"Train Them Until You Like Them"

Gregg Harris, father of Josh Harris and the Harris Rebelutionary twin brothers (Alex and Brett, who helped propel Huckabee to almost winning the Republican nomination for President), had this to say about training your children as you go through life (a la Deuteronomy 6):
"There's a problem here. We don't want to include our children in our lives if they are undisciplined and out of control. What keeps many fathers from including their children in the daily routines of life is they don't like that kid. Cause he won't sit still. He won't listen. He's bored, and he's gonna let you know about it, over and over again...

...and he may even be one of those that cries easily and gets his feelings hurt because his mother indulges him too much, and so he thinks that he has some right to feel good all the time. Kids like that-- nobody wants to be around...

...So, dads, moms, TRAIN them until you LIKE them.

You are training them to be included in your life. You're preparing them to be a part of the family team. If you read Hebrews chapter 12, you'll notice that God the Father trains us in order that we might share in His holiness. ...God is so unwaveringly focused on His purposes to glorify Himself in this world that He trains us to be included in that adventure. He wants us to be a part of this wonderful adventure of defeating and destroying the works of the devil. And so, he trains us so that we might share in that holy adventure.

And dads, moms, we need to train our children to the point where we are not going to hesitate to take them with us when we have to run errands, or when we have an important meeting."

~Taken from "Don't Waste Your Kids" sermon @ Covenant Life Church

What an excellent point he makes! Those who can't stand to be around their own kids are surely not going to follow Deuteronomy 6's admonition to teach their children as they walk, talk, go in the way, etc., because they will avoid walking, talking, and going in the way with their children. I like his statement-- "train them until you like them."



Terry, Ornament of His Grace said...

This was good. Thanks.

Catherine R. said...

Sounds good to me. I want to like my kids, and I know exactly what he's saying. I think parents who have reaped what they've sowed, in the form of children who are unpleasant to be around, are probably afraid to admit the fact that they simply don't enjoy they're kids. Thus a cycle of guilt, anger, etc.

BTW I am fortunate to have recently started attending a church planted by the "mother ship" church that Greg Harris started, as he lives in the general area I do. It's the best thing ever and I am very eager to learn from the parents there.

I'll admit I am nervous about whether or not my husband and I will do things correctly. I so do not want a difficult, untrained child and want to do whatever it takes to avoid that but this is 100% new territory and of course there's the naysayers who think discipline/ child training is abuse etc.

I'm praying because I am somewhat overwhelmed when I think of it all and I know prayer works. I don't want my love and adoration for my child to turn into indulgence and spineless parenting. I see God as particularly wise and loving for protecting me from my own foolishness and that's what I want for my little one.

Gina@Chats With An "Old Lady" said...

We took our two teens to the "Do Hard Things" conference a few weeks ago, and Gregg Harris spoke. Of course, the Harris twins were there, and Josh Harris and the entire family. Let me tell you, this man LIVES WHAT HE PREACHES! To watch the entire family and thier spouses do what they do was inspirational!

This advice is definately something he lives out. It has been our goal as a family as well. Let me tell you, it is worth all of the hard work! We have been far from perfect, but now have and 18 year old and 15 year old that we love to be with, and who love being with us. I love that quote "train them until you like them". I do see so many parents/children who don't like each other. It is considered "normal" in our society. It is considered "normal" even in the church. Our family is often seen as weird because we are close. I think that it is so sad that Christians have accepted that mentality,because what Gregg Harris is preaching is God's way, and brings Him so much glory. It's what causes God's families to stand out and bring HIm glory. Accepting anything else than that is not giving God glory and damages His testimony.

God have mercy!

Courtney said...

