Category One: The Duties of Parents
- Authoritarian and Permissive Parenting
- Avoiding Legalism in Parenting
- Duties of a Parent
- God’s Expectation for Parents
- Holiness Factor in Parenting
- Marriage and Parenting
- Parenting and the Grace of God
- Proverbs 22:6: A Promise to parents or a probability?
- Wayward Child, Who is Responsible?
1. Authoritarian and Permissive Parenting: Authoritarian parenting was the norm for the first sixty years of this century and was most closely associated with the Judeo/ Christian ethics. Because it was predominantly concerned with restraining evil, authoritarianism paid little attention to elevating good. That means there was a greater emphasis placed on what children should not do than on what they should do. Restraint parenting resulted in the attitude that the ends justify the means, or one can do anything to bring about conformity to societal rules. During the reign of authoritarianism, social engineering was the task of parents, neighbors, churches, and teachers but not of the State. Although children typically conformed and did virtuous acts, they did so out of the fear of reproof not because of the love of goodness. The child heard, “You will do it or else.” “The or else” became the motivation for right behavior not a resident principle of the heart.
Since the late 1960s, permissive theories have dominated the American culture. Permissive parenting is not concerned with suppressing evil or elevating good. At the core of this theory is the concern over creating the right environment for the child and not behavioral results. Parenting arouses many different emotions. The emotions of love, joy, peace, contentment, and confidence are easily matched by the emotions of frustration, disappointment, and discouragement (and on some days, despair).
Parenting to achieve all the right emotions is not the genesis of child training. Yet such a belief is the common denominator of permissive parents. For them, child-rearing is reduced to avoidance of all the negative emotions and pursuit of all the positive ones. Thus right and wrong training are measured by how parents think their child feels rather than by the end product—their child’s behavior. Feelings belonging to both parent and child become the basis of nurturing and their ethics. If the child feels happy, the parent is satisfied. If the child feels sad, then the parent works to create an environment that will eliminate his sadness. We believe that both permissive and authoritarian parenting styles are wrong and are detrimental to the welfare of a child. That is why Growing Kids God’s Way endeavors to guide parents according to the basic rules of biblical ethics.
2. Avoiding Legalism in Parenting: In developing common moral ground, one thing to guard against is crossing into legalism. A legalistic approach to parenting is very dangerous, especially in the teen years. It leaves in its wake a frustrated child, for the form of truth is elevated above the substance of truth. Legalism creates prohibitions by elevating the rule over the principle. The legalist sees all decisions in life as either black or white, moral or immoral. He or she acknowledges no heart or motive areas. No room is made for individual strengths and weaknesses. The legalist tends to demand that the consciences of every believer be identical. The legalist elevates the written rule above implied priciple, thus reject the context of any given situation outside the rule.
We have all heard the exhortation, “Let’s keep things in context.” The most notable aspect of a legalist is that he or she rejects context. Responding to the context of a situation does not mean we must suspend biblical truth or principle, but that we apply it in the most appropriate way. One of the greatest skills to acquire in parenting is learning how to recognize and discern the moral appropriateness of any situation. Learning how to look into the context of a situation will help guard against legalism in parenting and the abuse of parental authority.
The following example illustrates this point. When Ryan’s father said, “Stay in bed and leave the light off,” he was expecting total compliance. When his little brother Nathan fell out of bed in the middle of the night, Ryan got up and turned a light on to help him. The legalist would see that as a clear violation of the father’s instruction. But his behavior was not in violation of his father’s instructions, because in this vignette and thousands like it, context qualifies original intent. It was never the father’s original intent to keep Ryan in bed under all circumstances. It is context that allows a child to do the right thing if trained to the principle and not the rule the principle represents. Our fear is the number of children who would lie in bed fearing to get up to help, because they were trained to the letter of the law and not the principle of the law. Failing to teach the moral reason why, the moral principle, deprives children of moral discretion.
3. Duties of a Parent: The ministry of reconciliation is the first duty of parents (2 Corinthians 5:18-20). What shall motivate them to faithfully discharge their duties? They have an appointment to keep with God to give an account for the resource of life with which God entrusted them. The good news is that parents are not left without direction. They have a sure revelation—the Bible.
The Bible provides with certainty the ethical standards necessary for successful living. With these standards comes a clear moral mandate, “Be ye holy; for I am holy” (1 Peter 1:16). Practical holiness is not merely a state of mind but a lifestyle—a moral lifestyle established by God and one in which parents are to instruct their children (Ephesians 6:4). Moral training in the Christian home should equate to training in biblical virtues and values which communicate not only the will of God but also His character. We train our children in biblical morality not simply to restrain the sinful patterns of the heart but to reveal the character and grace of God to our children. It is our conviction that the duty, hope, and goal of any Christian parent is to raise a morally responsible child who comes to salvation in Jesus Christ, whose life is governed by the precepts of Christ, and who reflects the love of Christ. It is also our conviction that parents should not sit back and wait for salvation to visit their child before training him in God’s moral precepts.
4. God’s Expectation for Parents: What does God expect of parents? What am I responsible for? Parents today tend to shy away from such questions fearing the accountability these questions imply. Ephesians 6:4 instructs parents to raise their children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. Does that verse really mean what it says?
Life is full of choices. Sometimes we make the right ones and sometimes we don’t. Regardless of right or wrong, we must accept responsibility for our choices. The Ezzo encourage mothers and fathers to enter parenthood accepting responsibility for the quality or quantity of training, right and wrong decisions. It is a biblical fact that parents have been placed by God in a stewardship position over their children and are responsible for how they manage the Lord’s precious possessions. Jesus never once gave a parable involving a steward who was not completely responsible to the Master for what he was to accomplish. An irresponsible attitude was treated as sin.
The book of Proverbs seems to strongly suggest that parents will raise either a wise son or a fool. The Scriptures tend not to leave this to chance or probability. Parents are responsible for training (Proverbs 22:6), and children properly trained will be delivered from the self centered-ness that is natural to their way (Proverbs 22:15). Children lovingly corrected become spiritually wise, while those who are given unrestricted freedom will bring shame to their parents (Proverbs 29:15).
Grandparents as well are honored when children are properly reared (Proverbs 17:6). Eli honored his sons more than God and was held responsible for the blessings taken away from all the generations that followed after his sons (1 Samuel 2:27-36). Ministers are expected to have their children under control if they are to be active in ministry. Each “must be one who manages his own household well, keeping his children under control with all dignity” (1 Timothy 3:4). Would the Holy Spirit make such a requirement if it could not be attained or was a matter of chance? NO! Those verses remind us that God takes our role as parents seriously. How seriously do you take it?
What Am I Responsible For?
That is a most important question. Often in the debate of parental responsibility, a child’s moral training and salvation are inseparably linked together. Should they be? The world is filled with morally upright people who do not know the Savior but ascribe to godly principles of life. To say a child must be saved to reach a minimally acceptable standard of morality is incorrect.
Parents are not responsible for the salvation of their children. That decision lies somewhere between the child and God. We certainly play a vital role in preparing their hearts to receive the things of the Lord, but ultimately He calls His own to Himself. Neither are parents responsible for corrupting the nature of their childCchildren are born that way. The duty of parents is to restrain the natural corruption by instilling into the child the countering virtues and self-control to mange his or her life.
Parents are responsible to train their children in the please and thank-you’s of life. That is accomplished by developing the child’s moral conscience (Christian character training). Every moral decision we make is based upon previous knowledge, experience, and corresponding emotions associated with right and wrong, good and evil. A child at birth is born with a trainable conscience on which parents are responsible to write the moral code for lifeCa code that will help both restrain the habits of sin and encourage a virtuous life. If a parent is delinquent in that task, it does not nullify his or her responsibility to have written the proper standard on the child’s conscience. For the Christian, the standard of right and wrong, good and evil is given in Scripture and mirrors the image of Christ.
The Question Of Volition
A child’s free volition is usually the excuse given to justify parental non-accountability. It is often stated: “A child chooses to sin himself.” Of course a child makes such choices, but the exercise of volition does not take place in a vacuum. Volition simply defined is the ability and power to chooses but the issues of life flow from the heart. It is there a child finds the source of choiceCthe moral pool from which volition interacts.
