Summary: From the beginning, the family has played a critical role in the outworking of God's purposes on earth. As the fundamental building block of society, it was designed to provide the context for the nurture and training of each succeeding generation.
The family was also designed to reflect and flesh out spiritual truth. Scripture uses the imagery of the family to speak of our relationship with God in Christ. As believers, we are adopted children in the household of God (Rom. 8:15-17). We are also heirs with Christ (Rom. 8:17; Eph. 1:11; 3:6). The living God is our loving Father (Heb. 12:5-11), and we are His children (1 John 3:1). These analogies illustrate the high calling and responsibility which accompanies Christian parenthood.
In this booklet, we will look for biblical principles on loving, teaching, disciplining, and developing children of spiritual and moral character.
Perspective, Priorities, and Purpose of the Home
According to Psalm 127:3-5, children are a gift from the Lord. They are God's possession, not ours. He has temporarily placed them under our care; in effect, our children are "on loan" from God for the 18 or so years they are under our roof. We have been given the task of raising them up from a state of complete dependence to a state of complete independence so that we can release them to God by the time they reach maturity.
It is urgent that we as Christian parents recognize this truth. Failure to do so will lead to unbiblical attitudes which can have a devastating impact on the self-image and development of our children. One such attitude is excessive possessiveness. Believing that their children are their own possessions, some parents do not adequately prepare them to leave the home. Because of this attitude, parents become overprotective and fail to give their children the growing independence, skills, and responsibility that they need. As a result, they are not equipped for life in the outside world. Even after they marry they may be psychologically or financially dependent upon their parents, and this hinders their ability to leave, cleave, and establish a one-flesh relationship in marriage.
Another unbiblical attitude is reflected in the problem of parents who build their entire lives and marriages around their children. Too many parents seek to fulfil their own ambitions and dreams by identifying themselves with their children and living their lives through them. This vicarious attempt to find fulfilment always leads to frustration and disappointment because the children rarely meet such expectations and leave home so soon. It also places them under an intolerable demand of performance standards that they are physically, emotionally, or mentally incapable of attaining. Perhaps the most difficult biblical principle to apply as a parent is the need to accept your children as they are. Your true source of identity is in Christ, not your children. Your child may not be as physically or mentally capable as you would like, but if you realize that he is God's possession and not yours, you can accept him for who he is. The practice of this truth can liberate your children from the fear of rejection and failure. If you as parents have not formally given your children over to the Lord, why not do it now?
Perhaps the greatest ongoing challenge in the practice of the Christian life is to keep one's priorities in the biblical order. It is easy to let the good become the enemy of the best by making a career or a ministry supremely important. When this happens, we begin to neglect our personal devotional lives, our husbands or wives, and our children. The scriptural priority sequence is clear: God first, family second, career- ministry third. We should regularly remind ourselves of this order and examine the way we spend our time in light of it. This may mean the elimination of unnecessary responsibilities and the limitation of outside activities. Good children are the product of careful cultivation, and this requires time.
The Christian home has been called "a laboratory for the application of biblical truth in a relational setting." It is a training ground for the impartation of values, for learning how to give and receive love, and for the development of relationships. Parents are responsible to provide for their children's material needs (family finances are discussed in the booklet on stewardship). But they have also been entrusted with the responsibility of shaping their children's character and guiding their spiritual, psychological, intellectual, emotional, and physical growth. This is not to be left by default to outside institutions. The primary spiritual and moral training of children should be in the home, not in the church or school.
What do you want for your children? It is important to think through your basic objectives as a parent. Without specific objectives and goals to carry them out, parenting can become a hit-and-miss affair. What kind of adult do you want your child to become? Add your own objectives to the following list and then prioritize them: