Parents, Give Children Clear Instructions

from Oct 11, 2011 Category: Articles

Joel Beeke’s latest book, Parenting by God’s Promises, now available for pre-order, contains many practical suggestions to help Christian parents raise their children in a way that honors God.

In his chapter, “Preventive Discipline”, Beeke offers this piece of parenting wisdom to help lessen the need for corrective discipline:


We are leaving in fifteen minutes. Please clean up your room before we go.” That command sounds clear, doesn’t it?

Perhaps there are twenty items on the floor when the child walks into his room, and about ten more things out of place. He picks up five things and then comes downstairs. His parents ask whether he has cleaned his room. He says, “Yes.” The parents check the room and exclaim: “It’s a pigpen in here! You didn’t clean your room.” The child says, “Yes, I did!”

Is it possible this boy really believes he has cleaned his room? Because a child thinks very differently from an adult, often what the adult says by implication does not get through to the child. The child may interpret an order in a way not intended by the parent. In the above example, perhaps the parents are to blame for not making their request perfectly clear. It would be better for them to say: “Pick up everything lying on the floor and put it where it belongs. Remember, in fifteen minutes we have to leave, so you should work fast.” Do you see the difference? We must be specific and leave nothing to the imagination. When we ask a child, “Did you get everything off the floor?” he should understand what we mean.

Give children clear instructions. You will not have to employ corrective discipline as much when both of you understand what is expected.


Excerpt from Joel Beeke’s Parenting by God’s Promises: How to Raise Children in the Covenant of Grace.