Parental responsibility and a child’s volition are not mutually exclusive. How parents train the heart of a child in the early years will shape the choices the child will make later in life. Parents should not be burdened with the fear that they are responsible for each and every individual act of their child’s behavior. But they are responsible for the characterization of behavior. What type of behavior is your child characterized by?
As parents we are responsible to teach our children the please and thank-you’s of life. We are responsible to help them acquire respect for us as their God-appointed guardians. We are responsible to teach them how to respect the authority figures God places in their lives, and to respect their elders as well as their peers. We are responsible to teach them an appreciation for private property and nature. Being faithful in these areas result in raising responsible adults.
One of the greatest threats to any family is the subtle notion that parents are not responsible for the character of their children. Of course we are responsible! Anything less the Ezzos do not believe represents a biblical mindset. We are quick to accept responsibility for the right behavior exhibited by our children. Let us also be quick to accept responsibility for the mistakes we make with them as well. The Ezzos have and still do.
5. Holiness Factor in Parenting: God desires to be made known to the world, so He chose a people on Earth to represent Him to all nations. In times past, the Nation of Israel was given that privilege. “And you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation” (Exodus 19:6). “For you are a holy people to the Lord your God; and the Lord has chosen you to be a people for His own possession out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth” (Deuteronomy 14:2).
With Israel’s corporate rejection of Christ as the promised Messiah, the Church age was born and the followers of Christ became God’s earthly representatives to the World. To the Church, Peter wrote, “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a Holy Nation, a people belonging to God” (1 Peter 2:9). What is God’s purpose for calling the church? The verse continues, “That you may declare the praise of Him who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light.”
Declaring God to the world is the purpose for which Israel existed and now the Church exist. For the New Testament saint, God desires our behavior be distinctively different. Not different simply for the sake of difference but distinctively reflective of His character which is in fact the means by which we, God’s people, declare His praises, and in so doing, His presence. But what does distinctive living look like everyday and what is the means by which God extends Himself to the world?
We believe the family is the most fundamental social unit in God’s world for Kingdom building purposes. Why? Because the family is the values generating and perpetuating institution of every society. That was true in the old covenant and Israel and it is true with the new covenant and the church. We are drawn to the conclusion that parenting is a Kingdom issue, and of great importance to God. When the Christian family is no longer what it ought to be, everything else that the church does is weakened if not destroyed, for what we are as a family is what we are as a church. For what is the church but a family of families, and a household of households.
The primary focus of Christian parenting should be defining God to our children and we believe that task is best accomplished by introducing and guiding our children in and by God’s moral law. “Law.” Isn’t that Old Testament stuff? Aren’t we New Testament people, living in the age of Grace? These questions are often provoked by the word “law.”
Like grace, the moral law of God is timeless just as the character of God is timeless, (Hebrew 13:8). It is derived from both the Old and New Testaments. When we refer to God’s moral law, we are not referring to the codified laws given to Israel by Moses, although many of God’s moral precepts are found in the Mosaic Law. Rather, we are speaking of the relational commands of God that reflect His heart, will and character. The moral law of God is a relational prescription for a healthy life—a prescription that starts in the family and is passed on from generation to generation through God’s kingdom builders—parents.
But there’s much more. Enjoying wonderful relationships within our families and communities is not the ultimate purpose of character training. Biblical virtues and values, the building blocks of God’s moral law, lived out in the Christian family and community serves a greater purpose. By our behavior we are to help define God to the world so the world can find God. That is the essential purpose of a holy lifestyle.
Holiness for the Christian and Christian family is not something we are as much as it is something we do. It is a call to distinctive living and moral accountability. Through our holy lifestyle we make God known to the world. That is why the Apostle Paul told the early church that:, “Whether you eat or drink, do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31). In its simplest form, the word glory means to make bigger, to magnify. We make something bigger so more people can see it. How do we make God bigger to the world? Jesus said it very simply. “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good behavior and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16). Our good behavior governed by the moral law of God is the most concrete form of Christian witness and is the means by which we define God to the world and help the world find God.
