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TRAIN UP A CHILD IN THE WAY HE SHOULD GO: BIBLICAL COUNSEL FOR ADD (Part 2)

02 Oct

Biblical Foundations for Counseling ADD/ADHD Children

For every the family blessed with a child, and especially for the family blessed with a child diagnosed with ADD, one should not expect to search the Scriptures in order to find a parenting manual that covers all possible issues and problems. Instead, the biblical counselor can assure parents that the Scriptures lay an important foundation from which parents can uniquely train and raise up each child.

The strongest point of this foundation teaches that God blesses a family uniquely with each and every child. Some parents reading that last sentence may protest at using the word blessing for a child with ADD however, the Bible indicates in Psalm 127 that children “are a heritage from The Lord”. Further, Psalm 139 makes clear that The Lord “formed my inward parts… for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” While experts insist on the biological roots of ADD, a helpful comment they make affirms exactly what Christians believe. Any biological variations in personality and ability that a child with or without ADD may have, the child comes as a specially formed blessing from the Lord responsive to his own unique set of cues.[1]

For both Samuel and Jesus, the Bible records that they grew in wisdom and stature and favor with God and man.[2] The biblical counselor should first note that this statement refers to an ordinary man, Samuel and also for the God-man, Jesus. Thus, one can conclude that growing in wisdom, stature and favor does not uniquely describe the work of Jesus. Since all men can grow in wisdom, stature and favor the counselor can advise the parents to see this as an overarching biblical goal for bringing up any child. Also the parents should note that the statements mention growth for Samuel and increase for Jesus. Therefore these goals do not stand as a rigid standard of achievement, but as a pattern of continuing growth towards maturity. Ever since the Fall, children, like everyone else succumb to problems and temptations. For this reason Deuteronomy six encourages parents to diligently train their children[3] The biblical counselor can assure parents that fallen children will sin and fail, however he can also assure parents that these same children can learn to please Christ with their minds, bodies, and relationships with God and other people.

As much as God blesses the family with a unique gift when he grants them a child, so too does God grant the child the kind of resource he needs in the family. Experts note that an ADD child needs parents and other groups to help them internalize social skills.[4] While both parents must contribute research shows that when fathers take a prominent role in their children’s day to day life even ADD children respond with greater consistency.[5] Not surprisingly, the Scriptures in passages like Ephesians 6:4 tell fathers as much when it grants them, not doctors, teachers, pastors, or others the God-given critical role of bringing up these children.[6] The biblical counselor armed with this truth needs to emphasize with the parents; especially the father the sort of impact the Lord calls him to make in the life of this child.

Even so, a Christian father may feel as if he does not measure up to the task. He might even know the rest of Ephesians 6:4 or Colossians 3:21 which warn fathers against provoking children with discipline. The biblical counselor can then point the father to the chapter in all of God’s Word that presents the two forms of discipline a parent will utilize side by side. Proverbs 22 has two verses, one that experts ridicule and the other that parents love to quote as a promise. Beginning with the loved verse, parents hear in Proverbs 22:6 to “train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” Space does not permit a full discussion of this verse however; look to the word “train up.” Its primary usage comes in relationship to dedicating the temple, not raising children.[7] With this sense of the verb in mind one can see how it points not to correction or to rote instruction but diligent preparation of a child for the way he should go. Experts call this sort of discipline positive discipline which encourages children to repeat desired behaviors.[8] Christians of years past might call this sort of preparation formative discipline. With either label, the biblical counselor can soothe the worried father, helping him understand that his parenting should guide the child to practice desired behaviors through certain routines and repetitions which offer opportunities for formative encouragement.

When parents, according to the Scriptures, keep a watchful eye to help train up their children they pay attention as well to the direction of that child’s heart. The Bible emphasizes the heart as the inward part of people whose thoughts, and attitudes, motivations dictate all bodily states and behavior.[9] Formative discipline sees the child struggling to make the right decisions and lovingly comes alongside of the child to help train his heart in unique ways to make the right decisions. What should the parent do if the child consistently makes the wrong decisions? At this point, the biblical counselor must begin to address the less loved verse, Proverbs 22:15.

