A proper approach to parenting needs to leave adequate room for the relational component in parenting. Christian parenting should be undergirded by wisdom derived from meditation on Scripture, the filling of the Holy Spirit, advice from others (this is where quality literature on parenting can be very helpful if it is balanced and based on biblical principles), and relational experience with the child. Ultimately, we should be careful not to rely on any one human method that, no matter how biblical it may claim to be, is always one step removed from the Bible. Our supreme trust should be in God and in his Word, and we must humbly acknowledge that our understanding of Scripture is not to be equated with the teaching of Scripture itself.
In this relationship of parenting, there must be a balance of unconditional love, spiritual nurture, and discipline (Eph. 6:4) in a context of discipleship and Christian growth (2 Pet. 3:18). Biblical parenting requires that parents understand that children are not merely disobedient, they are also sinful, and they are disobedient because they are sinful. Hence, children ultimately need salvation, not merely parental discipline. Moreover, as mentioned, children are also “simple” in the scriptural meaning of that term (see Prov. 1:22), which requires parental instruction, training, and constant cultivation, much like a garden needs to be tended continually and consistently.
Parents, too, are sinners, and so must guard against putting their own interests above those of their children. Are they concerned that their children disobey in public simply because this causes them embarrassment? Do they want them to do well in school simply because this brings prestige and recognition for them as parents? Do they want them to choose a particular career or to choose a particular mate because this renders them socially more acceptable or desirable? Do they make decisions regarding their children’s education primarily on the basis of their own convenience daycare, babysitters, grandparents, etc.) rather than on the basis of what is best for their children?
This selection is excerpted from God, Marriage, and Family (2d ed.; Crossway, 2010). For further study on this topic see the material on marriage and family posted on this website.