Manipulating a Child's Environment

parenting tips

Parenting is not for the light hearted! Right?  It is difficult, often times confusing, and never lets up!  So as we intend to train our kids with biblical standards there are often times in which we entirely miss the mark… without even knowing… slipping into worldly solutions, and inadvertently unravelling the good work we might have accomplished!  

When we manipulate our child’s environments, we are doing just that!  And the worst part is, we may not even know we are doing it!  So let’s take a few minutes to work this out so that we might be biblically effective parents, and produce more life long investments into the heart training of our children.  

What does it mean to manipulate the child's environment?  

As a nation we have adopted psychological practices in parenting. The most popular trend is to appease our children, rather than train their hearts, and for a Christian parent this puts us on the opposite side of what God has ordained through his Word. “Experts” today encourage parents to remove any obstacles that might “trigger” or frustrate a child. This generally tends to be a manipulation of the child’s environment, which intends to remove temptation or obstacles from the child’s path.  As you read through the 8 examples below, consider the end result of staying this course. If we do, we will foster a child who is never deterred from self-centered or self-ruled behaviors, and loses the opportunities to develop the fruit and skill of self control.

There is a blinding veil over the eyes of many parents in today’s world. Perhaps you were raised with sone of the following philosophies and parenting practices, and have taken ownership of them as your own standard.  It’s important to understand that our sanctification (which is God’s work to purify our mind with the truths of his Word, and deleting the worldly philosophies that we had once come to trust) doesn’t stop with our own behavior. God wants to sanctify our hearts regarding the training of his next generation. If we accept unbiblical, psychological practices, we are in conflict with God’s Word, and therefore unwittingly sinning against the very God we love and desire to serve. As Christians, that is so disappointing, right?! As a result, we fail to prepare our children for the difficulties and temptations that are in their future, which may not only destroy the quality of their lives, but it could very well end life! It really is imperative for Christian parents to get back to biblical practices that reflect a holy God, and reject man’s solutions for parenting as they have turned our Christian homes upside down, leaving our children in spiritual and often times, physical danger.  

Let’s look at 8 ways we may be manipulating our child’s environment, and the biblical alternatives and truths which will allow us to glorify God through our parenting. 

One:

Manipulating the Environment:  It’s recommended that we clear coffee tables and other environments of anything personal or of monetary value so that your child cannot touch or break these items.  We are to “childproof” every corner of our house.

Biblical Alternative:  Instead, Be purposeful in training your child to know that there will be items in their lives they are free to touch, and items in their lives they may not touch. This will take time, consistency and consequence, but God tells us it is not beyond our ability to overcome temptation.  Note: Of course, items that are a threat to their health and safety should never be in their reach.

Biblical Truth:  No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. 1 Cor. 10:13 

Two:

Manipulating the Environment: The “experts” advise we place approved snacks in cabinets or a lower shelf in the refrigerator that are within the child’s reach in order to keep them from taking what they shouldn’t. This is manipulating their environment.  

Biblical Alternative: Children have not achieved the wisdom to know and abide by a right dietary routine, so you will only have to keep changing the height of the snacks or eventually lock them up (the snacks, not the kids :)). This is why it’s important that the parent provides the right foods at the right time (Read Training Hearts for Jesus Blog: Mealtime Madness). Teach your child not to open cabinets or the refrigerator, but to trust the parent to provide the right foods at the right time.  

Biblical Truth: Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Romans 13:1

Three:

Manipulating the Environment: Some “experts” encourage parents to follow their child around the house reading a book to them as they go, if the child doesn’t otherwise “feel” like sitting down.

Biblical Alternative: How can a child learn obedience if the parent is obeying the child’s every whim? God speaks of obedience throughout the Bible because it glorifies him, it guards us from danger, and allows our lives to go well. Train your child to sit and listen. Begin with 5 minutes and work your way up by 5 minute increments from there.  We want our children to be able to obey, sit and learn, which can only begin in our own home. 

Biblical Truth: Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise), “that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.”  Ephesians 6:1-3. 