This is also why moral training in the Christian community and the Christian home is so important. The results of morally beautiful behavior reflective of Christ become a compelling testimony declaring the praise of Him who called us out of darkness into His wonderful light, (1 Peter 2:9). That is why we passionately teach our children about the preciousness of others, how to show kindness, gentleness and preference of others and all the virtues that make up God’s character. That is why we teach in Growing Kids God’s Way that our children’s holiness is more important than their happiness.
For our children, the moral law of God is not only a standard and means by which we restrain habits of sin, but it is the means by which we demonstrate His love, mercy and justice. Not only are we defining God to the world, we are defining God to our children. A worthy task for each generation.
6. Marriage and Parenting: As parent-educators we cannot overstate how necessary a healthy husband-wife relationship is to the emotional well-being of a child. The most basic emotional need of a child is his need to know that his world is safe and secure. Strong marriages create a sense of certainty. What takes place between parents establishes that sense of confidence. When a child observes their special friendship and emotional togetherness in the normal course of a day, he is more secure because he does not have to question the legitimacy of their commitment to each other.
7. Parenting and the Grace of God: Of the various means by which God communicates His grace, three deserve our attention here. First, there is a common grace given to all mankind. Its benefits are experienced by the whole human race without discrimination. For instance, God brings refreshing rain on the righteous and the unrighteous alike. Second, there is sanctifying grace. God’s grace flows to families through the sanctifying grace of believing spouses and parents. That is, when mom and dad have come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ, children receive the overflow of God’s grace as it is poured out on their parents. The blessing is multiplied by each generation.
How amazing it is to realize that children who are only two and three years old have a radar device that hones in on parental conflict! When a child perceives more weakness than strength, a low-level anxiety is produced that ultimately affects every other learning discipline. Children know intuitively, just as you and I knew when we were growing up, that if something happens to mom and dad, their whole world will collapse. If the parents’ relationship is always in question in the mind of a child, then that child tends to live his life on the brink of emotional collapse. In contrast, when a child has confidence in his parents’ relationship, he is emotionally free to get on with his life. This freedom is a truth that all children realizes but can not articulate. When there is harmony in the husband-wife relationship, there is an infused stability within the family. A strong marriage provides a haven of security for children as they grow.
God’s favor is extended through our obedience. If we want to claim for our children the blessings in God’s Word, we must believe and be faithfully obedient to God’s revelation. Without faith, we have no right to any blessings of promise. Without obedience, we cannot expect the favor of God nor the communication of His grace on our children or on our efforts. Grace is communicated to each household when parents stay vertically aligned with the Lord. As we are blessed, so will our children be blessed. This is the power of sanctifying grace.
Yet we know our children cannot live off of our blessings but must obtain their own. This is done through the third means by which God communicates His grace—regenerational grace. This truth is basic to our entire presentation. No morality or conformity to the moral law can be acceptable to God, except that which is exercised in total dependence on Jesus Christ from a heart secured by Him. God delights in right behavior that arises from a right heart. Apart from receiving a new heart from the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit, no child has direct and personal access to God’s grace.
Does this negate the divine call for parents to “Train up a child in the way of the Lord”? Most certainly not. It only serves to emphasize even more the parents’ need to cooperate with the grace of God. A biblical view of grace doesn’t call for parents to labor less. Rather, it calls them to labor fervently, all the while acknowledging their utter dependency upon God. Seek diligently the salvation of your child that he or she might enter into the fullness of God’s power and influence and, out of a love response to God, serve Him wholeheartedly. In parenting, grace and labor are not enemies but divinely appointed comrades in the work of the Lord. You cannot parent by your own strength and still achieve a godly outcome. Remember, let God through His grace do His work, while you through obedience do yours.
8. Proverbs 22:6: A Promise to parents or a probability? “Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it.” Is Proverbs 22:6 a promise of salvation or an implied probability? Simply stated, it is neither; it is a Proverb. A proverb is a statement of general truth which has application for the varying circum-stances of life. According to the Bible, King Solomon was the wisest man ever to live (I Kings 4:29). One of the distinguishing traits of his wisdom was his insightfulness into human behavior. The Holy Spirit guided his ability to articulate his observations into the literary genre of Proverbs.
