All parents, either consciously or unconsciously, parent according to their understanding of the the following questions: What is a child’s basic nature? Are they basically other centered or basically selfish? How should parents and children relate to one another? Do parents have the right or responsibility to exercise authority over their children, or should children be extended a great deal of autonomy? Let’s tackle those questions.
The Bible tells us that we all are creatures of dignity, created in the image of God. Unlike animals, we are moral beings with a conscience. We are capable of doing great good, but the Bible also tells us that we are depraved; we all have a natural propensity toward selfishness and autonomy. We want to be the god of our own little universe. We have a natural bent toward what the Bible calls sin (Psalm 51:5). In parenting we need to adopt a Biblical worldview lest we pursue a style of parenting that encourages our natural bent toward selfishness and rebellion. We have a God-given obligation to root out that foolish behavior before it destroys our children, and brings grief to our home and to our community.
How should parents and children relate to one another? Children are to honor and obey their parents (Ephesians 6:1-3). At one time in our society this was self-evident, but with the advent of children’s rights, parental authority over their children is being questioned. Parents are to love instruct and discipline their children. Love is not some warm-fuzzy emotion inside. It is verbally expressed and tangibly demonstrated.
Children, including teens, need to be hugged, encouraged, and protected. They need your time and attention, and if they don’t get it, they will look somewhere else, often with disastrous consequences. If you are too busy to be actively engaged in your children’s lives, then you need to rethink your priorities, and you need to do so quickly, because they will be grown up before you know it, and you will have missed the opportunity to shape their lives as God intends.
Parents also are to instruct their children in the things of God. God has given to parents the primary responsibility for imparting spiritual truth to their children. The church can help, but it is up to us as parents to instruct our children in the things of God (Ephesians 6:4). God purposely singles out fathers as the spiritual heads of their home. Dads, God will ultimately hold you responsible for the spiritual formation of your children. That doesn’t mean you have to do it all, but you do play a key role. Ideally moms and dads should work together as a team to give their kids a Biblical foundation upon which to build their lives.
What does it look like to bring up our children in the training and instruction of the Lord? Teach your children the basics of the gospel message. Your child’s greatest need is for spiritual regeneration, to experience what Jesus described as the new birth. Jesus said, “You must be born again! But sharing the gospel message is only a small part of our responsibility when it comes to our children’s spiritual education. We also need to teach them how to live wisely. The book of Proverbs is a great place to start. In fact, the book of Proverbs was written to instruct children in the art of wise living.
Because of our children’s inherited sin nature, parents must discipline their children. It is an important part of parenting (Proverbs 19:18). As parents, we have got to set boundaries, and we must enforce those boundaries. When those boundaries are crossed, we have to win, and win decisively, every time. There must be a consequence, one that effectively brings behavior back in line.
This type of parenting is hard work. In fact, it can be exhausting. Your children won’t always like you for the stands you take, but they will love and respect you. And ultimately, appropriate discipline, lovingly applied, will bring peace to your home. The question is, “Are you up to it?” If we fail to appropriately discipline our children, we will likely reap as a result of our negligence, grief and shame. But the good news is that if we are faithful to the task God has set before us, there is a great probability that we will reap a blessing and a reward.
Application / Challenge
- Assume responsibility for the spiritual instruction of your children.
- Take a hard look at your priorities. Are you giving your children the love, time and attention they need? If not, take action today to rectify that situation.
- Establish your authority in the home. Set boundaries and expectations for your children; demand obedience.