Biblical Points On Parenting
Though there are many, many challenges to being a parent, most moms and dads who stay engaged with their children probably do a better job than they realize. Good parenting is partly instinct, partly gut feel and, honestly, some trail and error learning and adapting over time. However, there are two main pitfalls which are common to parents and which the Bible directs you as a parent (or grandparent) to understand and avoid.
The first is the somewhat uncomfortable knowledge that your precious babies are sinners at heart. We see this in a number of different biblical passages – Genesis 8:21, Jeremiah 17:9, Mark 7:20-23 & James 1:14-15). Many parents work under the mistaken belief that if they could just communicate better or love more or change the environment enough, their kids would never act out. That is simply unbiblical. And unhealthy. Assuming you must be doing something wrong every time your child acts out is a huge mistake! Children naturally desire independence and seek the edge of the envelope. In doing this, they will rebel and they will misbehave.
Good biblical parenting has you set limits and provide structure and discipline when children misbehave in this way. A child must come to understand that unacceptable behavior has negative consequences. There are a number of verses in the Wisdom Literature in the Bible which speak to this. Three of the most famous of these verses are found in the book of Proverbs:
Whoever spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him. Proverbs 13:24 [ESV]
Folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline drives it far from him. Proverbs 22:15 [ESV]
The rod and reproof give wisdom, but a child left to himself brings shame to his mother. Proverbs 29:15 [ESV]
These proverbs are often taken to mean only that the Bible sanctions corporal punishment. That is true but it is not the main point of the verses. They are in the Bible to teach or remind us that discipline is required (that is, enforcing negative consequences on a child is required) given human nature. As a parent you should strive each day to give your child a loving and encouraging environment. But you should never assume you can create (or are responsible for creating) an environment where your child never acts up.
The second main point for good biblical parenting – and this is important – is parents must not make excuses for their child’s misbehavior based on the intensity of the situation. The majority of time most children are well behaved, they even show impressive moments of care and tenderness. But they will act up and act out when their emotions are running hot. That is exactly when you need to hold your child accountable for their negative actions but when many parents make excuses for them instead.
The excuses go something like this “well she is just upset because…”, or “you have to understand he was frustrated with the way they treated him”, or “they don’t normally act that way but they did just go through…”. It may seem natural but that is bad biblical parenting. Of course, your child misbehaves more when their emotions are strong, who doesn’t? Please don’t make excuses for your child in those circumstances. Think about it, you wouldn’t make excuses for someone else if they were mistreating your child just because that other person was angry. Strong emotions are no excuse for sin and children need to learn this early.
David wrote on learning to control the response to our emotions without sinning in the Old Testament (3000 years ago) and Paul in the New Testament (around 2000 years ago).
Be angry, and do not sin; ponder in your own hearts on your beds, and be silent. Psalm 4:4 [ESV]
Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil. Ephesians 4:26–27 [ESV]
Notice neither writer says anger is a sin nor did they say we should learn not to feel strong emotions such as anger. It is simply impossible to not experience, anger, fear, frustration, etc. But a mark of emotional maturity is learning to manage our behavior when we are upset. An action that is wrong when I am happy is just as wrong when I’m frustrated about not getting my way. This remains a critical biblical role for parents and they must enforce consequences for misbehavior even when their child is agitated.