The task of raising children to be disciples of Jesus is a difficult one. We often find that the culture that we live in is not supportive in our desire to pass our faith to our children. TV shows, movies, social media influencers, peers, and even family and friends often teach or model values and beliefs to our children that are out of alignment with what we believe.
The Bible provides the wisdom and the guidance we need to faithfully parent our children well as we live in a culture that is opposed to our beliefs and values.
Here are seven biblical principles that will help form the foundations for our parenting:
1. LoveLove is the central command of Christianity. Jesus said, “I give you a new command: Love one another. Just as I have loved you, you are also to love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:34-35, CSB)
While we love our children, we don’t always show that love the best. Rather than loving them well we can take out our anger and frustrations on them. It is crucial that we remember that our love for the world starts at home.
It is important to remember that sacrificially loving our children lays teaches them that they are loved. Our children experience God’s love through our love for them. It also teaches them how to love people. Our loving behavior will teach our children how to love more than anything we will say. As parents, we can love our children sacrificially by giving them our time, attention, and money to provide for their needs and create a loving environment that will help them grow.
2. RespectWe often talk about showing respect to people in authority. From a biblical perspective everyone is deserving of respect. James taught this truth in James 2:1-7 when he talked about the evil of showing favoritism for the rich over the poor.
Since everyone is created in God’s image, everyone deserves respect, that includes our children. We are to treat them as fellow image bearers. This means that we consider their feelings, we encourage them in their interests, and we nurture their talents.
Showing respect to our children creates an environment of safety and trust, where everyone feels heard and valued. It is this type of environment provides the space a child needs to discover their unique personality and allows them to be put on the right path to become the people God created them to be.
When we show respect to our children, we teach them to respect us and others. This is an essential skill to have in a world of diversity because it allows them to see the best in others.
3. IntentionalityIn a world that is hectic and busy, it is easy to put things on auto pilot. To get a few minutes of rest allowing our children to watch TV or play on their devices is simple. Yet, we are missing valuable time interacting with our children and we are allowing other people or things to influence them.
It is crucial that we are intentional in our parenting. We can’t afford to be passive. In order to be intentional we need to create and environment that promotes good things, that benefits learning and development, and that is founded on faith. The discipleship of our children, just like our personal discipleship, requires intention and effort.
Deuteronomy 6:6-7 (CSB) states, “These words that I am giving you today are to be in your heart. Repeat them to your children. Talk about them when you sit in your house and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.” As parents, we need to make the commitment to intentionally teach and model our faith and values in our daily activities.
4. BoundariesAll of us need boundaries. We need deadlines to know when our work needs to be finished, we need budgets to know how much money we can spend, and need schedules to know where we need to be and what we need to do.
Setting godly boundaries creates a loving and safe environment where children can succeed as they grow in wisdom and faith. The right environment is crucial. This is why the Apostle Paul wrote, “Fathers, don’t stir up anger in your children, but bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.” (Ephesians 6:4; CSB) Any Family where one or both parents are angry, worried, or fearful is an environment that discourages children. Instead, Paul wrote, parents are to create proper boundaries for their children so they can become the people God created them to be.
Boundaries are necessary in every family to create a secure and nurturing environment. By setting godly boundaries, we teach our children self-control and discipline. Proverbs 22:6 teaches, "Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it." Setting boundaries that align with our Christian values and priorities help our children develop faith and a strong sense of character.
5. GratitudeGratitude is a crucial quality for emotionally healthy people. Being grateful helps us to appreciate the blessings of life and to see everything as a gift from God. In a culture that teaches entitlement, gratitude reminds us to be thankful for what we have and to give thanks to God for the blessings He has given.
This means teaching our children to be grateful is one of the most important thing we can do. And like everything else, the best way to teach our children to be grateful, is to model gratitude in our lives. Cultivating an attitude of gratitude requires us to show gratitude first to God and then to each other. This happens as by saying thank you to people who do nice things for us and it happens as we point out the good deeds each other does.
Being grateful helps us see the good in the world, opens our eyes to the good things people do, and reminds us of the graciousness of God. In 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (CSB) the Apostle Paul wrote, "Rejoice always, pray constantly, give thanks in everything; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus." As parents, we can model gratitude by expressing appreciation for our children, pointing out to them God’s blessing, say thank you to people who bless us, and encouraging them to do the same.
6. Patience and EncouragementI would bet the one thing every parent would say that would like to improve it would be patience. Because we forget our children are still learning and growing, it is easy to loose patience with them when they don’t listen, when they make a mess, or they do anything that throws a wrench into our plans.
Patience is a choice that we make. It requires us stopping, taking a deep breath, and praying. If we don’t make this choice we will find ourselves getting angry at the littlest things.
Colossians 3:21 (CSB) reads, “Fathers, do not exasperate your children, so that they won’t become discouraged.” When we lose patience with our children we create an environment where it is easy for them become discouraged. Paul’s warning to parents here is that a family environment that lacks patience, love, and understanding will lead to children becoming discouraged. When people, children included, feel discouraged they will stop caring and quiet.
Patience and encouragement are essential components of building a strong and healthy family. As parents, we need to be patient with our children as they learn what it means to follow Jesus and mature in their faith.
7. ForgivenessForgiveness is an important part of building healthy relationships and dealing with hurt and pain in our families. As imperfect people, we all make mistakes, and forgiveness allows us to move forward and restore relationships.
Colossians 3:12-13 (CSB) says “Therefore, as God’s chosen ones, holy and dearly loved, put on compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another if anyone has a grievance against another. Just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you are also to forgive.”
As parents, we need to model forgiveness and teach our children how to forgive others. This happens in two ways. First, it happens when our children do something wrong and we tell them that we forgive them. This helps them to know that while we may be upset, that we still love them. Second, it happens when we do something wrong, and we treat our children unfairly, and we ask them for forgiveness. This helps teach them that it is important to own up to your mistakes and take the first step in making things right.
Forgiveness is necessary for a loving family and it an essential skill to teach our children.
Christian Parents seek to raise their children to have a personal faith in God and to teach them what it means to follow Jesus. To do this in a culture that is not supportive requires faith, sacrifice, and commitment. To help us in this process it is crucial that we follow the biblical principles of love, respect, intentionality, boundaries, gratitude, patience and encouragement, and forgiveness. This is how we create an environment where our children can flourish and develop into the people God created them to be. As parents, we help build for God’s kingdom by discipling our children well, and that requires that we turn to God for help and guidance.