Motivating kids can be frustrating. I’ve noticed three basic levels of it in the Bible. The first is “Reproof.” Proverbs 29:15 tells us “The rod and reproof give wisdom.”... This is corporeal punishment for willful disobedience. It is called negative reinforcement and is the fastest to get results. “Reward” is the next level and is called positive reinforcement and has longer results. This can come as praise, encouragement, and material or spiritual rewards (cf. Eph. 6:1-2). You can watch the full message on this in our Livestream for 7/10/2016.
The highest motivation to instill in children is to obey because it is the
“right” thing to do. “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.” (Eph. 6:1). It has the longest results. It causes people to give up their lives for others. It is like the love in John 15:13. “"Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.” It is the altruistic and noble motive that ignores any personal gain.
There is an obvious natural aspect here that even unbelievers recognize in nature. Obedience to parents is understandable since parents are the life givers.
There is also a spiritual aspect because it is obeying parents “in the Lord.” This is obedience because of love for the Lord and a desire to bring glory to God above all else. This obedience acts not for fear of punishment or personal benefit. It is not self-centered but God centered.
We can use reproof before children can understand words. We can also use rewards as children grow and understand the value of the work ethic. But ultimately we need to instill in them a love for God that will motivate them to do the right thing. This is the ultimate goal of parenting.
We don’t want to just raise moral children who do right because of fear of punishment or desire for reward but have no love for God. They may not even be born again. Moralism is not the answer. We want our children, and ourselves as well, to obey because this is right and honors God. This is what all training must be geared toward.
We don’t need to teach our children how to disobey. They know how. Our children have inherited Adam’s sin nature and are born in spiritual depravity like all of us (cf. Rom. 5). Their greatest need is to come to repentance and faith in Christ so that they can do right from a new heart for the right reason. They can learn this from our examples as we give freely of ourselves to God and others without expectations. “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it. (Prov. 22:6).
How about you? Are you motivated for the right reasons? Let me know what you think.