"Children today are tyrants. They contradict their parents, they gobble their food, they terrorize their teachers."

Socrates - 426 BC

The job of parenting has always been a difficult one, but those who have lived in America for the last 40 years have watched it become even more so. Our children are faced with the influence of a declining morality, and as parents we are less confident than our predecessors in our knowledge of raising them. With the "experts" offering contradictory advice and the lack of a cohesive, biblical consensus within the Church, Christian parents have found themselves feeling helpless and frustrated with their children. For many of them, parenting has become such a source of frustration that they do everything within their power to prevent the conception of any more "problems." Their stress is so great that they count the days until their children are old enough to go to school or move out on their own. They look forward to summertime and holiday vacations, but dread the thought of being with their children all day long. There is no doubt about it -- modern parents need Divine guidance in rearing their children.

No matter how many biblical parenting principles we understand, in order to successfully implement them, it is important to identify any obstacles which keep our blind spots hidden. I offer the following 2 obstacles, which if removed, will help parents to more successfully rear their children.

Obstacle 1 -- Trust in worldly "experts"

As children of God we have been given the Scriptures as our only reliable source of absolute truth. The world offers many ideas it regards to be "true," but the Bible is the one standard for determining what is actually True. The Word encapsulates our knowledge of God, and is the means by which He has given us "everything we need for life and godliness." For basic parenting principles therefore, we must look primarily to God's Word. To look elsewhere guarantees trouble.

Psalms 1:1 tells us that we will be blessed if we do not seek advice from those without Christ. Although they have the appearance of wisdom and offer insights that may seem reasonable, their thinking is infected with worldliness, and leads to regret. The apostle Paul emphasized this when he pointed out that those without Christ lack genuine wisdom, and what they offer as valuable, God regards as worthless. He says that "… the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God's sight ... the thoughts of the wise are vain." That should not surprise us, considering that God tells us that those lacking the fear of God, whether professing Christian or not, are hampered in their thinking and do not have even the basics of wisdom. These warnings are validated by America's present condition. The break-down of the family and the resulting corruption of our society is partially a result of the last few generations receiving guidance from worldly "experts." Like the rest of American society, families within the Church are also in decline, because Christian leaders have undiscerningly received "wisdom" from the world's experts, then christianized it, and passed it on to the Church.

With God's Word offering such an abundant resource of absolute Truth and godly wisdom, we must draw our basic principles for child training strictly from the Bible. Although most Christians will quickly agree with this premise, many are unaware of the worldly ideas they have incorporated into their parenting. It would therefore benefit every parent to reevaluate and determine the validity of their present child training philosophies in light of biblical principles.

As an example, worldly experts observe rebellion in 2 year olds and deduce that all children naturally go through a phase which they label the "terrible twos." They then encourage parents to not be concerned, but to patiently wait for the phase to run its course. When that child is still defiant at age 3, the concerned parents are told not to worry, because the child is simply going through a phase called the "trying threes." At age 4 the same rebellious "phase" is now called the "fearsome fours." When the child is still willful and demanding at adolescence, the parents are told that it is a transitory prepubescent phase, but will eventually pass. By the time the child becomes a teenager, his parents already believe the modern idea that teens are naturally rebellious and independent from their families. They endure disrespectful attitudes hoping that their teen will grow out of his self absorption before their hearts break.

Sadly, many parents accept from the "experts" that these phases are natural and unavoidable. They expect them and endure them, not realizing that God's Word not only does not recognize any such "phases" of rebellion which should be tolerated, but teaches parents how to prevent rebellion. Those who choose not to accept modern phases in their children and instead, implement biblical principles, discover that their children never go through them. One must conclude that the experts who developed ideas about childhood "phases" studied only poorly trained children. At the least, they did not take into consideration that these phases are common to this century and primarily to affluent, indulgent nations like America.

Upon hearing biblical principles taught, some parents wrestle with accepting them. If that is you, then as you react negatively to the teaching of biblical principles, listen to your reason for your struggle. Is it that you believe the Bible teaches something different? Is it that you dispute the meaning of the Hebrew words cited? Or could it be that you have based your convictions on human ideas and worldly principles which just "seem right" to you? As God's people we must grow in our knowledge and application of God's Word, and base our convictions on its precepts. Parenting practices, rooted in any other premise, will always bear bad fruit.

Obstacle 2 -- Fear of repeating one's own past negative childhood

Some parents approach child training with a "vendetta." They are out to right the wrongs they experienced as children themselves. The frustration they feel from their childhood memories, however, often creates a blind spot. Consequently, biblical elements of child training may be inadvertently avoided, because they seem too much like what they endured.

A parent's vendetta may be rooted in a variety of childhood hurts:

  • The adult who grew up in a poor family is determined to indulge his children with all that he did not have, yet cannot now understand why they are turning out self-centered and ungrateful.
  • The adult who was never allowed to play or do social activities as a child, may require little work of his own children, and may overindulge them with sports and recreation. He then wonders why they are lazy or preoccupied with themselves and their personal gratification.
  • The adult whose parents were too strict or abusive is tempted to be too permissive with his own children, despite the clear teaching of Scripture.
  • The adult who was never allowed to speak his mind to his parents, takes the opposite approach in his home, and then finds he is raising sassy, smart-mouthed children.
  • The adult who was never given wisdom behind parental commands, is determined with his own children to offer full explanations before they are expected to obey. Yet, finds that as his children grow, they are unable to obey without arguing.

The poor training of any child is a tragic thing, but it is made worse when that child grows up and hurts his own children by trying too hard to do the opposite of what was done to him. Those parents who were victims of poor training are right to avoid the mistakes made by their parents, but they must guard themselves from rejecting solid biblical principles, just because they seem close to what they experienced. If our parents' approach seemed close to biblical parenting, yet bore bad fruit, we can be certain it was not biblical. God preserved in His Word exactly the right principles we need for training children, and parents who accurately implement them will not be disappointed. In fact, they and their children will be blessed.


Excerpted from chapter 1 of Reb's book CHILD TRAINING TIPS: What I wish I knew when my children were young


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