TLP 108: The Rock, the Bread, and the Donut | why we give our kids things, Part 3
Rocks are bad. Bread is good. But what about Donuts? Today’s AMBrewster teaches Christian parents the delights and dangers of giving your children “Donuts.”
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Welcome back to the final episode in this three part study. Today we discuss what Donuts are and why they can be both delightful and dangerous.
But's let’s review momentarily.
First, we learned that everything we give our children falls under one of two categories. We can give our kids things that glorify God or things that don’t glorify God.
Rocks are the things we give that don’t glorify God. We give Rocks by giving our children bad things or by withholding the good things we’re supposed to give them. They never need Rocks.
On the other hand, Bread are the things our children genuinely need. It always glorifies God to give our kids the things they need for life and godliness.
So, where do Donuts fit in?
If Rocks are the bad things and Bread are the good things, does that mean there’s a third category?
No, it doesn’t, and that’s what makes parenting with Donuts so challenging.
Now, I’m not saying we shouldn’t use Donuts in our parenting. I’m not suggesting we live some monastic, basic-sustenance lifestyle. In fact, I am saying we should use Donuts in our parenting.
As loving parents, we desire to give them so much more than their basic needs. We love to give good gifts to our kids. Not only do we give them biblical Truth, we provide them an education which opens their eyes to the other glorious realities of creation. Not only do we give them food and drink, but we give them healthy and tasty food and drink. And not only do we clothe them, we provide comfortable, attractive, affordable clothes and homes.
And this is good because Donuts are the things we and/or our children simply want.
I remember back in high school, back when you could find a pay phone with relative ease, my parents purchased an 800-number for our house. That way, if my sister and I were ever out and needed to call home, we wouldn’t need to dig around for change.
But you know what, eventually I wanted a cell phone. And even though I was at Bob Jones University and had free calls from my dorm room phone, during my sophomore year of college I got my first brick — I mean — cell phone. Even though I didn’t need one, my parents got me one anyway because I wanted one.
That, would be considered a Donut.
Now, I said earlier that everything we give our children falls under one of two categories: those that glorify God and those that don’t. So where do Donuts land?
Consider a real donut. There are sometimes that giving your child a donut would definitely please the Lord. If I and my daughter are on a Daddy/Daughter Date and we grab a donut as we enjoy our time together, that could be wonderful. It’s part of our special time strengthening our relationship and loving each other’s company.
But what if I feed my kid a donut every morning? When if my child throws a temper tantrum because she wants a donut? What if I placate her temper tantrum with a donut? What if my child wants the donut just so he can show off at school during lunch?
What makes the Donut hard to quantify is that it can fall into either the “Things that Glorify God” category or the “Things that don’t Glorify God” category. As I said earlier, this doesn’t only make it difficult, it makes it dangerous.
Most of us can spot the big Rocks in our parenting. Granted, as we saw from episode 104, it’s much harder to spot all the Rocks. I will say this, if you’re having a hard time, just ask your kids. I work at home. I spend all day in the house, but I can count on my daughter to honestly let me know when she feels like she hasn’t been spending enough time with me. And she’s generally right.
And — of course — we all know when we’re giving our kids Bread. Those are the moments we know we’re being Christ-honoring Ambassador Parents. They’re beautiful moments, and we can praise God for them.
But Donuts are things we don’t need. They’re things we want. They can glorify God if we want them for the right reasons. But they can steal His glory if we want them for the wrong reasons. This produces problems.
First, we may wrongfully think that a Donut is actually Bread. This is why we talked about Bread so much in the last episode. It’s vital we don’t get them confused.
And the fix to this is pretty simple. If God says your children need it, then it’s Bread. If it’s still Christ-honoring, but it’s not necessary to life and godliness, then it’s a Donut. But this requires sound biblical knowledge, understanding, and wisdom.
Second, we may give our children a Donut only to find later that it was used in their self-worship. That can be hard to predict, but I believe it’s easier than many us suppose.
