Thursday, September 2, 2010

Biblical Parenting

Today I am taking a step back into the land of controversy.  My posts on parents and parenting seem to generate a lot of blow-back from parents looking for excuses to not raise their children in a Biblical way.  But before I begin, lest you think I have no say in this matter, let me tell you a little about my experience with children. I was a counselor on the Youth Crisis Hot-line for several years (not quite sure how many but it was quite a while), I was involved with inner-city outreach and mentoring for several years, I taught large Sunday school class for about 3 years, I visited Jamesburg Home for Boys (youth jail) and taught the Bible every week for several years as well, and through the inner city ministry I was also involved in youth ministry at my church at that time.  No, I was never a parent but I have seen the effects of good parenting, bad parenting, and blind parenting.   And so, today I want to use the Word along with my observations over the years to challenge parents to raise their children. 

First of all, you need to bring them up in the ways of the Lord:
And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord.  Ephesians 6:4 NKJV
I can not emphasize this enough.  The foundations you lay today will be with them the rest of their lives.  Bringing them up in the training and admonition of the Lord does not mean shipping them off to Sunday school or youth group once or twice a week  It means you taking the time to teach your children, to pray with your children, to read the Bible with your children, and to live as an example to your children.  Their foundation in the Lord is your responsibility and you will be held accountable.  Here is how God tells you to raise them in His knowledge:
"And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart.  You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates." Deuteronomy 6:6-9 NKJV
It takes commitment on your part for sure, but it is what God expects of us and God will empower you to do it.  You need to make the Word part of your day-to-day life.  You need to make the Word part of your conversation.  You need to make your Word part of your behavior and example.  You have to teach the Lord to your children and live that message in your lives. 

I wanted to establish that point before I continued.  The world is teaching more and more for parents to be "friends" of their children, to respect their privacy, to let them be their own person, and to let them make their own decisions.  Parents are told of "positive" ways to discipline their children and to negotiate with them.  This is all worldly wisdom.  This is not the example of God. 

First of all, parents need to be parents.  You love your child and your child loves you, but you are not their friend.  A friend makes you equal with your child, and you are not.  You always need to keep that authority established over them.  Once you let them associate with you as a friend, they will lose not only the respect for you as an authority in their lives but they will see themselves as equal to other adults.  They will lose any respect for their elders.  The Bible says that children are to honor, respect, and obey their parents and to be respectful of their elders.  It is up to you to teach them those values.  Allowing your child to relate to you as a friend undermines that lesson.  Teach your children to respect you and they will respect other elders. 
Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. "Honor your father and mother," which is the first commandment with promise: that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth."  Ephesians 6:1-3 NKJV
and
'You shall rise before the gray headed and honor the presence of an old man, and fear your God: I am the LORD.  Leviticus 19:32 NKJV
Your children need to learn to respect and honor you as parents and to respect their elders.  How parents treat each other and speak of other adults in front of their children has much to do with that.  Look at God's promise if your children do honor you, that it will go well for them in the land.  How your children respect you will be how they respect other adults and how they respect other adults will go a long way in how they respect others as they grow older.  How they respect others as they grow older will affect how they do in life. 

Parents are also taught by the world to respect your child's privacy.  Your child has no right to privacy.  I am not saying you should spy on them in whatever they do, but their should be monitoring.  You may trust your child (and I will address the problems with that later), but can you trust everyone else?  Do you have any idea of what is out there just clamoring to hurt your child?  The internet is probably the single most dangerous place for a child nowadays and you really need to closely monitor your child's internet use.  You do not know who is contacting your child and many times neither does your child.  How many stories to we hear about regarding children taken advantage of on the web whether by an adult predator or just by another manipulative person their age.  There is no censorship on the internet and anyone can pretend to be whatever they want.  

