What does it mean to counsel your kids? Can you really be trusted with that responsibility? Where does someone start? Please join AMBrewster as he teaches Christian parents how to take the first steps in this vital family ministry.
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ACBC Reading List
Listen to the following episodes on Apple Podcasts by clicking the titles.
“Counseling and Parenting” (episode 53)
“The Parent’s 5th Job: Counselor” (episode 187)
“Teach Your Children to Learn” series (starts in episode
“Evangelism Parent” (episode 63)
"Practical Anti-Terrorism: Applying Truth to a Terrorist with the Communication House and Revolving Priorities” (episode 44)
“Merest Christianity” series (episode 95)
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I really loved our last show. It’s always so helpful for me to have to work through explaining these biblical concepts.
Like I said a couple episodes ago, to teach is to learn. I learn so much as I have to distill these grand ideas down and fit them in 20 minutes.
I really pray this has been a blessing to you. Sometimes these episodes fly out into cyberspace and I never really know if they’re making a difference, and then sometimes you wonderful people sent emails and leave comments and rate and review and recommend the show, and it’s awesome to know that God’s Word isn’t returning void.
Thank you to every one of you who has taken the time to communicate with us. It’s so wonderful.
And thank you to Scott and Mindee for making this episode possible. They’re monthly Patrons who help this listener-supported ministry continue to create free, Christ-honoring content.
If you’d like to learn more about our needs, goals, and how you can participate in that, please click on the “5 Ways to Support TLP” link in the description.
So far we’ve discussed how to change, and specifically how to take the first steps to becoming intentional, premeditated, disciple-making Ambassador Parents who know how to teach and reinterpret for our children.
Today we’re going to discuss how we can become a Counseling Parent.
So, let’s jump in.
1. Learn the Truth about being a Counseling Parent.
First, just a reminder, these episodes are not designed to teach you the biblical principles about the character traits. We’ve covered a lot of that in previous episodes and plan to do more in future episodes.
These episodes are designed to teach us how to take the first steps of application based off of that knowledge.
Which means, if you haven’t heard the two episodes I’m about to share with you, then you’re at a disadvantage. You can’t believe what you don’t know. You can’t put into practice what you haven’t learned.
Going back and working through the informational episodes is imperative to learning to become this type of parent.
For this topic, we have two shows.
Episode 53 is called “Counseling and Parenting.” It’s an interview with the former director of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors, Heath Lambert.
And then there’s episode 187 which is the Counselor section of the "Parent’s 5 Jobs” series.
I’d like to do more episodes on this subject, but I find that far fewer parents have reached this stage with their kids.
Of course, I don’t want to neglect those parents, and so I’m looking forward to dealing with this topic in more detail.
Also, as you learn this information, we have free episode notes and transcripts to help you work through the information.
But, before we move on, I feel the need to expound on the differences among teaching, interpreting, and counseling.
Teaching encompasses the times that we give information to our children. This can be formal education and casual encouragement. Teaching informs our kids and helps them with the Knowledge part of the Circle of Learning.
I plan to do a whole series on being a Teaching Parent where we look at all the biblical terms that legitimately fall under this category.
Then there’s interpretation which is similar to teaching, but instead is designed to help our children gain understanding. It’s best put to use when our children have proven that they have misinterpreted life by making poor choices. We assist by helping them reinterpret their choices in light of God’s Word
Now, as I’ve noted before, both of those can be accomplished whether our children want to participate or not. We’re giving them information and calling them to learn it and understand it.
Of course, they won’t learn or understand if they choose not to accept it, but we can do our part without their participation.
However, the third and fourth steps cannot be done if our children aren’t participating.
The prerequisite to Counseling is that our children accept the teaching and reinterpretation.
If my three year old refuses to sit at the table and eat his food, I can teach him by either telling him for the first time or reminding him of the rules and his responsibility to obey.
I can also take the additional step to help him grapple with the deeper realities. His not wanting to sit at the table and eat is not his commentary on pediatric diet practices, it’s a flat out rejection of the authority in his life — both his parents and the God Who commanded him to obey his parents.
So, I do my best to help him understand the scope and nature of his sin. And I do this with the hope that once he sees his sin as God sees it, he will be convinced of the Truth.