And third, we may withhold a Donut the child would have legitimately used to please the Lord. This isn’t the end of the world. It’s unfortunate, but with God on the throne, He so easily works these situations out to our best interest that rarely does anyone know the Donut would have been a better idea.
We’ll explore these concepts a little more, but for now let’s go back to the phone illustration. Nearly every child who has access to a mobile device has used it to steal God’s glory and worship his own lusts. And I’m not merely referring to accessing pornography. Children who waste their time scrolling through leveless games or ingesting hours of YouTube are also stealing God’s glory and worshipping their own lusts.
Is the phone a need? No. No, you Millennial Parent. It’s not a need. People have survived without phones for thousands and thousands of years. However, can a phone be a legitimate, Christ-honoring desire? Yes. Definitely. Can it glorify God for a parent to give his child a phone? Of course! Is the phone itself a sin? No.
But if a child is going to use that tool to worship self instead of God, then this Donut does not please the Lord.
Consider Proverbs 30:8-9 “Two things I ask of you; deny them not to me before I die: 8 Remove far from me falsehood and lying; give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with the food that is needful for me, 9 lest I be full and deny you and say, “Who is the Lord?” or lest I be poor and steal and profane the name of my God.”
The author of this Proverb is asking God not to give him too much or too little. He knew the propensity of his heart. He knew it would be easy to be tempted to steal if he didn’t have enough to survive. But — this next part always blew my mind — this man asks God not to give him too much lest he “be full and deny [God] and say, ‘Who is the Lord?’”
It’s so easy to take something that would otherwise be a supreme blessing and turn it into a curse. How sad it is when we present our children the weapons they use to attack God.
I want to talk about when and how we give our kids Rocks, Bread, and Donuts. But first I need to answer a question.
Some of you may be asking, “What about the things I want to give to my child even though they don’t need or want it?” Well, to simplify this — so we can move on — I’d suggest that we shouldn’t want to give them anything they don’t need or want.
Let me explain, and then we’ll discuss how to know if our children should have a Donut.
My children don’t need violin lessons. And — to be completely transparent — my children don’t want violin lessons. But I want them to have violin lessons. What is that? Well, I’d argue it’s actually something they need. “Children, obey your parents in the Lord for this is right.” They don’t need the lessons because playing the violin falls directly under Truth, food, water, or shelter, or it somehow meets some biblical mental, emotional, or spiritual need. But if mom and dad have decided that they’re going to give their child something Christ-honoring, and though the kids are too immature to understand, they still have the responsibility before God to submit to mom and dad’s wishes. At that point, they do need to take violin lessons because their parents want them to.
Of course, I can want to give my kids Rocks that they don’t need or want because I’m sinful. But there’s an easy fix for that — don’t do it.
And that leads us into our final consideration for the day.
Is it ever okay to give our kids Rocks? No. It’s never okay to give our children things that don’t glorify God.
Is it ever wrong to give our children Bread? No. It’s never wrong to give our children things that will glorify God.
So, what about Donuts?
Here’s how to know if the thing you’re giving your child is Bread or a Donut:
If you have a child who has repeatedly connected with the wrong people and gotten into recreational drug use. Don’t let them go to that birthday party unchaperoned. If the first thing your five year old does after being handed crayons is draw on the walls, perhaps you shouldn’t give him the crayons. Most of this stuff is common sense, but — to be completely honest — we’re often too lazy or afraid of what will happen if we say “No” to do what’s right.
However, many times we give our child a Donut believing it will please the Lord, only to find out our kid abused it.
I’ll give you a sedate example. As a child my dad did this great thing, he told me, “Aaron, if you ever want to play with fire, just let me know and we’ll do it together.” Well, I’ve used a version of that with my kids. I’ve taught my children how to start fires and maintain fires in all sorts of conditions and for all sorts of purposes.
For about a year now, if my kids asked to go in the back yard and start a fire in the fire pit, my wife and I would oblige. And slow but surely we played a smaller and smaller role in that process. It’s not uncommon to find Micah and Ivy playing around the campfire for hours.