You should also know who your child's friends and even whose those friends' parents are.  Peer pressure is a strong motivator for children to do wrong. Again, you may trust your child but do you trust who they are with?  There are many dead, drug-addicted, pregnant, and sexually active or diseased children who had "privacy."  Remember what the Bible says about the company you keep:
Do not be deceived: "Evil company corrupts good habits."  1 Corinthians 15:33 NKJV
Parents are also told to let children be their own person and make their own decisions.  That directly contradicts the premise of raising your children in the Lord.  Children do not have the wisdom to make right decisions in life.  They may think they do, but they do not.  I see even Christian children acting and dressing in ways not becoming of any decent person, let alone a child of the Living God.  Modesty is established early.  Your child needs to learn that.  I have seen girls coming to church in short shorts with writing across their rear end and shirts that do not quite make it all the way down to the pants.  Are you kidding?  Is that how a child of God should portray herself?  And what of of boys?  I have seen boys coming to church wearing super tight pants, offensive t-shirts, and/or dressing like a slob.  Is this how a son of the Living God should dress?  How your child dresses reflects on you as a parent, especially since you are the one buying the clothes.  At concerts, I have seen Christian boys and girls dressed punk or goth or somewhere in between.  Maybe I am old-fashioned, but those styles represent things not becoming of a Christian.  Punk clothing is borne of the spirit of rebellion.  It was and is meant to be shocking and rebellious.  Seriously, I have seen Christian children wearing leather bondage pants at concerts.  Should any child wear pants styled for sadomasochism and sex? And what of goth and your child?  Goth is borne of the same punk style as above.  It is a subset of punk based on a style designed to be dark, morbid, and erotic.  Your child should be a child of light, not a child of dark.  I do believe that many of those bands who play such music are Christian (at least for the most part and I will address that in a future post), but that music is useful as an outreach and not for growth.  Yes, those bands reach to children in fallen subcultures, but Jesus pulls them out of those depths and into a new life.  Furthermore, enjoying a kind of music and embracing a culture are 2 very different things.  If your child is expressing something in his or her heart by dressing inappropriately then the correct response is to work to correct it, not allow your child to embrace it, and certainly not for you to endorse by funding it.  Here is what the Bible says about dress:
in like manner also, that the women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with propriety and moderation, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or costly clothing, but, which is proper for women professing godliness, with good works.  1 Timothy 2:9-10 NKJV
While this verse applies specifically to women, please not think that the implication is for boys being allowed to dress inappropriately.  Understand the motivation behind inappropriate dress and consider if that motivation is in line with Godly living.  If you claim your child's heart to be right with God, then expect your child to portray that image.  Giants fans don't wear Eagles Jerseys, nor should the redeemed where clothes  that reflect otherwise.  A child will ultimately grow into their own person, but who that person is will be a reflection of how they were raised. 
Train up a child in the way he should go, And when he is old he will not depart from it.  Proverbs 22:6 NKJV
And now let's talk about discipline.  We live in a world of time-outs and hot sauce.  The world tells us that any kind of corporal discipline is barbaric and ineffective.   The Bible says differently.
He who spares his rod hates his son, But he who loves him disciplines him promptly.  Proverbs 13:24 NKJV
Do not withhold correction from a child, For if you beat him with a rod, he will not die. You shall beat him with a rod, And deliver his soul from hell.  Proverbs 23:13-14 NKJV
The rod and rebuke give wisdom, But a child left to himself brings shame to his mother.  Proverbs 29:15 NKJV
God says that it is in the best interest of the child to use corporal discipline.  You can cite any worldly study or advice from any expert, but questioning corporate discipline is questioning God Himself.  We do, however, need to be careful in our motivations for discipline.  The goal, as we see here, is to prevent a child from going astray and to impart wisdom.  The goal is not to lash out in anger, but to make discipline an act of love.  Keep that in mind when you discipline your child - it is an act of love.  An act of love can not be performed out of anger.  And it must ultimately be edifying to your child.  You need to explain why the discipline is being given and what you hope your child learns from it.  And the child must always understand that what you do, you do out of love.  Your child may not understand it now, but that child will someday.  Here is what God says about the ultimate outcome of discipline given properly:
Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.  Hebrews 12:11 NKJV
Keep that goal in mind when you discipline your child and in how you handle things after discipline has been given. 

Before I close, I want to briefly address the parents who are blindly raising their children.  By blindly, I mean those parents who think their child is a perfect little angel who does no wrong.  By allowing that illusion to continue, you causing grave harm and danger to your child.  I have seen this countless times in youth ministry, and it saddens me that parents so often turn a blind eye to their child's misdeeds no matter how often you bring it up to them.  I even saw an elder of a church make a HUGE deal to me regarding the inner city children I was ministering to and not allowing them to corrupt his perfect innocent daughter (no his exact words, but close).  I made sure there were no issues and the city children had no contact with her at all.  At one point in the service, there was a sign up sheet for camp and that girl was actually stealing the phone numbers of all the city kids who signed up and adding them to her cell phone.  That elder, unfortunately, had his head in the sand.  What danger did he leave his daughter in when she is stealing random phone numbers from boys she wanted to flirt with.  She was heading down a wrong path and her father was too blind to correct her.  His negligence was to her peril, just as your negligence is to your child's peril if you ignore the wrong in their lives. 

