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December 2011
The Best Question Ever
by Lori Coeman

What would you say if I told you I have the answer to disciplining your children? Sounds too good to be true? How about the best question ever, instead? Actually, I don’t have it – Andy Stanley does in his book of the same title. And he found it in the Bible, specifically in the Psalms and Proverbs.

Here’s the question: “What is the wise thing to do in this situation?” Stanley contends that if we would just ask this question before making any major decision, we would find ourselves much better off and walking more in line with the Word of God.

The teaching is based on this visual: three chairs lined up side-by-side. The first chair represents the Wise Choice, the second chair the Foolish Choice, and the last chair the Wicked Choice.

Foolish choices happen because of ignorance or poor reasoning. The word fool actually refers to a pair of bellows or windbag, like the puffed cheeks of a buffoon. Fools produce a lot of hot air, with little substance. A fool doesn’t know what he doesn’t know. The fool doesn’t have enough information or critical thinking skills to evaluate what is the wise thing to do.

Wicked choices happen because of self-will. The word wicked actually means twisted. It is taking what God teaches and twisting it to serve self. It is a deliberate decision to go against what is the wise thing to do. A wicked person knows what is the wise thing to do, but chooses not to do it.

Wise choices happen because they are based on the Creator’s designs and principles. Wisdom literally means making good evaluations and judgments. Wise people make the deliberate decision to follow what God has recorded in His Word because it lines up best with how things were designed to operate. A wise person knows what the Bible says and does it.

The beauty of this question is that it is based not on the right thing to do, but the wise thing. In our secular, humanistic society, right and wrong have become relative. Doing what is right is a subjective judgment that is no longer based on absolute truths. Doing the wise thing ties the issue back to the Creator’s design and intent.

The visual of the three chairs reminds us that a person can be seated at any one of those chairs on a regular basis, but then get up and sit in another chair. A wise person can make a foolish choice. A foolish person can make a wise choice.

So how do these three chairs relate to disciplining? The first step is to evaluate the child’s action. What kind of behavior are you seeing? Wise, foolish, or wicked? Next ask yourself if this is a pattern or just an anomaly – something out of the normal course of action. If the behavior is occurring over and over, then you need to look at the root cause.

If the behavior pattern is foolish, then you need to educate the child as to why the behavior is unwise, including looking at the consequences and implications of continuing to make foolish choices. You cannot assume that he knows what the wise choice is. Show the child the benefits of making wise choices instead.

If the behavior pattern is wicked, then you need to deal with the underlying rebellious attitude. You need to look at the heart of the issue because the Bible tells us in Luke 6:45 that out of the heart the mouth speaks. What has the child been taking into his heart? What has he been watching, hearing, and doing? Assuming that the child knows what the wise choice is, you need to identify what influences are encouraging the child to take the opposite action.

The visual of the three chairs helps us keep such behaviors in perspective. If a generally wise child makes a foolish or wicked choice, it’s helpful not to overreact. If the child is generally foolish, then more attention needs to be given to teaching the wise alternatives.

The three chairs also help us see training as a process. Because of the fallen nature of the human race, children are born with a tendency to act selfishly and even wickedly. Parenting in the early stages requires a lot of boundaries and saying “No!” The child is too young to reason with, so foolish and evil actions must be stopped through removal or punishment.

As the child grows and reasoning abilities develop, then the training shifts to providing information and skills to make the right choices. The focus is on developing a teachable attitude. Punishment should become less of an issue, while incentives can help reinforce the training process.

Once the child is at the stage of accountability and basic skills have been learned, then it is a matter of reinforcing the attitudes and principles through discussion and evaluation. Model how to think through a potential situation ahead of time with your teenager. Focus more on the underlying values and beliefs that generate attitudes and enable sound judgments.

In this light, home education is more than just learning academics. It is learning how to be wise.

Image Credits: © renzo_lo -
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