However, if he chooses to reject my interpretation or conciliates for the purpose of silencing me and moving on with his life, then the next step is impossible.
But, if my child does acknowledge the Truth of God, understands it, desires to submit to it, and is willing to confess his sin, then I can then move to the Counseling stage.
At this phase I help him stop his sinful behavior and replace it with Christ-honoring behavior, and — if he participates — he’s accepted the counseling. He's done his part in what the Bible calls “correction.” He stopped moving in the wrong direction, course-corrected, and is now moving in the right direction.
Now, before we move on I need to say three more things:
1. The first piece of genuine counsel I should offer is an admonition for him to apologize.
I’m looking forward to an episode about this as well. If he truly acknowledges that he sinned against you and before God, then he should be willing to seek forgiveness before he goes about to change his behavior.
2. These steps will have to be repeated over and over.
Counseling only works for as long as the child chooses to submit to God’s interpretation of life. The moment he rejects God’s Truth, he’ll need to be walked back through the steps. This is parenting.
And 3. I’ve made the observation that you cannot counsel an unbeliever, and yet my example involved me “counseling” a three year old.
Do you remember our discussion about the Circle of Learning? If you didn’t hear it, then you really need to listen to the “Teach Your Children to Learn” series. I’ll link the first episode in the description of today’s show.
Anyway, there is a secular version of the Circle. An unbeliever can learn information, understand it, and put it into practice in his life. However, without the core of a genuine fear of God, his life will not be characterized by biblical wisdom.
The same is true of obedience. Can an unbeliever do the right thing in the right way? Yes. And we would call that obedience. But they cannot truly, biblically obey because they’re not doing it for the right reasons in the right power.
There is a secular, unrighteous, godless version of everything the Lord created. Satan isn’t capable of creating anything original, so he strips God of His own work and pawns it off as a viable substitute.
Well, the same is true of counseling. Can I give an unbeliever good advice, and can they take that advice and put it into practice in their lives in a sort of secular wisdom? Yes.
But are they being transformed by the power of God and in submission to His will? No. Their change is selfishly motivated and superficial.
True, biblical counseling is used by God to guide people to true, biblical obedience that results in true, biblical wisdom.
Therefore, it’s imperative to understand that if we’re offering advice to unregenerate children, we’re experiencing something that is both positive and negative.
It’s positive because our child is building a habit of allowing our reinterpretation of their lives to mean something to them.
However, it’s negative because the child’s ultimate motivation for change is self-centered.
Therefore, we need to walk the delicate balance between being thankful for our children’s outward submission, but not allow ourselves to believe that everything’s okay between them and God if they haven’t truly submitted to Him in salvation.
This is where many parents let their children down.
The child makes a profession of faith. It’s followed by a mildly moral and generally submissive life, but lacks the significant earmarks of genuine Spirit-filled transformation. But because they don’t seem to be getting worse — in fact, they seem a little better than they were — the parents believes their child is actively participating in all the teaching and interpreting and counseling and training, when in actually the young person is pragmatically doing what feels the most comfortable and safe at the time and is — in addition — merely building outward habits of “christianese” living.
But then when the young adult is no longer under the boundaries set by their parents, and they’re left to make their own decisions, they continue flexing their pragmatic, self-centered muscles, and they continue living by what feels the most comfortable or satisfying, and they realize they had no deeper reason to continue living like a Christian. And mom and dad wonder what happened to their child because they can’t recognize them anymore.
The first true, biblical counsel your children will ever receive will be when they confess that Jesus is Lord and believe that the Father raised Him from the dead. They will be saved, and they will — for the first time in their lives — be able to respond to godly counsel in a Christ-honoring way.
Alright . . .
2. Believe the Truth about Being a Counseling Parent.
Do you believe that you must teach your children the Truth?
Do you believe that you must interpret the Truth and their actions in a way that they can understand how God sees reality?
Do you believe that when you child submits to that Truth, you must counsel your child to make the Truth part of their lives as they act out their wisdom?
Do you believe that your child cannot truly live a wise life grounded in the fear of the Lord unless they are indwelt by the Holy Spirit?