Hmm.. I need to mull this over some more. What I'm hung up on is that it's not really about us, and getting them to where they are tolerable and pleasant to be around isn't really the point. There are many pleasant people headed straight for hell. I'd much rather train and guide them until they are regenerate than to where I simply like to be around them. Of course they are going to be naughty, ornery, sinful, sometimes annoying little things until the truth of salvation is illuminated in their hearts. I think it's our job to ask for grace to shepherd and like them, not try to force them to be pleasant for the sake of being pleasant when their sinful nature still reigns in their hearts. Does that make sense? Perhaps I'm just taking it too far.
In any event, I'm a huge Harris fan! Gregg and Sono certainly did a great job of raising up godly men and women while pioneering the home schooling movement.

Anonymous said...


I agree with you. Something about the term "until you like them" just strikes me as eerie. Maybe it's because I have a daughter who is very well behaved, but I'm often not very fond of her and I can't put my finger on it. Then I have a rambunctious toddler who is very strong-willed and often hard to discipline and she is just so much fun and I really like her, even when she's naughty. Maybe I'm being too literal and missing the point. Our job to train our children is about teaching them the Gospel. Not about personality and whether we are getting anything out of it.
- Jen

Mx5 said...

I'm with ya, Courtney (above) and I'm following what you're saying.

I have five kids, ranging in age from 18 to 9. You'd think I'd know a thing or 2 about parenting. Ha. Not so! I'm still learning. A lot.

My 2nd child, now a 16yr old girl, was difficult from the start. I used to go to my little prayer group and ask my friends to pray for me, because I felt so horrible about not really liking her - but loving her completely at the same time. Years went by. The Holy Spirit did something surprising... he changed ME and how I related to this child. His promptings in my spirit were things like Pv 15:1- a gentle answer turns away wrath - and the like. He convicted me about my own tone, timing, facial expressions and expectations. Yes, my daughter was a handful, but my sinful attitudes & actions toward her were not useful in any way, and not only that, they didn't glorify God.

Once I started truly treating her with tenderness, wise timing, hugs, smiles AND of course unwavering consistent direction, I saw her change before my eyes. It was a powerful lesson to me on how easy it is to just lay out directives with compliant kids, and how difficult and ineffective it is with stronger willed kids. This lesson has translated well into my role at my church, and has also helped my pastor hubby when he has to deal with difficult people (whom are present in every church... easier to cut slack for kids than grown ups though, but that's another post!)

I agree with Mr. Harris about the critical importance of training the kiddos, and I've found in the training that the Holy Spirit has also trained me to be gentle spirited and godly, even in correction. A win-win situation.

danica said...

I've heard my mom say, "The Bible says that children are a blessing. If yours aren't, it's probably your fault."

...And I will add, when my mom and dad talk about training children to be a blessing, they underline how much it actually is for the child -- not just for the parent. I want my children to experience favor when they're out among other people, not the hesitation or rejection that is often given to children who are unruly and untrained.

BETHANY said...

There is a lot of truth to what he said. Parents who slack off are likely to have unpleasant children. That being said, there are a lot of parents doing everything "right" with kids who choose foolishly. A parent has a free will and can choose how committed to parenting they will be. A child also has a free will and they can choose how much of their parent's instruction they want to accept. We have influence over our kids, a lot of influence, but we do not have control over our them.

sara's art house said...

Love this article- it is so easy to get frustrated with my kids and want time away from them....instead of taking the time to train them.

kel said...

My grandmother always said, "You raise your kids to suit yourself." Which I think is along the same lines, even if we're not talking about spiritual matters. Some of the things that bother me about other people's kids are fine with their parents. I definitely think we need to raise our kids in a manner that trains them to be likable. :)

MInTheGap said...

That's really good advice. I've been trying to think through taking my kids with me more so I can be a better example, and so they can become more useful.

Sometimes I think we don't include because of the work that it takes to train them to be useful-- it's "faster" (we think) to do it ourselves, and we believe that we'll get it done right.

Training, though, is better in the long run.

Kelly said...

