Parenting is a marathon and not a sprint. It is of utmost importance that Christian parents grasp the fact that their parenting goes beyond imparting principles, morals, etc. The end of parenting is to disciple your children; this is why there are commands to children in Scripture (Eph. 6:1 & Col. 3:20). Paul treats them as under the authority of Scripture, and we too should realize that we are discipling them in order that they too would obey all that Christ commanded (Mt. 28:18-20).
Requiring obedience of your children is not simply that they might be well-behaved children, but so that they ultimately learn obedience unto their Heavenly Father by believing upon the Lord Jesus.Requiring obedience of your children is not simply that they might be well-behaved children, but so that they ultimately learn obedience unto their Heavenly Father by believing upon the Lord Jesus. Simply put, you are there to teach them the way wherein they should walk (Pr. 22:6). So, here are a few things they need from you in this process of discipling them.
- Consistency – don’t create so many rules that you can’t even remember them all. Keep it simple and make sure to be consistent in enforcing them. Also, remember that children thrive in structure, which means sitting down together at dinner time, being home when you said you’d be home, showing up at important events. In a certain sense: just be there!
- Dignity – In 1 Timothy 3:4 ESV, we are told that an elder qualification is that “He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive.” I emphasize the fact that an elder (who is setting the example for the rest of the congregation) must keep his children in order, but he must do so with dignity. This means in disciplining your children (see more below), you ought not resort to strange or demeaning forms of discipline. Your goal is not to shame your child into obedience, but to keep them in joyful fellowship with the family. These little, snotty-nosed kiddos are made in the image of God, and you ought to treat them with the respect and dignity which that reality demands.
- Discipline – Your aim in discipling your children is not retribution for bad behavior. A wise women once advised Elsje and me to never discipline out of embarrassment. This means that you must know your children, prep them for activities where they may be tempted to fuss, be proactive rather than fly off the handle when they throw a fit. The goal is to drive out the foolishness of sin, not angry reaction to immaturity (Pro. 22:15). Remember that Scripture talks of training, not punishment, when it comes to raising up children.
- Love – Coddling is not an excess of love, but a defect (to apply something CS Lewis once said). Loving your children means teaching them to eat their veggies, learn to control their appetites and feelings, and to be cheerful in doing so. Modern parenting seeks to let children “discover themselves”; Christian parenting is about lovingly teaching children to deny themselves and discover Christ. Love hurts at times, because it seeks what is best for the one who is beloved.
- Teaching – We want wise, self-controlled children, which means we must instruct them in the ways of the Lord (Deu. 6:7). Again, this must be consistent sustained teaching. You need to point at the world and tell them about it through the lens of what God says about it! Catechize your children, or someone else will.
We are fairly green at this ourselves, but we’ve seen that when we keep these principles in view we can see the correlating fruit result in our children. We are continually reminding our children–multiple times a day–to “be kind, obedient, cheerful, and brave”. There is nothing quite better than seeing them do so.