In September 1976 our first child, Abby, was born. It was an overwhelming feeling to be responsible for this beautiful little being, created in the image of God, with an eternal soul. This sense of inadequacy drove me into the Bible to learn what God said about parenting.
Often I will hear a new parent say, “Babies don’t come with a manual.” I always object to this by saying that children most certainly do come with a parenting manual. It’s is called the Bible. God has given us all we need to be a godly and effective parent.
As the parent of 5 and grandparent of 18 I have been studying what the Bible says about parenting for over 40 years. Here are some of the most important parenting Scriptures I have learned.
- UNDERSTAND THE GOAL OF PARENTING
The goal of parenting is godly children…not athletic children, or academically gifted children, or socially astute children, or musically talented children…but children who love the Lord with their whole heart. It is the ultimate target of our parenting to deliver our children to adulthood as a fully devoted followers of Christ.
Malachi 2:15 (NLT) “Didn’t the Lord make you one with your wife? In body and spirit you are his. And what does he want? Godly children from your union. So guard yourself; remain loyal to the wife of your youth.”
- CONSISTENTLY TEACH YOUR CHILDREN TO LOVE THE LORD.
Deuteronomy 6:4–7 (NIV84) Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.
A Family Devotion Story: Kathy and I were committed to have Family Devotions with the kids at breakfast each morning. We tried a wide array of family devotional materials from some of the best Christian ministries. Every attempt failed. The kids were bored, restless, inattentive and would bicker with one another while we’re trying to have the devotions. Scolding children while you’re trying to have a time with the Lord is not very conducive to spiritual training.
Finally, one day out of desperation I reached for an easy-to-read version of the Bible and began to simply read it. The children immediately listened, engaged and responded to the Bible. Until our last child left home, we read the Bible together at breakfast each morning before school, then listed prayer requests and prayed together. We found the Bible to be better than any of the family devotional curricula. I praise the Lord that all of our children and their spouses have grown up to love the Lord.
- TEACH YOUR CHILDREN HOW TO OBEY THE LORD.
In the Great Commission Jesus said that in making disciples we were to “Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20, NLT). We all have to be taught how to obey the Lord.
a. You must be consistently committed to obeying the Lord yourself. Your children won’t really care what you believe until they decide whether or not they want to be like you. If they do need see that your faith is genuine, they will most probably want nothing to do with your God. Obeying the Lord is more caught than taught.
James 1:22 (NIV84) Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.
b. You must change the direction of the attention in your child. For the first two year of life you must give all of your attention to the child. But about age two the direction of the attention must change from the parent focused on the child, to the child focused on the parent. Most parents today have never made this change. I have observed that through High School the parent is still more focused on the child than the child is on the parent. This creates a self-centered child who is focused on their own interests alone.
John Rosemond, a Christian family psychologist, says it this way, “A transition must be made around two years old where you say to the child, in effect, ‘From now on you will pay more attention to me than I will be able to pay to you!’” This is for the child’s own good.
Ephesians 6:1–3 (NIV84) Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother”—which is the first commandment with a promise—“that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.”
c. You must teach the child to submit to you while they are young so that when they will submit to the Lord when they are adults. This is the best understanding of the Proverb below…
Proverbs 22:6 (NKJV) Train up a child in the way he should go, And when he is old he will not depart from it.
d. You achieve this by both instruction (shaping the mind) and discipline (shaping the will). Every child needs both discipline and instruction. Early in a child’s life discipline is used more than instruction. It always makes me laugh when I see a parent trying to reason with a 3-year old. As the child grows discipline should be reduced and instruction should be increased.
Ephesians 6:4 (NASB95) Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.
I am praying for your children, and for you as you engage the great art of parenting (yes, I believe parenting is more art than science), that by God’s grace your children will grow up the love the Lord with their whole heart. Nothing can possibly bring more blessings as a parent.