The Bible isn’t a parenting manual. Some direct statements about parenting exist, but there is no book of First Parentonians.
In other words, while the Bible has much to say to parents, much of it is indirect. The Bible chronicles God’s redemptive plan for mankind. It isn’t cluttered with culturally temporary admonitions to parents.
When Paul wrote to the Corinthian church, for instance, he included directions about headcoverings. The women should consider wearing them, Paul suggested. Every Bible reader since then has perceived the difficulty of the passage. We get it. A specific cultural setting existed in Corinth during Paul’s time. This culture somehow required a best practice of headcoverings for women in the church.
The reader is left to find the timeless principle God expects us to hold. We don't mindlessly apply headcovering observance to women today. Nor do we flippantly dismiss the passage as a cultural abberation. No, the interpreter must do the work of finding the divine, timeless principle God expects us to hold.
Had one of the Bible books been all about parenting, I’m convinced we’d have a massive “headcoverings” situation on our hands. We'd be left with a daunting interpretive task. With extreme difficulty we'd extract the timeless principles from these ficticious parenting passages.
What the Bible is full of, however, are principles that apply in all cultures.
My hope here is to provide you with a few of these timeless, supra-cultural truths. Then, we need to do the work of applying these truths to our parenting.
Does My Parenting Style Include Trust In God?
Supracultural Principle: Christians believe trust is central to our relationship with God. We experience a constant battle between fear and faith.
Fear has always been an issue for God’s people. At the borders of Canaan, the ten spies swayed the Israelites from going into the Promised Land. This was fear. The giants in the land were too much for them, they said. Only two, Joshua and Caleb, had faith. They saw God. Not the self. Not the enemy.
But this is the struggle. We know we are to trust in the Lord with all our heart. Do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make straight your paths.” (Proverbs 3:5-6)
Trust. Faith. God's encouragement is constant. Live by faith. Trust him. Lean upon Him.
Paul, writing to a young pastor named Timothy, said, “God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.” (2 Timothy 1:7). The fear is not from God.
How does this timeless truth impact our parenting? Believing parents should ask, “Do I trust God with this child?” This is more important than our decision on how to administer a proper time-out.
But there is much to fear as a parent, so much of our parenting is fueled by it. More must be fueled by trust in God. We need to lean on him in every area of our lives, including our parenting.
For instance, we might ask ourselves, is there an overemphasis on me and what I must do for my child? Do I under emphasize God’s ability, His sovereign work in the life of my child?
Do I believe this child will fall apart unless I am a perfect parent? Many put this pressure on themselves. We forget, we’ve seen fine adult children come from less than stellar parents. God can work in spite of us.
Now, I write and teach for parents often. I do believe there are best practices for us to engage in. Still, we must search our hearts. Do we trust the Lord?
Do I believe God can sovereignly reach into my child’s life, just as He did mine? I mean, think about it. You love the Lord. You want to walk with Him. I know my parents told me of Christ, but I fell in love with Him because of Him.
He opened my eyes. He revealed Himself to me. It was all Him. I had my road to Damascus moment, and it was Jesus on the other end of that light, not my mom.
But we forget this. We think if we make all the right moves then our children will become God-lovers. But we cannot make them believers. We cannot make them successful in life. God will use us, but God must work through us.
Trust God. Lean on Him. He lives.
Does my parenting style emphasize grace?
Supracultural Principle: Christians believe in God’s grace, demonstrated and accessed through the gospel. As a result, we long to communicate grace motivations rather than law motivations.
We know this to be true: God has extended grace to us.
I recently taught the book of Titus to our church. There, Paul explained, “The grace of God has appeared. It saves us. It is training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions.” This grace, he continued, makes us a people “who are zealous for good works.”
This is what grace can produce. Harsh law produces rebellion, a broken spirit, discouragement. But grace produces life. To see the death we were under, but the patience and grace of God in the midst of it, is life giving. To see my sin, but then to see His cross, awakens my heart.
“I am not ashamed of the gospel…it is the power of God for salvation.” God’s gospel power produces robust salvation. It is positional and future, but it is right now. The gospel is God’s weapon to save me from everything, including myself.
Do I believe this for my children? Do I only share good morals with my children? Do I often share the gospel with them?
This is often evidenced in how we talk to them of our own growth as individuals. Do we come accross as self-made or grace-made? Do we talk of the patience God has had with us, the transformation He has worked in us?
My children love to hear of God’s patient work in my life. To apologize to them, to tell them of my need of God’s grace and mercy, is helpful to their souls.
