A couple years ago I connected on social media with a relative that is a generation older but on the younger side of it, who was a child sitter for me on occasions prior to my ninth birthday. I say ninth because that would be when we moved as a family from the area where they lived. Parents hire sitters to watch over us while they are away or otherwise occupied and unable to provide us their direct care and watchful eye. As kids we need some oversight if for no other reason than as young ones we are still too stupid to know when to say no and without sufficient strength to help ourselves if we get hurt.
Children must be trained to become habitually well-behaved in a similar way we think of training our pets. I watched a former K9 cop that was a fellow employee at an appliance repair shop where I got my first job work a little with an unruly German Shepherd that belonged to the office secretary. He was trying to teach the handsome dog to heel in response to his voice command. Obedience that includes immediate response has to be learned and it is better that we learn it from a parent or in the case of this Shepherd through a skilled trainer. My co-worker took the dog up and down the parking area along the street and patiently gave the agreed upon command and then used the leash to enforce it. When the dog attempted to resist or lose focus and wander there came a severe yank to the tether to bring the animal back into submission. You may be taken back by the parallel I am drawing between your child and the training of a pet dog but you shouldn't be.
It was our intent to train our boys – we eventually accumulated four – in such a way as to expect their immediate response. At the first it was imperative for safety sake. We set out in our family adventure living in a lovely two bedroom apartment that was located fairly close to a street that led back into a growing neighborhood. We were close to the head of it so everyone that lived in the 'hood had to pass by our apartment units to get to their homes. Most seemed to want to do so quickly. If I turned my back on little Ben, our firstborn, he might wander out to the street where a danger he as yet did not understand was imminent. My commands were clear and sharp and we expected him to respond immediately if not sooner. Failure to come when he was called brought swift response from us in the form of a whack on his thighs. The thighs because his little backside was too well padded with a diaper for him to get the full impact of his education.
Each personality and temperament will offer a challenge to the methods we choose for training them but developing a basic consistent set of verbal commands and as well as a consistent follow-up as consequence to disobedience is critically important for a sense of fair play. Sugar is more effective than vinegar to draw flies, and to draw our children into compliance something positive might at times work well, but whatever augmentation is called for the very bottom line is we must "train up our children in the way they should go so that when they are older they will not depart from it."
An additional factor
Good parental discipline that leads to self-control is basic to human civility. It must be taught and taught early. If we are left to ourselves with no internal conscience for a moral compass or oversight to corral our passions and wanderlust we will run as if wild and behave badly. A well trained German Shepherd can eventually learn to walk beside its owner without a leash and only run from their side when given permission, but even then if off leash and separated from the owner they can become unpredictable.
On the avenue where we lived during my teen years there was a special family that lived a few doors down on the opposite side. They had a cute little grand-daughter that would occasionally visit while her parents were away. When she came over to stay with them she sometimes brought with her the family dog. It was also a handsome German Shepherd that was highly trained for show. By chance one day she was out walking the dog on a leash along the sidewalk across from our house when I stepped out to take a walk on my side of the street toward my friend Tim's house passing them as I went. All at once that well trained, normally well-behaved animal pulled free from the little girl's grip and bolted across to bite me in the knee! Even a well-trained dog when away from its owner can behave unpredictably and bite. Now, honestly and to be fair, the dog may have behaved instinctively to protect the little one from potential harm. What was it thinking? Perhaps you should turn your ear toward what I am about to write. Even behaving according to the impulse of our instincts may be at times be correctly regarded as bad behavior.
"People are not to live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God."
We need a divine implant
From the beginning it has been the intent of our Creator to walk with us. In our rebellion, choosing to explore our options we fell away from that lofty ideal and have suffered the fallout ever since. We all have inherited the ingrained nature that fuels our tendency to break free from our restraints. We need a supervising factor that can be implanted, that remains a part of us and positively affects our behavior and attitude. James uses the term "implanted word (James 1:21)." Paul uses the term "filled with the Spirit (Ephesians 5:17, 18)."
"But if you bite and devour one another…" Galatians 5:15
They agree, Paul and James, Paul's Spirit of God is the author of James' implanted word which when He comes in to us through our call out to God for His salvation He brings with Him His message for our hearts to reeducate us and transform our attitudes. This, if we are obedient to it, will alter our behavior.
Paul goes on to point out in Galatians 5:19-22 that, "if left to ourselves (what he means by living according to the flesh), sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these (here we could truthfully include racism) will show up." To the list could be added entries from other lists of unrestrained bad behavior such as those found in Romans 1:28-32. But, in stark contrast, "the fruit of the [Holy] Spirit," permitted to have His way, transforming as He does our inner persons, "is love" - love that expresses itself in joy, peace, patience…and even self-control." All of which most of us agree is the best way to live. Without His inner shepherding and oversight we are not much better than a well-trained German Shepherd.
Sometimes they bite.
Grace today y'all