Greg offers his reflections on the biblical view of raising children.
I am the father of two children. One is nine, and one is six. I have asked myself the question, “What does the Bible say about raising up and disciplining a child?" There is not a lot of instruction given specifically in the scriptures about the process of raising kids, but the smaller sections that are given say a lot. We do have some admonition that God gives to Israel with regards to children being trained in the law that I think applies. The content now is different, but the admonition is similar.
God told the Israelis in the giving of the law, “You take these things, and you talk to your children about these things. When they are rising up, when they are lying down, put them like tablets on the forehead. Bind them on your doorposts.” This is why when you go to a Jewish home, you can see the little thing attached to the doorpost that may have something like a scroll in it, reflective of that command.
God didn’t want us to simply put something on our head, or just stick it on the door. The point is that these commands become the primary influence of how we think and how we live, and this is what’s to be passed on to our children. As we’re raising our children, spiritually speaking, the substantive details of following God in His Kingdom are not only things that we’re to understand, but we are to pass them on to our children.
I like the way it’s put in Deuteronomy, "…when you’re rising up, when you’re going to bed.” Last night, my children and I had a conversation while I was trying to put them to bed. Bedtime is when they come up with a lot of spiritual questions. I’m trying to cultivate a general perspective of being free to talk about God and spiritual things in a vast array of circumstances in our lives. This isn’t something we just do on Sundays, it’s the way we live our lives. I think that’s what God had in mind.
Train your children in the fear, discipline, and love of the Lord. Fear is a deep respect. When I pray with my girls, and they start goofing around, I say, “That’s not polite before God.” That doesn’t mean we always have to be solemn, but when you’re taking to kids, you want them to understand the gravity of it.
Secondly, discipline. There are habits we develop on a regular basis that seep into our lives and change our characters, minds, and inform our behavior. Discipline is regular attention to things that have to do with spirituality. This might mean going to church on a regular basis so kids get into the habit that this is part of their life, but also doing other things on a regular basis.
Not just the fear of the Lord, not just the discipline of the Lord, but also the love of the Lord. I want my children to know that the Lord is a good father that deeply cares for them. The best way for me to communicate that is to model being that kind of father to my children.
That’s one example of what the Scripture has to say. There’s a lot in Proverbs about generally wise living that you can begin to employ.
The New Testament basically says that children ought to obey their parents because this is the first commandment with a promise, “…so that it will go well with you.” They are under the protective custody of the parents, and even though the parents don’t do everything right, they are the means of protection that God has given the child. It’s better for the child to obey the parents, even if they don’t understand, and even when the parents don’t make the best decisions. This is part of living in the fallen world, but it’s better to live under the protective authority than for kids, who don’t know any better or have the wisdom, to have to figure things out themselves. God says to obey your parents and things will go well with you.
Parents, don’t exasperate your children. Here’s something for me. Don’t be so demanding on your children or act towards them in such a way that they get exasperated. I talk too much. When I talk to my kids, I can overwhelm them and they get flooded. Yesterday, my daughter said, “Papa, stop talking.” I’d been addressing a problem, and I realized I went too far, and I needed to cut it off.
Those are some of the basic things. The most important thing about being a parent and raising a child up in the Lord, more than anything else, is modeling a way of life for them. This kind of thing is caught much more than it’s taught. As a parent, what I want to do, and I commend this to you, is to live my life so deliberately before the Lord in front of them that they catch my fear of the Lord, my discipline in the Lord, and my love for the Lord.