Do you believe that you should counsel your children to submit, confess, and repent when they sin?
If we don’t believe the Scriptures, we’re stuck trying to find our own way. And when people do what’s right in their own eyes, it always ends in destruction.
So, when you know the Truth and believe the Truth, what can help you multiply the change in your life?
3. Get Help Becoming a Counseling Parent.
That’s right. It’s time — once again — to rally your parenting community and call on them to provide you necessary accountability.
However, this step is likely going to look a little different from the previous steps.
I've encouraged you all along to interact with your parenting community in such a way as to allow your accountability partner/mentor/friends to see you really and truly parent. We teach and even reinterpret all the time around other people. It’s necessary to make life work. You can’t allow your child to throw a temper tantrum in a store and calmly wait until he’s done and decides it’s time to leave the store, and you can’t leave him there.
But this stage of parenting — counseling — is rarely done in public. Even in extreme situations, you can normally defuse an explosive encounter with teaching and reinterpreting, but the content of counseling is often saved for private times.
The most common form of counseling is when we draw our children to the understanding that they need to apologize. That happens often enough, and your friends have probably witnessed this.
So, how do you engage your parenting community in your counseling.
Well, 1. Role playing is very valuable in a safe environment where messing up doesn’t hurt relationships and you can receive valuable feedback.
2. You can share counseling situations with your friends and get their advice.
3. You can even invite one or two of your mentors to get involved. I said earlier that the more Truth we have pouring into our children’s lives the better. I believe one of the best counselors to have in your child’s life is someone who already has a close relationship with you.
It’s a team effort at that point.
Okay, before we tackle our final point, let me encourage you to subscribe to Truth.Love.Parent. and rate and review the show while you’re there.
Alright . . .
4. Make Small Changes to Become a Counseling Parent.
Today’s going to be a little different.
I’m definitely going to give you some first steps you can take in order to be a better Counseling Parent, but I also want to end todays show by giving you some counsel that you can pass on to your child. And this counsel will work in any situation with any child.
I find it’s always easier to give counsel when you have counsel to give, so I’m going to arm you with that.
But first . . .
1. You need to be able to guide your child into the counseling stage.
Now, there are two facets of this.
We already talked about how true counsel doesn’t start until your child is born again, so obviously being an “Evangelist Parent” is hugely important until that point.
But second, your child will rarely be prepared for this stage of parenting if you have not laid the foundation by educating and interpreting well for your child.
By the way, obviously you’re not ultimately responsible for your children’s reactions, but if your kids don’t ever participate in the counseling stage, please understand that it’s a pretty fair bet that you haven’t been the Teaching or Interpreting Parent that you should be.
Again, even God’s children rebelled against His perfect parenting, but we’re not perfect and — more often than not — share some of the responsibility for not making it easy to do right and hard to do wrong.
So, one of the best first steps to counseling is to make sure you’re doing a good job teaching and interpreting.
2. Familiarize yourself with basic counseling techniques.
Jay Adams wrote a book called “Competent to Counsel.” It’s amazing, and it’s required reading for anyone pursuing a degree in biblical counseling. I highly recommend it.
No. Really. You need to read it.
There is no excuse, “But I’m not going to be a counselor.”
By choosing to become a parent, you volunteered to be a counselor for your children.
But please . . . whatever you do . . . make sure the resource is from a trusted source. There is sooooo much misinformation, bad advice, and downright lies out there when it comes to counseling.
“Competent to Counsel” is a biblically based text that will point you to the truths of Scripture. And if you would like some more resources, we plan to expand our recommended reading section of TruthLoveParent.com soon, and you can always check out the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors’ website (biblicalcounseling.com). If you go to their site, click on certification. Click on “Phase 1,” then click on the reading list. There are so many amazing titles there.
In fact, I’ll include a link directly to that page in the description of today’s show.
Now, why do you need to familiarize yourself with basic counseling techniques?
The Bible has everything you need for life and godliness, and I believe that all good counseling techniques are going to have their root in Scripture, but this training allows you to stand on the shoulders of spiritual giants. There really is no reason to reinvent the wheel, and these books have so much to offer us as we’re trying to become the Ambassador Parents God called and created us to be.
