Question: My son is five and has always been a very obedient and respectful child. However, about three months ago a boy moved into our neighborhood whose friendship has adversely influenced my son. As a result of modeling many of this boy’s undesired behaviors, he is requiring much more discipline these days and is not responding favorably to the things I’m trying. My son’s elementary teacher has also reported a noticeable change; that he shows no remorse when corrected for misbehaving and has started talking back to her. What is your advice?
Answer: As with any situation with our children, I encourage you to consistently pray about each issue: Ask God to convict your child of wrong doing and to give him a heart desirous of pleasing Him.
There are several things I would prayerfully consider doing that reflect the truth of God’s Word. (Keep in mind there are various lessons here that may need to be addressed with your child over a period of time rather than all at once.)
Remind your child that God has placed you in authority over him. When your child goes against your instruction (and when he shows you disrespect in any way – including talking back to you), he is also disrespecting God. Also, tell him that when he does not respect your authority, he is demonstrating his lack of desire for God’s best in his life.
As a result of your God given authority in his life, it is your job to instruct and direct him. Let him know that you take this responsibility very seriously because you will one day be held accountable by God. Tell him that, as a follower of Jesus, you aren’t instructing him according to what you might want for him and you are not considering what he might want for himself, but you are instructing him according to what the Bible says.
Explain to him the difference between influencing others and being influenced. Tell him that the way you gauge this is not by what a person says, but by what a person does. A person is poorly influenced by another when he is tempted to think, say, or do anything that opposes God’s Word.
You might want to point your son to 1 Corinthians 15:33: Do not be misled: “Bad company corrupts good character.” Show him the evidence you’ve seen in his actions that now oppose God’s Word, and link his changed behavior to this new friend who is poorly influencing him. Explain that this evidence proves the corruption of his character. As a result of this, his relationship with this friend needs to change. This means that their time together either needs to be limited or completely avoided. If your child does not respond favorably to your instruction, let him know that this is why the Scripture says to avoid being misled. He has been misled to believe this relationship is good when, in fact, it does not reflect Christ-likeness.
You may also want to use 2 Corinthians 7:10 concerning his lack of remorse for wrongdoing: Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death. Teach your son that when a person is approached about wrong doing, even if it is a mistake, the correct godly answer is to seek forgiveness and correct the behavior. When a child does not show remorse, that tells others that he has no intention of changing. This does not reflect God’s will and will not result in obedience to Him.
Every issue in parenting is challenging, but God promises to bless our efforts as we walk in obedience to His will.