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March 16, 2023

5 Biblical Principles for Parenting Your Kids

Parenting in the 21st century is tough. Between caring for our kids, the demands and expectations of the world, the pressures of social media, extra-curricular activities, the daily tasks of our own lives and, oh yeah, sleep, being a parent can feel like a heavy weight. On top of that, as Christians we want to bring Biblical principles into our lives and the lives of our kids every day. Although Scripture isn’t exactly a how-to manual for how to train up a child in the way of God, it’s still full of wisdom for how to lead and guide our children well. As Christian parents, we rely on God’s word to inform our entire lives, including our parenting. Here are 5 Biblical principles for parenting the next generation.

Related: A Parent’s Guide To Discipling Teens

1. Parenting biblically is a lifelong goal

“These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.” – Deuteronomy 6:6-9

When you are parenting your children in the ways of God, you want His truths to reach their hearts. But just telling them the Gospel once and hoping that sticks isn’t going to work. Deuteronomy says that teaching your kids is a round-the-clock commitment: at home and on the road, in the morning and at night, day in and day out.

This means that teaching our children how to love God is a whole life process. We don’t just relegate it to family Bible study or church on Sunday mornings. It has to become part of the fabric of our everyday lives, guiding us through the highs and the lows, shaping how we think, speak, and act. Fostering this mindset in your kids can feel like a lot of work, but it’s also the greatest gift we as parents can give to our children. Discipleship parenting plants seeds in your kids’ lives that grow over a lifetime.

Try this: Ask your kids at the beginning of the week about something they want prayer for. Over the next week, write short prayers or verses about what they need encouragement in on sticky notes around the house in places they’ll see them. You could even ask permission to put some in their car or in their backpack for school!

2. You don’t parent alone

“Lord, you are the God who saves me; day and night I cry out to you. May my prayer come before you; turn your ear to my cry.” – Psalm 88:1-2

Parenting is tough, and there are days where we will be heart-broken, discouraged, frustrated, and downright mad. We’ve all felt like we’re failing, like we’re falling apart, like we can’t do anything right. When we’re deeply troubled, we can take heart in knowing that God listens to and answers our prayers.

God listens and remembers us in our most frustrating and discouraging moments as parents. When we parent, we don’t do so alone. The Holy Spirit has been promised to us and helps us lead our children to God.

Try this: Find a piece of art, a verse, or a quote that reminds you of the faithfulness of God and the presence of the Holy Spirit. Make it the lock screen of your phone, so every time you answer a text or search the internet you remember that God is in your corner. If you’re not sure how to change your lock screen, ask your kid! It might even lead to a good conversation.

3. Aim for holy character, not good behavior

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’ – Matthew 7:21-23

There will be times when you feel like you are dealing with your kid’s behavior and actions: disobedience, disrespect, lying, stealing… But when you are experiencing negative behavior, there’s a lot more under the surface; something is happening in your child’s heart. The same can be said for their positive behavior. Just because they are super kind or thoughtful doesn’t mean they are being shaped into someone more like Jesus.

The easy temptation of parenthood is to work on behavior modification: punish bad behavior and reward good behavior. But raising kids to love God, read the Bible, and be more like Jesus is about developing their character. Actions and behaviors aren’t the same as truly knowing Christ. Encourage your children to know Christ deeply, not just “behave well”. Actions always have consequences, and sometimes those consequences will include discipline. But knowing where your child is emotionally, mentally, and spiritually will not only help you better understand what that discipline should be, but give you insight into conversations that you can have in the future to instill the truth of God’s love deep in their heart.

Try this: If you’ve just found out your kid has done something they shouldn’t have, before reacting, invite them into a neutral space where you can have a conversation. Maybe that means taking them out to coffee, or just having ice cream in the kitchen. Encourage them to take a couple deep breaths and reflect on how they’re feeling, then start a conversation with “what’s going on in your heart?”

4. Discipline is about consequences and change, not punishment

“Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it… Folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline will drive it far away.” – Proverbs 22:6, 15

Speaking of discipline, we will inevitably run up against the need for it with our kids. In fact, it is a Biblically encouraged practice. But whenever Scripture talks about discipline, it is not in reference to punishment. The Bible encourages us to discipline our children because it shapes them into the right kind of people, not because they deserve punishment. Healthy and Biblical discipline helps children understand the impact of their actions, and encourages change that comes from a desire to be better, not fear of getting in trouble. And more than that, discipline acts as the natural guardrails that protect your child from danger and guide them down a road towards Jesus.

Finding the balance of discipline that is a necessary response to damaging behavior but still fosters formation of good character can be tricky. But when you discipline your child, remember that you aren’t angling for a better behaved child, but a child that loves Jesus and knows Him in their heart.

Try this: When your child does something that requires discipline, ask them what consequences they would give if they were a parent and their child were behaving the same way. Of course, not every kid is going to respond thoughtfully to this question, and sometimes you’ll have to stick to your own decision about what kind of discipline they need. But questions plant seeds in your kids’ minds, and the idea that someday they might be on the other end of bad behavior might encourage them to think about their actions from a different perspective.

5. We can’t parent without God

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” – Galatians 5:22-23

We want to be good parents. We want to love our children well and shepherd them to know Jesus. We want to teach them God’s wisdom and truth. And we want to do it all while being perfectly patient and kind.

By our own power, it is impossible to do all that. But we are not relying on our own power. Our parenting power comes from the power of the Holy Spirit.

When we find our identity in Christ and rely on Him, we might just find ourselves being more loving, joyful, patient, and kind. When the Holy Spirit is overflowing in us, it will naturally spill over into our parenting. That’s not to say that if we snap at our kids we don’t have the Holy Spirit (everyone does things they wish they hadn’t from time to time). But it’s important to remember that our personal spiritual lives will inform our parenting. When we invite Jesus into our parenting, through Him, we will see fruit.

Find a time in your day where you can be completely alone with God. It might be five minutes or it might be an hour, it might be in your house while your kids are at school or it might mean taking a quick drive around your neighborhood. In that time, do something to connect to the Holy Spirit in you. Maybe that means reading a passage of Scripture, maybe it just means taking a few deep breaths and saying the prayer most of us know so well: “Help!” No matter what the time looks like, it will remind you of where your strength comes from, and help you hold on to the lifeline that is the presence of God.

We know that parenting can be tough at the best of times, and at the worst of times it can feel impossible. Whether you’re facing a tough conversation with our child and don’t have the words to begin, getting a jumpstart on the teenage years ahead, or just need a little help in the day to day, God is with you, on your side, giving you all you need.

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