Four Things the Bible Has to Say About Childrearing

Published: 23rd July 2009
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There is no book on the Bible about raising children. Advice on parenting is spread out throughout Scripture. The Bible actually makes four major points on the relationship of parents and children. Taken together, they could form a powerful child-raising handbook. The Bible says these are things you really ought to know if you have children--and they might just surprise you!

The first admonition from the Bible tells parents that they should raise their children "in the way they should go." In other words, parents should raise children with a view of how they should live as adults. Rather than focusing on the immediacy of their day-to-day experiences, parents should bring up children thinking about the kinds of men and women they should grow to be.

This means that children should be raised with values, but not the pop culture values or age-appropriate values, but real grown-up values. The Bible teaches throughout its pages what those values are: honesty, integrity, hard work balanced with appropriate rest and recreation, compassion, and a sense of fairness.

If you want your children to be adults who care for the poor and needy, speak out for the disenfranchised, and honor their commitments, don't expect them to get all that the day they turn 18. Children-even little kids-should be brought up with real values, the kind of values that adults have.

The second thing the Bible says is that parents should tell their children about God. Many otherwise well-meaning Christian parents feel that they're doing a good job by bringing their children to church regularly, taking them to Sunday school, or buying them books or other materials that help instruct them in the Bible. Those things are great and should be done. But the Bible says that parents-not teachers, not pastors, not friends-should tell their children about God and the things of God.

This calls to mind an important matter that is often swept under the rug. Parents have a unique privilege that no one else has. A parent is able to speak to his or her child in a way that no one else on earth can. A good and loving parent has an incredible ability to make an impression on a child's mind. Regardless of what children say or how they seem to tune out, they do listen to their parents. In fact, most of us remember a lot of the heartfelt things our own parents told us.

Even among parents who have real faith in God, few will spend time talking to their children about these issues. Surprisingly, most children--even young ones--are receptive to talking about God and the Bible. But, sadly, few parents ever bring the subject up. Parents need to tell their children about the big things in life, not just ordinary day-to-day matters.

The next thing the Bible states about raising children is that they ought to be disciplined. The Bible recommends corporal punishment in this regard, but the admonition in Scripture is not so much how to punish the child, but that a child be punished for wrongdoing.

Nowadays people sometimes even hesitate to use those terms-I've heard people say that children ought to be "consequenced" for "bad choices." The Bible does not use that kind of sissy language, and it doesn't mince words. It says that children ought to be disciplined, which means that breaking the rules or doing something bad requires punishment. Punishment should never harm the child, but the child should come to know what's right, what's wrong, and what happens when he or she does the wrong thing.

On a related note, the Bible also says that parents should not make a child crazy. Actually, the Bible uses the old-fashioned word of "vex." Parents should not vex their children. Vex means to frustrate or make a child feel like he or she cannot do the right thing or can never please the parent. While there should be clear rules for children with punishment for wrongdoing, children should have lots of things they can do that will not get them into any trouble.

This means that parents have to be consistent. The kind of parent who punishes a child for swearing on Monday, laughs off the same word on Tuesday, ignores it on Wednesday, and then punishes it on Thursday is the kind of parent who vexes his or her child. The rules are whimsical-the child cannot figure out from one day to the next what's acceptable.

This statement also means that parents have to decide what's right and wrong. This may not be easy to do in all too many homes today, where lines between right and wrong, good and bad, and acceptable and not acceptable are blurry and getting blurrier! Parents and other caregivers need to get on the same page to formulate the household rules. Children get vexed when the rules are blurry or not defined. Parents can make their children crazy when the children cannot reasonably predict how the adults in their lives will respond, particularly when the children start to test limits and put their toes over boundary lines.

Those are the four key points the Bible says about raising kids: give them adult values (train them up in the way they should go), tell them about God (parent's can't out-source this task), discipline them but don't make them crazy, that is, be consistent and give them clear guidelines.


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