Fantastic advice and I totally agree. When my daugther was just a baby we'd take her EVERYWHERE and constantly got comments, "why did you bring your baby", "why didn't you leave her at home with a sitter" etc. Anyway we were doing that to get her used to people and learn appropriate behavior and now that she's 3 we get constant comments on how well behavied she is. I tell everyone it's because she goes everywhere with us and we started training her very early on what we expected.

DarcyLee said...

As a over 40 mom of 4 grown and almost grown daughters, I agree with those statements. We have a responsibility and duty to train our children "in the way they should go," reading the Bible to them, teaching them manners, discipline, all the things the Bible commands us to do, as well as modeling those principles in front of them. I've learned that if I want the kind of children that I like, then I have to parent on purpose. For example, if I want my kids to behave well in a restaurant, I have to require that they use good manners at home. Then it's second nature to them to act well enough to eat out in public. If I want to teach them to always tell the truth, I must model that behavior in front of them and require that they do the same through teaching and discipline. I think you get the idea. So many times, as a homeschooling mom, I've been approached by other moms who were just in awe about how I could spend every day with my kids. Well, first of all, I had to require that my children behave themselves. Oh, yeah, there were days when I didn't like them so much, and those were the days that they were really misbehaving, or I just didn't feel well.

As for salvation, I just leave that in God's hands. I just do what I can to lead them to the truth while at the same time do my best to mold them into little beings I like. God bless.

heather said...

I heard Greg Harris speak last summer. He said many good things, but this particular point, training your kids to be people that you like, was one that really hit home with me. I have thought of it many, many times.

I have realized that much of the times when I feel discouraged with my children, it is due to the fact that they respond in an immature (not-so-likable) way. I find encouragement in remembering that it is my job to train my children to be people that I like and that by doing that I am doing them a huge favor-as long as my doing this is rooted in Christ.

Laura said...

I can see what he is saying and I guess it makes sense in theory. But having just spent a very trying week with my 3-year-old, I have to wonder what I am doing wrong. I have never been so discouraged in my life and truly feel on the brink of disliking my child very much. I love him with everything that is in me, but he drives me up the wall and back. So HOW am I supposed to make him likeable? The whole HOW of parenting totally eludes me.

kate said...

My first reaction - whoa...I totally disagree. I agree with training, think it is SO valuable and integral to raising a child.

But how likable a child is, is subjective to whomever is raising him/her. Our children are wired certain ways and the Lord wants to use those characteristics, that some might find disruptive, for good.

I don't believe children should be crazy and out of control. I have a very obedient and respectful 3 yr old girl who loves to talk, bounce and touch her way through stores. I tell her not to touch it, remind her to stop bouncing when she walks, and remind her to keep quiet. But yet, why should I tell her to stop being joyful that she is with her mom? She's a gleeful, please and thank you girl, just not prim and proper and quiet all the time.

I didn't get the kid that reads for an hour in a chair and is naturally likeable.

The Lord doesn't make me into his image in the first 5 years of life or in the first 10. It takes a lifetime to be molded and shaped. We have to remember that for our children and extend them grace.

Trust the Lord and listen to HIS voice, not the voice of an author or other mother's. The Lord gave YOU this child and only YOU know him/her, HE will give you the tools if you listen. THAT in itself will bring about a child that is likable, by your/God's standards, not someone else's.

PP - i've had those days and weeks, the Lord will give you wisdom and he'll soften your heart as well.

Anonymous said...

I think mx5 is absolutely on target. The "difficult children" often don't respond well to discipline techniques that seem to work so well with others, and perhaps even with their siblings.

I believe you cannot effectively discipline your child without knowing your child as an individual.

Unfortunately, as the Bible shows, even some who love and fear God themselves trip up when it comes to training their children well. I'm sure we would all feel like we had failed as parents if our sons sold their youngest sibling into slavery, for example.

When you see how many times the Hebrews continued to screw up, you see that even God was not able (willing?) to perfectly train His children. Jews have just read the Torah portion near the end of Deuteronomy in which there are 65 curses, or warnings, from God about what terrible things will happen to them if they do not follow his word. Even then, many of the children of Israel did not obey. Humans are apparently not easily trained with threats.

