I’m a huge advocate for drawing on God’s Word to train our kids. The Bible makes it clear: “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16–17). Amen! The Bible is our source of wisdom—yes, by all means, let’s apply it to our children’s lives!
In doing so, though, we need to ensure we’re using Scripture not just to convict but also to equip and encourage. Think of it as the difference between a hammer and a paintbrush. One pounds holes in the wall; the other transforms it.
Hammer words sound like this.
Don’t you walk away when I’m talking to you. God says obey your parents! (Colossians 3:20)
You shouldn’t have lied to me. God detests lying lips (Proverbs 12:22).
Do your chores and quit grumbling because the Bible says you should do everything without complaining (Philippians 2:14).
Parents who use hammer words to discipline have the right idea, if not always the right delivery. Yes, our children need to recognize sin as sin, and the Bible has plenty of verses to help nail them on their faults. However, is that our only goal? To tell the kids they’re wrong, naughty, disappointing?
Our true end goal should be to show them the better choice (which is positive, God-honoring behavior) and equip them to grasp it.
This requires approaching every infraction as an opportunity to train our children toward godly character—to build them up rather than tear them down.
How can we do this?
Label the bad behavior. Then combat it with the opposite truths in Scripture. I call these paintbrush words.
For example—let’s say your son picks a fight with his brother. That’s called quarreling. You might be tempted to spout off Bible verses (hammer words) about why they should not quarrel, such as, “anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment” (Matthew 5:22).
Okay. But what does that teach your child besides that he’s in big fat trouble?
Let’s go one step further and teach him why he should do the opposite of quarreling—which is to live in peace. Love. Harmony. The Bible is filled with verses on that sort of thing.
Hey, buddy, I think you need to let the peace of Christ start ruling in your heart. God called you to live in peace with your brother (Colossians 3:15).
Did you know kindness and peace are fruit of the Spirit? (Galatians 5:22). That means you have a choice to behave that way instead of fighting. Wouldn’t you rather be getting along with your brother right now?
I can tell something is really bothering you, and you’re taking it out on your brother. Go to your room for a while to calm down, and talk to Jesus because He says you can “cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7).
Yes, in the midst of tantrums or heated rebellion, our children may need a firm hand to guide them. Even Jesus sometimes scolded His disciples for their selfishness or dim wits. Imagine the pit in Peter’s stomach when Jesus told him, “Get away from me, Satan!” Yikes. God isn’t one to sugarcoat anything.
Yet He is also kind and forgiving. He is compassionate, wise, and welcoming. God cares more about our hearts than our actions—because He knows one is rooted in the other.
“Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” (Proverbs 4:23)
So let’s not just scold our kids for doing wrong. Let’s cover their hearts with as many paintbrush words as possible—so they can learn to do right. Only then can we show them the full picture of who God really is.
P.S. Find a full list of paintbrush words for daily reference in my book, The Cranky Mom Fix: Get a Happier, More Peaceful Home by Slaying the “Momster” in All of Us. This post contains an excerpt from chapter 9, “Jesus Is Not a Killjoy” (Bethany House/Baker Publishing, 2019).
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