So, recently I told Micah that I was going to give him more freedom. From now on, Micah did not have to ask to start a fire in the fire pit. If he had permission to be outside, he knew that he could start a fire in the fire pit without asking.
And it worked just fine for a time.
Unfortunately, he started being irresponsible. I found lighters outside in the backyard. He didn’t clean up his mess or put away the unburned cardboard.
Now, he didn’t burn the house down or hurt anyone. He was still responsible in his fire management, but he wasn’t being trustworthy to glorify God with the process. And, in retrospect, my wife and I taught our kids how to manage a fire, but we never specifically taught them to clean up after themselves.
Yes, we’d tell them it was time to put out the fire and clean up, but we never specifically taught them to put the lighters back inside, clean up the wood pile, and put the unburned cardboard away. We instructed them to do it, but never taught them about how it glorifies God to do it and how they should remember to do it on their own.
Well, Micah and I are now working on that, and when he’s more responsible to maturely manage a fire and clean up after himself, I will give him his Donut back. And, I imagine that will be soon.
Now, one more illustration. This one’s a little more difficult.
Some of you your kids are so young that what I’m about to describe seems foreign. It’s pretty easy to convince and control little kids. What I’m about to describe is more typical among teenagers who’re exercising their perceived independence who — due to their overactive stubbornness and increased size — are not as easy to control.
But you’d be surprised how many people I meet in my field who have teenage sized problems wrapped up in elementary bodies.
This is how it works: you have a child who refuses to obey. They reject your Truth, they misuse your trust, and then seem to take everything in their lives and offer it on the altars of self.
So, you attempt to biblically discipline your child. You use all the correct forms of teaching, admonishment, correction, and rebuke. And after a time you realize you have Hard Hearted Child or Rocky Hearted Child. You can learn more about them in “The Four Children” series which starts in episode 55.
So, now in addition to the normal consequences your child’s behavior earns him, you have to start thinking outside the box.
First, let me say that you should never not give your children Bread. If your children need it to glorify God, do not ever keep it from them. That would be a very foolish and perverted type of discipline.
And — obviously — you never give your child Rocks to punish them. If it doesn't glorify God, don’t ever do it.
What you need to do is pull back the Donuts.
Before I continue, please understand that the example I’m going to share with you will sound extreme. This is not the norm. My two illustrations are like bookends for our application. My son’s example was very simple, and this one is very hard. Most of you will likely fall somewhere in the middle.
I remember working with a family that had a boy who slept in a bare room with nothing more than a bed and a dresser for his clothes. Now, he was not being abused or mistreated. His parents loved the Lord. He went to school, he ate the same food the rest of the family did, his parents hugged and kissed on him, they read books together, they all went on family outings, but this boy had repeatedly and often violently refused to submit to his parents expectation that he follow the house rules.
Now, I was intimately acquainted with their house rules, and I can say that they all glorified God. This boy was not only unsaved, but he was one of the youngest scorners I had ever met. He had absolutely no desire to obey. He didn’t want to be kind to his siblings. He wanted to watch wicked things. He wanted to steal money. He wanted to break his sibling’s toys. He wanted to say whatever he wanted to say. He wanted to never do his chores.
So, his parents wisely started removing things that were not necessary to life and godliness. They started with the things that this boy deliberately used to sin. They removed his access to the internet. They also took back his iPod that had tons of sinful songs on it.
I was there when they lovingly explained to their son that they want God’s best for him. They also explained that they wanted to be able to give their son tools he could use to please the Lord, but when he chose to use those tools to hurt others or sin against God, they couldn’t give him those tools with a clear conscience.
Now, keep in mind, they weren’t punishing him for not being a Christian. They merely expected outward conformity to the rules of the home — in many ways expecting the same compliance an unsaved parents would expect.
Well, he didn’t care. He stubbornly tried to sneak and/or steal phones so he could do what he wanted to do. And, all the other rebellions issues continued unabated.
