I am regularly asking parents about their child-rearing techniques.
It’s not that I think I’m bad at parenting, but I love gleaning parenting ideas from other moms, dads and other caregivers.
I understand that there is no one-sized-fits-all approach for raising kids.
But among the Christian parents I know, we all agree that the Bible holds the answers to our child-raising challenges.
Book Project on Raising Godly Kids
This is why I set out to write a book that encapsulated some of the best advice for raising godly girls in today’s world. I have a daughter and a son, but because my daughter is older, I thought I’d focus my research there.
I’ve interviewed several parents so far, and as you would expect, I’ve actually learned some tips that apply to both sexes.
There is a common thread among the parents I’ve interviewed, too.
And that is, we all tend to approach child-raising from the perspective of our own childhoods.
There may be some tweaks here and there.
For the most part, however, today’s parents tend to mirror their moderately “normal” childhoods. It is only in extreme situations and dysfunction do we see a major departure from our own parents’ child-raising styles.
If our parents spank, then we instituted corporal punishment (at least some version) as a form of discipline, too.
If our parents were diligent about teaching us the Bible or church attendance, then we also put an emphasis on the same as well.
If our parents tended to get angry and yell when they were upset, then, unfortunately, we will be more inclined to do the same with our own children.
You see the pattern.
No matter the good or the bad, it often gets passed down from generation to generation.
But, as a Jesus follower, it’s important we not base our parenting skills on experience alone.
That’s where the Bible is so critical to doing it the “right” way.
Notice that I didn’t say “perfect” way, because I don’t think there is necessarily a “perfect” way to raise a child.
But armed with scriptural references and a foundation based on pleasing God alone, I think we can get pretty close to perfection.
Planting Spiritual Seeds
The Bible references the planting of seeds, particularly the mustard seed (the smallest of all seeds) to suggest that something (in this case, faith) as small as an pen point can produce impressive outcomes.
When translating this metaphor to parenting, it holds a great deal of hope for us parents who trudge along, day in and day out, trying to raise our children the best way possible.
There was a 1950s movie called The Bad Seed about a little girl who was adopted.
Spoiler alert: The 8-year-old child killed another student and it was later revealed that her biological parent was a notorious serial killer. The storyline goes on to suggest that her murderous behavior was genetic and could not be reversed by “good parenting or a wholesome environment.”
I think Hollywood produced the movie to scare parents into subversively thinking that nothing can change a child.
Okaaaay. So maybe the intent wasn’t so sinister. Perhaps it was only meant to be a blockbuster of a psychological thriller.
Nonetheless, I want to let you know that according to my Bible, I beg to differ with the notion that a child (and an adult, for that matter) is incapable of change.
Generations were eternally re-directed because of Jesus Christ. Individuals whose ancestors believed in less inferior gods since the Old Testament, put away their ancestors’ beliefs and unrighteous behaviors when they put their trust in Jesus.
And so it is with you, dear parent.
It doesn’t matter what your past looked like.
What matters is the choice you make today — and every day, for that matter — in your decisions made regard to parenting.
Jesus told the parable of the mustard seed and that one’s faith as small as it can move mountains. That’s an incredible promise!
Faith & Parenting Go Hand-in-Hand
Where does your faith stand today?
If you believe godly parenting methods will produce “good fruit” down the road, no matter how small the effort, then it is your faith that brings that desire to fruition.
The Apostle Paul used another seed metaphor to describe how another person’s faith can grow.
I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow. 1 Corinthians 3:6 NIV
Indeed, it is ultimately God who will make the seeds we plant in our children right now, to grow.
As a parent, we have the opportunity to plant seeds. Every. Single. Day.
And according to the Bible, planting seeds in children can happen just about anywhere:
- In the car,
- at home,
- while you’re making pancakes in the morning,
- while you’re helping out with homework after school,
- as you sit in the passenger seat as your teenager practices her driving skills,
- on the way to Grandma’s house, and
- before saying good night.
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. Deuteronomy 6:6-8 NIV
To put something on your heart in Old Testament times, is similar to our modern version of taking something “to heart,” which means to commit to it with loyalty.
In other words, as parents, we are called to be committed to God’s Holy Scriptures and to teach them to our children, and to never give up on this endeavor.
If you keep at it, wisdom and moral principles in your children will prevail.
Three Primary Way to Grow Confident Kids
The Deuteronomy passage is specific enough, but here are some other practical ways to raise children who are confident in God, based on the Bible:
1. Pray for your children. Prayer takes faith, repetition and routine. Don’t give up on praying for your children, no matter how old they get or how wayward their lives may end up as adults, the prayers of the righteous are powerful and effective (James 5:16 NIV).
But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. Matthew 6:6 NIV
2. Ask God for wisdom in raising your children. God raised the most perfect son who ever lived: Jesus! How much more equipped is He to help you raise your own child? Ask the Lord for guidance as you determine the best methods for instilling righteous values in your children, and He will give you everything you need.
If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do. James 1:5-6 NIV
3. Seek advice from other godly parents.
The way of fools seems right to them, but the wise listen to advice. Proverbs 12:15 NIV
Plans are established by seeking advice; so if you wage war, obtain guidance. Proverbs 20:18 NIV
At times, it will feel like we are waging war with our own kids, under our own roof. But have no fear. Seek perspective from parents who’ve “been there, done that.” As I suggested earlier in this post, parents of children with older kids and even peers are a great source of advice. When you’ve gone through something already, you tend to have a better sense of how to avoid missteps and what you could’ve done better. And most parents are more than willing to help you avoid their mistakes if you simply ask.
4. Don’t withhold discipline from your children. Kids need routine and they need to be told what to do and what not to do. Discipline is necessary to raise confident children because it establishes boundaries. Contrary to what popular thinking says, boundaries are actually a good thing for children.
Keep in mind that it is important to discipline children out of love, not when you’re angry.
When it comes from a place of love, discipline also shows our children that we are concerned about their wellbeing and their character development. Without correction, children inevitably grow up with no clear sense of direction.
According to scholars, the Egyptian “Instructions of Ankhsheshonq,” a priest who was imprisoned and wrote a set of instructions to his young son, points out that “the children of fools wander in the streets, but the children of the wise are at their parents’ sides.”
I don’t know about you, but I’d rather be known as having children who are devoted to me and my husband and stick to our sides rather than those who “wander” the streets.
Whoever spares the rod hates their children, but the one who loves their children is careful to discipline them. Proverbs 13:24 NIV
5. Encourage their identity in Christ. Most children grow up with not necessarily a sense of their own identity in Christ. They lean more-so on their parent’s faith, rather than develop one of their own. To an extent, that’s okay and to be expected. But if we expect our faith will eventually “rub off” on them, then we are misguided and deceived.
It takes work to pour faith and righteous living into your children. It’s not something that just “happens.”
We can plant the seeds, however, by sharing how their identity is (or should be) rooted in Christ.
But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. 1 Peter 2:9 NIV
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. Ephesians 1: 3-4 NIV
As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.” 1 Peter 1:14-15 NIV
We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. 2 Corinthians 5:20 NIV
Remind your children that they are different, and that being different is okay.
Tell them they are “chosen,” a royal priesthood, holy, God’s “special possession,” etc.
Show them that their identify is not rooted in this world, but rather is already established by the One who made the world and everything in it!