And so we have a few practical applications from God's Word for today's culture in raising our children.  We live in a dangerous world where just about every resource is hellbent on corrupting our children.  We need to screen what they watch, read, and listen to.  We need to be diligent in making sure they are keeping the right company.  We need to make sure they are not endangering themselves.   The Bible says this:
Children, obey your parents in all things, for this is well pleasing to the Lord.  Colossians 3:20 NKJV
Children need to learn that obedience from you.  They also need to know why.  It is not because you are older, stronger, or even by virtue of you being their parent.  It is because it pleases the Lord.  The next verse warns:
Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged.  Colossians 3:21 NKJV
If you expect your children to obey just because you say so, that is provoking and discouraging them.  If you expect your children to live a life that you do not exemplify, they will be discouraged.  They must learn obedience to you because it is pleasing to the Lord.  For that, they have to know the Lord and why it is important to follow Him.  You can not teach the importance of following Jesus if it is not important by your own actions.  Your children will only desire to please the Lord if you desire to please the Lord and if you desire to please the Lord, you will set that example for obedience.  Children are imitators.  I once saw a really sad case of a young girl picking cigarette butts off the ground to pretend to smoke them to be more like her mother.  What example do you set for your children?  Be imitators of Christ because your children are imitators of you. 
The father of the righteous will greatly rejoice, And he who begets a wise child will delight in him.   Proverbs 23:24 NKJV

4 comments:

  1. Parenting is a challenge, and left to our own devices we simply are not up to the task. Before I knew the Lord, I was a loving parent but not a very godly one. I'm certainly not a perfect parent now (far from it!), nor are my children perfect (anyone who knows my kids can attest to that!), but we strive to raise our children in the admonition of the Lord. The verses you provided were spot on, and have benefited us in our efforts to parent our children. It remains a work in process, but with God nothing is impossible.

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  2. Ben,

    Since you know you are stepping back into the land of controversy and choosing to do so anyway having no experience in raising a child...I will write my controversy.(contrary to your belief above that the feedback is coming from parents that do want to raise their children in a biblical way..which cracks me up, btw)

    There is a WORLD of difference(2 different worlds) between dealing with youth(even for years) and raising your own child....but don't want to get into that.

    But I wanted to ask you about your motivation behind this posts after already posting a similar posts:

    Do you find that this needs to be drilled into parents and that you are being led to do so?

    I will give you a gold nugget that I have found in my experience:
    I have found the one of the greatest examples I can set for my children is setting their mother and my wife above my personal desires...this is where the battle is for me...but it is cool that this can be done BEFORE YOU HAVE CHILDREN!!! Isn't that awesome! sort of the training ground as it will get more and more difficult as you have children.

    Some of the things I find myself doing is jumping on the computer and pushing her off (even for a moment)...rejection in the woman's eyes...that instant choice of self over wife.....there are many examples of this at different depths.... but enough for now I guess.

    How can we say we love God who we haven't seen if we do not love those who we do see?

    I just preached to myself!! :)
    -James

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  3. James,

    My mention in my experience with youth is not that it is comparable to raising my own child but that I have seen the results of biblical and unbiblical parenting. I write what on the subjects God places on my heart and parenting and raising children is one of those subjects. Whether or not I have experience in raising children is not as issue as even the apostle Paul never had a wife or children yet his writing is our guide as Christian in terms of family relationships. Not that I am Paul and not that what I write holds the weight of the Word of God, I just mean that experience in an area is not necessary.

    Sacrificing your desires for those of your wife is part of loving her as Christ loved the church and so you are very much correct in that being a very important part of the example you are setting for your children.

    These posts are part of my training. They get me into God's Word and what I write is not something I am so much preaching to everyone else but sharing what God is teaching me.

    Ben

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  4. Ben,

    I have expressed my critiicism but I wanted to let you know as well, that some of your posts are thought provoking whether we agree or not on different issues..so a blessing either way.

    -James

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