Proverbs 22:15 helps the parents to remember that children after the Fall participate in foolish things because they desire those things in their hearts. No problem should exist in any quarter with this statement. On the other hand, the other phrase which says “but the rod of discipline drives it far from him,” ruffles almost every contemporary person’s sensitivities. The rod of discipline mentioned does not stand as a euphemism, but as a statement of a pre-arranged disciplinary tool. According to Jay Adams the word in Hebrew refers to the stout wooden defensive tool from which nails protrude worn at a shepherd’s side.[10] The shepherd in Psalm 23 carried such a tool at his side, ready for any kind of threat to his flock that might arise. In Psalm 23 this rod comforts the flock that sees it hanging at the shepherd’s side.

Like the shepherd, parents should always have at the ready some prearranged system of discipline, the other word in this verse. This system may involve spanking or not, but should comfort the family, not disrupt it. Experts comment that children choose to behave in ways that demand the parents’ response. Parents control consequences not the actions of their children.[11] The biblical counselor should reassure the parents that the consequences they choose offers comfort to their children as those consequences keep the child from going out of control.

Scholars indicate that the Hebrew for the English word discipline in Proverbs 22:15 indicates a father’s instruction and discipline given with primarily with conversation and then the rod.[12] Not every consequence for a child’s poor decision should utilize the rod; however no parent should leave a child’s poor decisions unaddressed. The biblical counselor should emphasize that corrective discipline should have as its goal the redemption of the child’s resolve and willingness to please Christ. The very threat of corrective discipline may encourage the child to repent. With the parent of the ADD child, the parent may need to make it clear that  choices like disobedience, defined as refusing to do what parents ask, or disrespect, defined as not treating others as Jesus would want them treated, demand a consequence. The parent will also need to remind the child of that 1 John 1:9. This verse teaches the child to confess his sin, and Christ will faithfully cleanse and forgive the child. Only when a child refuses to confess sin should consequences then follow.

The biblical evidence over against many other worldly models will result in the biblical counselor helping parents of an ADD child to focus on helping the child to achieve steady growth towards pleasing Christ in everyday situations and relationships, through formative and redemptive discipline.[13] The focus should never become the achievement of some standardized goal, but growth. With this biblical foundation, the counselor, parents, and ADD child can embark on trying to answer some questions they may have concerning what the world and others have said about ADD.


[1] Paul Warren, Jody Capehart, and Sandy Dengler, You & Your A.D.D. Child: How to Understand and Help Kids with Attention Deficit Disorder (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1995), 31.

[2] For Samuel see 1 Samuel 2:26. For Jesus see Luke 2:52

[3] Rita Jamison,  ADHD: Helping Those Confronted with This Label Understand It and Evaluate Where They Need to Turn for Help, The Biblical Counselor’s Toolbox Series (Lafayette: Faith Resources, 2006), 3.

[4] Warren, 146.

[5] Warren, 241.

[6] Jamison, 4.

[7] Warren Baker and Eugene Carpenter, The Complete Word Study Dictionary: Old Testament (Chattanooga: AMG Publishers, 2003), 356.

[8] Warren, 108.

[9] Jamison, 4.

[10] Jay E. Adams. The Use of the Rod & the Staff: A Neglected Aspect of Shepherding. (Stanley: Timeless Texts, 2003), 21-24.

                [11] Warren, 137.

[12] Baker, 582.

[13] Warren, 17. The writers of this book develop a statement of their overarching goal to be “We must help each child to find success socially, emotionally, academically, and spiritually in childhood and in adulthood.” While this goal addresses many areas that the biblical goal above does not address as well, Warren and Capehart’s goal could easily find use in any other religion. The goal mentioned would only apply to a Christian family.

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Posted by on October 2, 2013 in Shepherding

 

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