Do you show your children that we were all lost in sin, sinful by nature, in need of Jesus’ redemption? Do they know of the Spirit’s help to obey?
Are you satisfied with outward obedience? Do you pray for heart change and transformation? This will only occur via grace. The home cannot be filled with rules, yet absent of love. This graceless existence harms the work of God in their lives.
We must extend grace to our children. If I only favor my children when they behave well, I communicate law. But when they know they have been disobedient, yet I still love them, I communicate grace.
Sometimes grace works itself out in a home when parents remove temptations from their children. Sometimes we say, “Don’t watch that, don’t touch that, don’t do that.” There are times, however, when it is wise to just remove the option altogether.
The reason is grace. You know they are like you, born in sin. The flesh is strong and the sinful desires are real. Rather than put them in a position to fail, sometimes grace says, “I see your weakness and want to help you in it.”
Does my parenting style cultivate rest?
Supracultural Principle: Christians believe God set aside the seventh day of creation as a day of rest. He ordained it as a weekly Sabbath rest for ancient Israel, and Jesus Christ fulfilled it. He is our rest now, inviting us to rest in Him.
"The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath," Jesus said.
God modeled the Sabbath centuries before writing the Sabbath law. In the creation account of Genesis, we are told, “And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation.”
God did not need rest, but he modeled rest. This rhythm, this boundary, is crucial to man’s existence. We must pace ourselves.
“So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from his. Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience.” — Hebrews 4:9
We are to live balanced lives. This is a challenge at our modern breakneck speed, but God has modeled it for us. Jesus said, “Come away and rest awhile." Oftentimes that is just what we need.
As parents, we try to strike the right balance and rhythm in life. Our children must learn how to work. Laziness is a plague. A strong work ethic must be shown them.
Still, your world will not cultivate rest for you. Soccer games, school fund-raisers, church activities; good things that can all end up being a little much.
Do you often commit your family to things that are unnecessary and unhelpful? The schedule is not meant to be filled every day, at least not in God’s perspective. Family life can be busy, often terribly so, but parents must make sure it is not busier than it has to be.
Don’t use the little word replacement trick, either. You know, “I’m not busy, my life is just ‘full.’” I get it. I’ve said it, and a full life is a good life indeed. Still, don’t self deceive. Sometimes your life is unnecessarily full.
Do you believe a busy life makes you important or valuable? Do you fight for your family to have the space in their schedules to simply be? To be together, to love one another, to laugh together?
Our society didn’t always talk about stress. Now it’s a serious thing. Am I guilty of filling up my child’s calendar to the point of stress? Help your kids. Give them the space and time to create, explore, learn, and play.
Jesus told Martha that Mary had chosen the good portion. She had figured out a rhythm. As she sat at Jesus’ feet, she heard His voice. Her stopping enabled her hearing.
Does my parenting style teach obedience?
Supracultural Principle: Christians believe submission is even found within the Triune Godhead. We know we are to submit in multiple contexts, agreeing with Scripture that parents must teach obedience to their children.
We believe in submission, following the order God has designed. God Himself exists in an order and has designed us to exist within one as well. Although submission to authority is a challenge, we recognize life is contingent upon it.
Of all the Bible doesn't say to parents, it does say that children ought to be obedient. To us. But why ought they obey their parents?
The whole world is built off of varying degrees of submission. Our children will grow and need to, in various contexts, follow. In work, church, government, and family affairs they must follow to some degree. Much of the pain people cause themselves flows from an inability to follow when they should.
“Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.” Ephesians 6:1
“Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord.” Colossians 3:20
It doubt the New Testament era toddlers took copious notes when these verses were read. I think their parents would have overheard these exhortations, and taken note. When the Ephesians or Colossians sat down to study their letters, the parents would have heard this command. They likely would have understood the parental need to teach obedience.
Now, grace filled, relational teaching of obedience is far different from a harsh teaching of obedience. But do we teach obedience to our children? You are their parent, not their friend, and you are responsible for them.
One question to ask is this: am I able to use the word “no” with my children? I’m not talking about a caloused or cold use of the word. I’m talking about a loving ability to refuse them.
There are times we must. I believe we ought to say “yes” as much as we can. Then our “no” counts for something. Still, we must be able to actually refuse them.
I’m sure every parent, in a pinch, can say “no.” But do you notice a paralyzing fear come over you when you must say “no”? Do you frequently try to distract them, avoiding the confrontation?
Does my parenting style teach obedience? Can I teach a version of obedience that is also freeing? A version where they know the boundaries, yet feel free operating within them? Or do I teach obedience that is void of relationship?