There are plenty of books I could recommend to Laura. Dr. William Sears has a book on Christian Parenting as well as the excellent Discipline Book, geared toward parents of children between the ages of 2 and 10.

Laurie B

Catherine R. said...

I am somewhat confused by the various comments saying how wrong these statements are. So, is there no point in training a child because he or she will do what they want anyway?

Is it *mean* to make a child to your liking?

I don't get it. And by that I guess I mean, I disagree.

Susanna said...

Laura- I would say this (having a trying 3 yr old myself)- just remember that they are only 3. Three is nothing. They are not mature or sensible or anything else and sometimes I think we just expect too much from our children. no matter how well we trian them or what godly example we set, some children are going to push us to the limit as they grow- but some of these turn out to be the most wonderful adults- so look to the future and keep praying--it is what I have to do!

Cat said...

Didn't read all the comments today though I usually like to...extra busy today.

I agree with this to a certain extent, but the "how-to" is where I run into problems at times. It seems like something is always neglected around here, though I'm not striving for a "perfect" house, just hygienic.

The other thing is, my oldest in particular has always been well-behaved and I'm frequently told all my children are. But I'm the one who lives with them and sees the attitudes. My oldest has lied to me several times lately, and is very unkind to her younger sisters at times. Lecturing and disciplining don't seem to help at all. I've come to the conclusion that I may never see a REAL change until she commits her life to Christ.

Polly said...

I only skimmed the comments but I agree with what Courtney said. Something about 'train them until you like them' rubs me the wrong way. I DO want to 'like' my child(ren one day, I hope!) but it's also a relational thing--if the father in this situation is not home to BE with his child and KNOW his child, his tolerance level will be lower and the child's desire to obey will be lessened. We have to have that base of relationship--'fill their tanks' etc. my son is way too young at this point for me to have much of anything salient to say but we do take him everywhere--church, restaurants, etc. and even though he's incredibly passionate and intense he does well in various settings. I think that's b/c we try to anticipate his needs, we expect him to do well and when he is tired/hungry/bored we go to a plan B.

I think of it less as training and far more as building a relationship, but perhaps that's merely semantics.

darci said...

This cracked me up-I can see that some would find his wording harsh, but I agree with him. (and appreciate finding his blog-a good read). Our girls are now 8, almost 6 and 1. The older two have gone almost everywhere with me bc of necessity-chiropractor, massage, dentist, even once, memorably, for my physical (!). They are well-behaved, polite and respectful. (and also crazy, squealing, giggly). But I really do not worry if I need to take them somewhere. The one year old, well, we have some years ahead of us. I love to see the spirit in each of my children, the passion and excitement and will..but I do believe as a parent that God calls us to tenderly, patiently, firmly MOLD the will and spirit of each child-not into my own image, but into the image of their Creator. Huge intimidating job, especially bc their mommy, me, is not always walking the Spirit-filled life myself. God has given us such an amazing example in His word of discipline. It is not angry, harsh, or random. It is lovingly working with a child, using God-given authority, showing grace, training in the way they should go, walking along the way with them and sharing my own stories of God's grace for my sin (which they can see!)
God bless. darci

lee527@sbcglobal.net said...

I have found that the best way to train up children is through consistency and patience. But realize that we moms aren't perfect and we'll mess up lots, and so will our kids! It's what we do the majority of the time in disciplining them that counts. And there were and are lots and lots of days that I feel like "what am I doing wrong? Why is this child acting this way? It's not the way I raised them." And pray A LOT! Remember the old saying? "Please be patient, God's not finished with me yet." We are all a work in progress there is a goal, and that is to raise up kids for His glory. So, we have to stay consistent and be extra patient with our little ones. God bless, ladies.

Laura said...