Four:

Manipulating the Environment: We place their food on the highchair tray, allow them to play and smear it everywhere, rather than confining it to a plate.  We place a mat under the highchair in case they want to “develop their sense of distance” while throwing their food to the floor.

Biblical Alternative: Instead, always use the plate, and manage their meal in an effort to train them in proper mealtime etiquette. Sit with the child, and if they are not capable of using a utensil, then hand feed the child. As the child gains developmental control over their extremities, you will begin to help her guide the food onto the spoon and into the mouth until the child can neatly do this on her own. This is a great opportunity to begin to train the child’s fine motor skills.  And though their sense of distance is being developed at this time, there are acceptable items that may be dropped during their daytime play for the value of learning, but mealtime is not the appropriate time. A child understands what is acceptable when the parent is willing to set the standard. 

Biblical Truth: Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it. Proverbs 22:6

Five:

Manipulating the Environment: A child throws a tantrum because he can’t have what he wants, so the parent gives him what he wants or forcibly holds him until he gives up in exhaustion.

Biblical Alternative: A temper tantrum is rebellion and foolishness against God. The child is demanding to be self-ruled, rather than learning to submit under God and his loving authority, which when left untrained will increase in degree. Train your child to submit to your authority and build his trust in knowing you have his best interest at heart.

Biblical Truth: A fool gives full vent to his spirit, but a wise man quietly holds it back. Proverbs 29:11

Six:

Manipulating the Environment: Parents place locks on the outside of the bedroom door because the child won’t stay inside.

Biblical Alternative: The child instead should be allowed to learn the life altering skills of self control and obedience to guide and protect him through the rest of his life.  Allowing him to say “no” to himself and his ungodly desires, while learning to say yes to his parents who love and protect him. 

Biblical Truth:  A man without self-control is like a city broken into and left without walls. Proverbs 25:28. 

Seven:

Manipulating the Environment: When siblings fight over toys, the parents might buy two of everything to satisfy and avoid the conflicts, or permanently remove the toys that caused the conflict.

Biblical Alternative: Instead, help your children to consider others better than himself (Phil. 2:3-5) and to work through conflict biblically (see the Training Hearts for Jesus article: Quibbling Siblings), giving them the gift of conflict/resolution for their life and relationships in the future.

Biblical Truth:  And he said to them, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.”  Luke 12:15 (also refer to James 4:1-4)

Eight:

Manipulating the Environment: When a child cannot play quietly or has erratic behavior, a parent may place their child in front of a media device or distract him with another form of entertainment.

Biblical Alternative: When we distract a child, rather than train the child, we leave him unprepared for future temptations.  This is another opportunity to teach your child the invaluable skill of self control. Taking these daily opportunities to teach him that there are appropriate times to choose quiet behaviors and indoor voices leaves your child stronger, able to make discerning choices in the future, and strengthens his will against temptations of the flesh. 

Biblical Truth: Do not swerve to the right or to the left; turn your foot away from evil. Proverbs 4:27

In each of these examples we begin to see the pattern emerging that, once aware we will see in so many daily parenting situations.  When we choose to pander to the child, to make satisfying the child's wants and desires the goal, we lose out on our opportunity to train the child's heart. We fail to give them the God esteemed moral skills of obedience, self-control and the ability to care for others. We undo the very purpose of Christian parenting, and leave our children in harms way for their lifetime.  Parents, let's instead believe God with all our hearts, and trust his Word for our purpose in training his children.  

I’m sure you noticed that the more specific practical training solutions are not necessarily included in this blog, which may have left you with questions.  We do teach very specific solutions in our Training Hearts for Jesus parenting course.  We hope you will consider joining us.  For now, it’s my prayer that this has shed some light on how to more clearly see God’s design for parenting our children, and serve as an alert and alternative to the areas that you may be defaulting to worldly standards. May the Holy Spirit continue this work through you as you commit to parent according to God’s Word.  Please let me know if you have any questions. I’m happy to help.  

Sharon Cannavo