It is worth noting where these directives about the obedience of children are found. The New Testament. We consider the Old Testament our Scriptures also, but they do take more interpretive work. The New Testament, on the other hand, is straightforward for us. All this to say, modern believers can rest knowing the obedience mandate is a crucial one for us to learn.
This subject takes great care to unpack well. Kids need to fly. They don’t need to be controlled. We are to aid them in discovering who God has made them to be. Still, the Bible is clear, teaching our children to obey is a significant part of our parental role.
Does my parenting style promote spousal oneness?
Supracultural Principle: Christians believe the husband and wife relationship is paramount within the family.
Something mysterious was declared over the first marriage. After telling the man to leave his father and mother, God told him to be joined to his wife. “The two,” God said, “Will be one flesh.”
Jesus repeated this concept. “What God has joined together, let not man separate,” Jesus said.
There is something mystical about the marital union. The covenant we make and the sex that consummates it, causes God to make us one. That previously didn’t exist. This oneness is new. This oneness is sacred to God.
I believe much of marriage boils down to this concept. Does a married couple operate as two individuals? If so, the marriage will be difficult. Does the marriage operate as one? Then the marriage will be smoothed.
Is there an openness of heart to one another? Are thoughts kept exclusive and private? Do we share in finances? Do we enjoy life together, or apart from one another? Is there honesty? Do we frequently come together sexually? These are all oneness questions.
The Bible doesn’t teach, however, that our offspring are part of that oneness. Kids are not one flesh with their parents. Obviously, there is a bond, but parents are one flesh with each other, not their children, at least not in the way they are with their spouse.
This is important because many parents will sacrifice their marriage for their children. One of the best things you can do for you kids is love your spouse. A healthy marriage is life giving for children. Plus, it will strengthen you in the years to come.
With all this in mind we ought to proceed with caution. Does this current decision for my kids put an undue stress on my marriage? We make commitments constantly. Fortunately, as the years go by, we grow stronger, able to handle the responsibilities in front of us. Still, many parents are tempted to decide for their kids to a degree that sacrifices the marriage.
Am I fighting for friendship and romance with my spouse? Is all that on hold for my children? Don’t fall into the trap of hitting pause on your enjoyment of your spouse in order to get parenting done. Enjoy your spouse now. Someday, the kids will depart. You and your spouse will need to have a strong bond.
Do my children know our marriage is the center of the family? Or do they believe they are the center of the family? This might be evidenced through date nights, and trips. Something as simple as time on the couch with your spouse, time they cannot interrupt, communicates the priority of your marriage. They need to know your love for them, but also your love for each other.
Do I show my children how important my wife is to me? Do they see me texting, calling, catching up, laughing, playing with her?
Do you spend time with your spouse without your children? Remember, it isn’t a date if your kids are there.
Does my parenting style prioritize God’s kingdom?
Supracultural Principle: Christians believe God’s kingdom is coming, but is present today in the form of the church. Jesus shed His blood for the church, and He wants us to love His people like He does.
Jesus said, we are to “seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” God’s provision flows as we seek first His kingdom.
When it comes to the cares and worries of this life, Jesus taught us to lean on Him. Trust in Christ is paramount.
After Jesus’ ascension, the church prayed together. After a waiting period, the Holy Spirit fell on them, so they began to preach the gospel. Many others became believers at that time.
Luke wrote the record of it in Acts. He said it was like this: “And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.” They got plugged in.
I am no legalist in these areas. I know we live in a fast paced culture and time. I know we are pulled apart trying to live missionally, in community, in intentional relationships, while still swinging by Costco.
Still, we are called to seek the kingdom. To gather together. To “consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together.”
Do your children believe Sunday is a day dedicated to worship? Is Sunday worship a rule of thumb for them or a haphazard experience?
Does my child ever miss out on something because he lives in a Christian family? Does my style of parenting make meeting with other Christians an impossible experience?
I grew up with Christians constantly in the home. I went to the homes of other Christians. This message was not lost on me. If you want to be a kingdom person, it takes some time. You have to decide. They fill your life, at least a little.
My children might become more passionate for Jesus than I am, but I’m not going to make it easy on them. Hopefully, I can set the bar high.
So, there you have them. Six supracultural principles we can thoughtfully apply to our parenting styles. Perhaps, as you read this, you are thinking of more. There are likely many ways an overarching truth in God's word makes its way into our families. Thinking this way is healthy and good, more biblical. We need the Holy Spirit to perform this mind renewal upon us, that we might lead our children well.