I get what Mr. Harris was saying, even though it might not have sounded the way he meant it - what he meant, I think, was to train them until they do what they're supposed to. We all agree with this, I'm pretty certain!

While I believe that training our children is a necessity, I also want to make sure I'm training them to do what the Bible says, and not so that the population at large will "like them" or even that I will! My son is so different in termperment from myself. There are times when I totally don't "get him". But that doesn't mean he's all wrong. The "train them until you like them" statement can go sour if parents try to turn their children into little clones of themselves (or into whatever model they find most "likeable"). This would be unfair (if not impossible) and would hinder many opportunities to train our children to be obedient to the Lord as THEMSELVES!

So if the child is "unlikeable" in a disobedient to the Word of God kind of way, by all means - train them until they are likeable! If it's a "grey" area though, I say look at your own heart first and make sure you don't need to be trained!

Anonymous said...

If you are with your children all day, you are training them up in the Lord, and pray daily (very important ingredient) , the Lord will bless. You plant, He does the watering. The harvest is ripe, but, the workers are few.

Carolyn said...

Just surfin' the blogs and found you. Just wanted to say Hi and nice Blog!


deb said...

I think that there has to be a balance between obedience and rearing a child who can think for themselves.

Yes, we need to be aware that actions that are cute on a two year old will seem spoiled in a thirteen year old. So, when your cute, little toddler puts out her lip and demands that she be given an extra cookie, imagine a gangly teenager doing the same thing. Ack! Not so cute.LOL

At the same time, we want our kids to be strong willed enough to stand up against cruelty and to stand up for what is right. I've seen some households which were so strict that the children seemed incapable of making their own decisions.

Jessica said...

Wow! I have never thought of it like that! Thanks!

Jess said...

I think we can "overthink" stuff like this. It's not saying that we need to teach our children to be people-pleasing little pushovers who don't have a spine or a personality.

Rather, Mr. Harris has raised some of the most self-motivated and thinking-for-themselves sons that our generation of young Christians has encountered.

Instead, what I hear him saying is that if your children aren't a blessing, you should do something about that. Children (people) are to yield to the Father's discipline... not the other way around. There is a head to every human relationship, and in the family, the father is the head. In too many families, the mother makes excuses for the outright POOR behavior of her children, and the father can't stand his own kids because she "won't let" him discipline them. We have poor models for family life around us and quotes like this help ME to remember how God intends it to be. Children ARE to be a blessing. Parents ARE to train their children. There are certain things that are biblically indisputable, and these kinds of quotes help me to better frame the discussions of parenting that come up.


Lylah said...

love this post. it complements one i wrote earlier this month: sweet or stinky fruit. i'm BIG on child training and as an older mom i'll often hang out with a younger mom and give guidance in the moment on how to train.

here's my post http://lylahledner.blogspot.com/2008/09/moms-help-911-sweet-or-stinky-fruit.html


Melissa said...

i just found your blog and i'm reading old posts. So i realize this comment is late.

i have to disagree. i teach my daughter what i believe the correct way to act and keep her safe. but i don't want to change her at all. i don't think a parent should "train" a child, but rather teach them. and then to train my daughter until i like her? i like her when she's throwing a huge tantrum in the grocery store even though i'm wishing she would stop and listen to me.

the problem with parents who don't like to be around their children has little to do with the children sometimes. the parents failed to teach their children and/or expect their child to be someone besides who they are.

Anonymous said...

I realize I'm two years late in finding and commenting on this post, but maybe this will help someone in the future: Shouldn't it be obvious that the phrase "train them til you like them" might be referring to the little weeds that spring up in mainly young children that can quickly become annoying habits if not uprooted? You know, interrupting, bad table manners, constant noises, obnoxious voices and volume, etc. etc. Parenting discussions don't always have to be so big picture! And it usually goes without saying that whenever parents train something into / out of their children, it's first for the child's own good and benefit. A wonderful side benefit of that, is that the child is pleasant to be around for parents and other adults. My thoughts, anyway...