission, not forced compliance as in younger years. Parents should not have to spank children at this age, but withholding privileges should be sufficient. Consistently teaching a child and following through on meting out punishment for rebellious behavior establishes parental authority. When child training has occurred from an early age, children should recognize their parents' authority, and this recognition is necessary so children obey, no matter what their age. But sometimes children lose their minds and their behavior makes us want to choke them. No matter their temporary insanity, we must keep our heads and still discipline biblically.
When we feel we want to jump on our kids for their blatant rebellion, we must pause to collect our emotions or run away like Joseph did when Potipher’s wife was trying to get him to sleep with her. When we find ourselves in a compromising situation, we need to take a break and only respond when we can do so biblically. This is where OUR training comes in place. We have to learn, understand and display the Fruit of the Spirit, particularly self-control, BEFORE we have to handle those extreme child rebellion moments. We also have to remember our charge not to provoke our children to anger (Ephesians 6:4). If we didn’t establish control when they were younger so they don’t know how to control themselves when they are older or if the child simply had a moment of insanity, we must take a different course of action, one that is still biblical.
Something is terribly wrong when a 15-year-old calls the police on her father, a Christian father and pastor nonetheless. Perhaps the girl wasn’t trained from an early age; perhaps her parents didn’t train themselves; or perhaps the girl, for some other reason, lost her mind and decided to rebel. Whatever the case, when a child is intent on being rebellious, sometimes we have to throw up our hands. That’s what the father of the prodigal son did (Luke 15:11-24) and that’s what God does to us who decide we want to be “reprobate,” which means not morally as we ought to be (Romans 1:28-32). I believe we have to tell our children who ought to know better but don’t want to do better ‘if you plan to live here you have to abide by my rules. If not, we’ll find you another place to live.”
We must always think about the consequences of our actions to our children, to the watching world and to us. We are to protect our children, not abuse them like someone they might encounter in the streets. As Kingdom parents, we are to give our children a biblical foundation in words and actions so they have confidence in us to do the right thing, know how to behave and how to expect others to treat them. Our lives give them a barometer for being godly adults and choosing godly mates who won’t abuse them. When we discipline our children biblically, we become an example to the watching world on corporal civility and God’s supernatural ability through us. Behaving opposite of our calling allows the world to discredit Christianity and the church at large, surmising that we are no better than they are. Finally, when we don’t discipline biblically, we damage our reputation and render ourselves less effective in our area of Christian service. Many believe that, according to 1 Timothy 3:2-5, Dollar should have stepped down from ministry, at least until he got his house in order. We may not be a pastor like Dollar, but we may have to step down from some activities that prevent us from properly disciplining our children. We have to do whatever we need to do in order to put the Kingdom first.