Eventually, they had this conversation with him. “In the Old Testament God promised to bless the Israelites when they obeyed Him and curse Him when they didn’t. God was trying to teach the Jews that sin hurts. In this family, your mom and I give our children many blessings simply because you’re our children. But you’ve made it clear that you don’t want to function in this family as an active, loving member. And you think you have a right to all the same blessings as the rest of the family. But you have to learn that sin hurts. Until you show us that you’d like to function as a beneficial part of this family, we’re going to have to stop giving you those blessings that are reserved for obedient children.”
They started with benign things like the decorations in his room. Eventually, after using most of his toys to hurt the other kids, he lost them as well. He lost access to his bike. He was pulled from his soccer team. And this boy, in his defiance and stubbornness pushed so hard that he found everything but his bed and clothes removed from his room.
Now, the parents didn’t burn it or throw it away. They simply put it into storage, greatly desiring to return it to him when he started living for God instead of himself.
I was very proud of this family. They did the very hard thing of removing the Donuts because the boy refused to glorify God with them.
Again, this was an extreme example; 99% of the parents I work with never have to get anywhere near 50% of what these parents did.
Now, in a couple weeks, Dr. Jim Newheiser is going to be on the show with me. We’re going to talk about how “Parenting Is Not a Formula.” This is important to note for two reasons: 1. I’m not saying that what this family did will definitely work for your child. And 2. Dr. Newheiser is one of the few people who’ve written a Christ-honoring book about parenting adult children. In that book he shares a similar principle to use with an adult child. And in cases like that, sometimes the consequences are more significant. Sometimes the Donut you must remove is the blessing of living in your home.
Now, it might be appropriate to tell your adult son or daughter that unless they choose to submit to your authority in your home, they’ll have to find someplace else to live, but it would not be appropriate to do that to a child under seventeen.
However, programs like Victory Academy for Boys can sometimes function in this way. Many times parents have had to say to their minor children that they cannot go on rebelling and expect to enjoy the benefits of living in the home. These parents often invest a lot of money in sending their boys to Victory. They know our greatest desire is to teach their son to submit to God’s Truth and submit to it when it’s presented to them by mom and dad. So, the boy is here for 9 months, and — Lord willing — when it’s time to go home he’s ready to function in the family in a Christ-honoring way. He won’t be perfect, but hopefully he’ll be willing to submit to God’s Truth when his parents share it.
I will say that this practice has been very helpful for my children. If there’s a toy that my wife and I find the children repeatedly fighting over, we’ll tell them that since we love them we won’t allow a piece of plastic to tempt them to be unkind and hateful to each other, and we remove the toy.
Now, here’s the last thing — this is merely a consequence. Doing things like this without deliberate, biblical, wise, and clear parenting (and when I say parenting, I mean counseling) will not teach your children Truth.
Without an overly clear explanation of the issue from God’s perspective, and without counseling the heart, your child is free to come to his own interpretations of what you did. You may have done everything the right way with the right motive, but because you didn’t communicate it well your child assumes that you took the toy because you hate him. The only lesson he learned was that if you’re mad at someone you can take their stuff.
Removing Donuts from a child who’s choosing to dishonor God with them is the consequence. But you should never stop there. If you want to see genuine heart change, you need to be instant in and out of season to bathe them in God’s Word when you're walking and standing and sitting, hold them to high biblical expectations, wisely draw out the thoughts and intents of their hearts, helping them apply God’s Truth to their own lives, and lovingly parenting them as a glad steward and Ambassador of God — not a put-out parent.
I pray today’s notes are valuable to you. Please be in prayer about our whole notes situation. As easy as it should be to post free downloadable PDF notes on Weebly, they’re unnecessarily complicating the issue by limiting our options. For now, the notes are being posted on the page as a JPEG so you don’t have to mess around with Scribd.
Anyway, please join us for our next episode when we answer the question, “Are Messy Kids Okay?”
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We all love to provide for our children, and generally we like giving Rocks and Donuts more than we like giving Bread. Let’s make sure we remove the Rocks from our parenting, give Bread all the time, and be wise in how and when and what kind of Donuts we give our kids. As long as they’re glorifying God with them, pour them on, but be wise.
Have a great day!
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