It may be a stretch to call the Bible the world’s first parenting book, but it’s no stretch to say that every parent can up his or her game by studying and applying the wisdom of Scripture. If you’re not sure where to begin your search for parenting wisdom, here are a few places to consider.
1. Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it (Prov. 22:6).
How do you prepare kids for a life journey when you have no idea where that journey will take them? You train them to orient themselves according to God’s GPS. They may not always follow His directions to a “T,” but they’ll know when they’re off course. And they’ll know which direction to head to find the path they need.
2. Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ” (1 Cor. 11:1).
“Do as I say” is a poor substitute for “Do as I do,” although it is a lot more convenient. It’s no small thing to tell your children to imitate you. To make it work, you must understand your strengths—and especially your weaknesses. You won’t set a perfect example, no matter how hard you try to imitate Christ. But it’s in your imperfections that you can really make a difference in your kids’ lives. If they see you working hard to get better—to become more Christlike in every area of your life—they’ll have a blueprint to follow in their own lives.
3. But as for you, speak the things which are proper for sound doctrine: that the older men be sober, reverent, temperate, sound in faith, in love, in patience; the older women likewise, that they be reverent in behavior, not slanderers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things—that they admonish the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be discreet, chaste, homemakers, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be blasphemed (Titus 2:1-5).
The essential qualities of church leaders that Paul identifies in his letter to Titus can double as essential qualities for parents. Not all of them come naturally, but all of them are attainable through prayer and sustained effort. To master these qualities, we need to be self-aware. We need to recognize situations in which we tend to be irreverent or impatient. We also need an accountability partner (in the form of our spouse) to help us recognize when we fall short of the mark.
4. And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord (Eph. 6:4).
Parental authority must be exercised wisely and judiciously. Paul warns against a heavy-handed approach to childrearing. Intimidation is not an effective parenting tool. Obedience without respect is an empty achievement—and a temporary one. Kids who are bullied into obeying will resent it eventually. As they get older, many will be provoked into anger and acting out.
In contrast, parental authority that incorporates humility, humor, empathy, transparency, and two-way communication is more likely to inspire respectful obedience in kids.
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