Now, every time your child shows any interest in changing their behavior, you have the opportunity to counsel. So . . .
3. Look for every opportunity to exercise this muscle.
Parents are always teaching, but when our children sin, we’re interpreting for the purpose of counseling. Consciously approach these situations with the goal of reconciliation and repentance.
Now, remember that repentance is not merely confessing sin, repentance is turning away from sin to righteousness. The advice and guidance you provide your children to make that turn is counseling.
So, approach all such parenting moments with this goal in mind.
That’s a short term version of this point.
A grander view of this point would be to start approaching your entire goal and mission as a parent to helping your children be reconciled to God and others through repentance.
This change in your motivation and overall mission is necessary to taking the first practical steps.
4. Here is some basic counsel you can give to any child in nearly any situation.
We already discussed the first: when your child has sinned, and you’ve reinterpreted the situation for them in such a way that they see their sin as God does and desire to turn from their sin to righteousness, the first step they should take is apologizing to the offended parties.
This will include God and whichever humans against whom they sinned. And, like I said before, I plan to do a future episode all about how to teach our children to apologize biblically.
And here’s the second piece of counsel you can start sharing with your kids today.
Now, please understand that you can treat this information like the knowledge you impart when teaching. You can definitely do that. You can also use it as you reinterpret the situation by helping your child see the they didn’t take these steps, but I’m going to present this information as if I were using it to counsel.
So, my child has sinned against me, I have helped them see their sin as God does, they have submitted and desire to change, and they have apologized to God and me. I may say something like this — and I’m going to present this the way I would to my daughter who’s 9 and my son who’s 11 and all the teenage boys who live in my home. But you may have to simplify it for much younger children.
“I know how hard it is to obey when you don’t understand, when something else feels better, when there are persuasive voices telling you not to listen, or when you just don’t care. So, I want to give you four steps that will make it easier for you to obey the next time you’re tempted to sin.
“Here they are: Trust, Obey, Ask, Clarify.
“If you genuinely desire to glorify God more and sin less, then it’s all going to start with Trust. Primarily, you need to trust God and your parents.
“Second, that trust should motivate your obedience. If you trust us, it will be easier for you to follow us even when it doesn’t make sense. But even though those are the first steps, we want you to know that a wise and discerning child has other resources available to them.
“The third step is to ask. If you are ever confused as to why God would have us live a certain way, or you’re curious why we’ve instigated a certain rule, or your interested to know what the implications of a certain decision may be, please feel free to ask. We won’t judge you, and — Lord willing — we won’t refuse to answer you. Of course, trusting and obeying must always be part of your asking. If you ask disrespectfully, unloving, and unkindly, then you are not pleasing the Lord.
“And lastly, you should always clarify. To clarify is to show your understanding by explaining back to us why we do what we do. Why we do what we do is the single most important thing about us. It’s our philosophy, it’s our worldview. Without a solid understanding of our belief system, we will be blown around by every new idea and opinion and Failure Philosophy we encounter.
“So, those are the four steps you should think through: trust us, obey us, ask us, and clarify with us how you can best glorify your Lord.”
Another good example of this is episode 44, "Practical Anti-Terrorism: Applying Truth to a Terrorist with the Communication House and Revolving Priorities.”
In that one, my wife and I role play a scenario where I step my daughter through the first three jobs.
It would also be a good idea to step a child who’s ready for counsel through our “Merest Christianity” series which starts in episode 95.
That one and all the others I’ve referenced will be linked below.
I hope today’s show has been a blessing to you. If so, please consider sharing this episode.
I also hope you’ll join us for our next episode, and the last in this series. It’s called “How Do You Become a Training Parent?”
The Training Parent is what we all want to be. It’s the most fulfilling part of our job, but we need to make sure we do it right as well, and we want to get you started on the right foot regardless of how old your kids are.
Will you please consider how you might be able to support TLP this year? I know that tax returns will be coming out in the next few months. Perhaps a one-time donation, or a monthly faith-promise donation would please the Lord.
To learn more just click on the “5 Ways to Support TLP” link below.
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We may be coming to the end of this series, but this is just the beginning of your parenting year. How does God want you to change this year?
I’ll see you next time.
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