A proverb is communicated in a metaphorical nature and in figurative language. In Proverbs 22:6, Solomon is only stating a truism associated with parenting. He is not declaring assurance onto which some expectation of salvation may be founded. This proverb is similar to others which relate to child-training. For example, Proverbs 10:1 states, “A wise son makes a father glad, but a foolish son is a grief to his mother.” Here is Solomon’s observation: the consequences of either correct or incorrect parenting are manifested in either the wisdom or the foolishness of one’s offspring. There is no promise implied, just a statement of fact. Proverbs 17:25 says, “A foolish son is a grief to his father, and bitterness to her who bore him.” Again, a declaration of truth was derived from observing the emotional struggles and broken hearts of parents whose children had gone wayward.
When we examine Proverbs 22:6, we find a statement of substance and of general truth. In Proverbs 22:6 Train means to initiate or to prescribe the learning patterns or to cause one to learn, or to set the spiritual patterns for life. By using this word, Solomon is stating that the wise parent will be the one to initiate learning in his child by training him “in the way he should go.”
The phrase “in the way he should go” has two meanings. One is assumed, and the other is implied. According to the context of biblical training, God’s principles and standards are presumed to be the subject matter of the development of a child’s moral character. The text implies that the training done by the parents should reflect their recognition of two factors: the natural way of children and the uniqueness of each child. The natural way refers to those constant factors naturally found in our humanness. “Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child,” Proverbs 22:15a. “The heart is more deceitful that all else, and desperately sick,” Jeremiah 17:9a. The second factor refers to the uniquely creative bend of each child. In essence, Solomon is suggesting that the wise parent under-stands the nature of children in general as well as the uniqueness of his own child.
The phrase and when he is old pertains to the results of parental training. The word old is used to represent an elder in the Hebrew economy. That would be at 40 years of age, the beginning of the wisdom years. He will not depart from it refers back to the entire training process. Solomon’s challenge to parents can be wrapped up in this summary: When you initiate godly training in your child in conformity to his nature and uniqueness, the principles instilled within his character will become second nature to him when he matures
The promise of salvation is not implied in this verse, nor is the notion that a wayward teenager will instinctively return to the innocence of his Sunday School days. What is implied is the weight of parental responsibility in training children. The seeds we plant today in our children’s hearts, whether good or bad, will inevitably bear fruit at a future time.
9. Wayward Child, Who is Responsible?: What would cause a child to reject the values taught to him early in life? There are many answers to that question, but at the top of the list should be something the Bible calls depravity (Isaiah 53:6). Man knows what is right, but still he chooses to go his own way. Other reasons for the abandonment of values include fear (2 Timothy 1:7), loneliness (2 Timothy 4:16), greed (1 Timothy 6:9-10), immorality (1 Timothy 4:12 and 2 Timothy 6:9-10), legalism (1 Timothy 4:3-4), and disillusionment that Christianity does not deliver what was promised (1 Timothy 6:5-10). The apostle Paul saw many people defecting from the faith and listed the above as some of the reasons why people drift away from God. Some may be the same reasons teens drift away from their parents.
We live in a day marked by a victimization epidemic. The truth is, in most people-to-people situations, we are both victim and agent. Some children are victims of poor parental choices. Yet it is equally true that they are themselves agents of sinful choices as well. A balanced, biblical view would have both parent and child taking responsibility for their own actions to whatever degree responsibility applies. Somehow, in the confluence of activity of parent and child, each will have responsibility for their own actions, in some ways responsible for the life of the other, yet each will stand before God unable to shift the blame of sin to the other.
Thankfully, if a problem exists, our God is the God of new beginnings. Any relational problem a parent may face may be the result of sin on the part of the child, community, the parent, the world we live in, or a combination of all four. Regardless of the source or the state of waywardness, the starting point for renewal and healing will always be the same. As Christians, we have the ability and the spiritual resources to start over with any relationship, and this certainly is true of the one between our children and ourselves. Christ has made you complete (Colossians 2:10), He strengthens you and supplies your needs (Philippians 4:13, 19), and He has granted to you everything you need for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3). It is never too late to start over with our children because they will always be our children–forever.