Classic Parenting

Dr. Paul Chappell

Christian homes are becoming scarce. The once-common model of parenting—in which dad and mom stood and sacrificed together to steer their children to adulthood—has been disassembled and cheaply improvised by a godless culture. The new model, however, is inefficient and far overdue for a safety recall. It is involved in frequent accidents, and all the passengers—parents and kids together—are deeply wounded in the emotional and spiritual wrecks.

Perhaps it’s time that we return to classic parenting. What does biblical parenting look like in the manual of God’s Word?

Know Your Role

I understand very little of what goes on under the hood of a car. The tangle of wires and hoses is both indistinguishable and meaningless to me! In a similar way, our culture has made the biblical role of parents difficult to define. We must return to Scripture to understand God’s design for the home.

Parents first have the role of authority. God has placed them in the front seat to steer the home and direct the hearts of their children toward godliness. From the early pages of Scripture, God established the parental role of authority. The fifth commandment instructs children, “Honour thy father and thy mother” (Exodus 20:12).

So why do so many homes lack the spiritual oversight of godly authority? Is it because kids resist authority? In the book Shepherding a Child’s Heart, author Ted Tripp suggested another reason: “The problem today is not that kids don’t want to receive authority; it is that parents don’t want to take authority.” (1) Parents, don’t abandon the driver’s seat of your home! If you do, your children will steer the vehicle, but they’ll take it the wrong direction. You must assume the role that God has given you.

Parents also have the role of providing a godly example. Biblical parenting does not run on the “do as I say, not as I do” motto. Just by being the parent, your example—good or bad—is forefront in your children’s minds and hearts. Recognize this incredible instrument, and purpose to use it to direct your children’s lives in the ways of the Lord.

Austin Sorensen wisely said, “A child is not likely to find a father in God unless he finds something of God in his father.” How much of God do your children see in you?

What young people see in their parents affects them deeply. Paul was able to tell his spiritual children at Phillipi, “Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you” (Philippians 4:9). His example matched his instructions, and the Philippian church benefited greatly.

In Proverbs 23:26, Solomon pleaded, “My son, give me thine heart, and let thine eyes observe my ways.” He wanted to show his son what it meant to be a man of God. Unfortunately, Solomon was not a consistent example to his son, and Rehoboam rejected much of his father’s wisdom.

The need for consistency between words and example cannot be underestimated. Parents’ faith must be more than a Sunday only proposition. Children need to see their dad reading the Bible and leading in family devotions. They need to see their parents have a meaningful relationship with the living Saviour. In short, they need to see that knowing and living for God is both possible and satisfying.

Embrace Responsibility

My first vehicle was a gift from my granddad—an old pickup. My uncle helped me restore it to working condition and then admonished me in the responsibilities in owning a truck. I think I was too euphoric at the moment to really grasp how these responsibilities would impact my life—especially my wallet, but I understood soon enough. Even as I watched my hard-earned money pour into that truck as gas and oil, I knew, however, there was no other way. I simply could not have a running truck without giving attention to the responsibilities of its upkeep.

Parenting also carries responsibilities. Neglect the responsibility, and significant damage is sure to follow.

Ephesians 6:4 gives two major responsibilities of parenting—to nurture and admonish our children. “And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.”

Nurturing our children speaks of training them. Above all, we must train our children in the ways of the Lord. Deuteronomy 6:6–7 gives parents the responsibility of being their children’s primary Bible teachers: “And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.”

Train through daily living. The home provides many teachable moments to nurture children. Our responsibility is to take advantage of these moments to direct our children’s hearts in the ways of the Lord. Your home should be the environment where Bible truth connects with daily life. Because your children see you at home—without your public face—you have the greatest opportunity to train them to serve God from the heart.

Train through family devotions. Many dads shy away from family devotions because they know they aren’t ready to present a forty minute Bible study each evening. But devotions don’t need to be long or elaborate, and they don’t require a degree in theology or experience in teaching. It just needs to be a simple truth from God’s Word for your family. For younger children, it might be a Bible story. For older children, it might be a principle from Proverbs or an application of truth from a recent sermon. The goal of family worship is to stimulate a hunger to know God— to turn your children’s hearts to the Lord in a positive setting of growth.

Train through time. One of the greatest investments you can present your children is your time. In fact, effective training cannot take place without time. As you spend time with your children, work to nurture a heart for God. Ask your children questions like, “How are you doing in your walk with the Lord?” “Do you feel like the Lord is helping you stay away from wrong influences?” “What did you learn in Sunday school today?” “How does that friend help you follow the Lord?” Questions like these can stimulate their conscience, heart, and mind and direct them to spiritual growth.

Train through discipline. If carried out biblically, moments of correction can become some of the greatest nurturing moments in a child’s heart. Many parents veer too far to opposite shoulders of the road when it comes to discipline, and both extremes wind up in the ditch. Permissive parents avoid confrontation. When they do address a problem, their corrections are mild, ineffectual, and seldom followed. On the other side of the road are angry parents who neglect building a relationship with their children but are quick to harshly raise their voice at their kids’ simple mistakes. We have the responsibility to correct and admonish, but it must be done with a foundation of love. The second responsibility given to parents in Ephesians 6:4 is to “bring them up in the …admonition of the Lord.” This speaks of warning our children.

Picture driving your vehicle down a hazardous road. Debris liters the pavement, demanding your careful attention. Sleet assaults the windshield and slickens the road. Other drivers coast carelessly along, their cars set on cruise control. But their reckless driving further endangers your safety—and that of your passengers.

If you were driving in such conditions, you would maintain a heightened level of alertness—doing whatever was required to protect your passengers. You must understand that the emotional and spiritual dangers surrounding your home are just as real as the hazards described above, and their damage carries far greater consequences.

Godless media liters society, seeking to claim the hearts and minds of young people. Worldly philosophies assault the home. Damaging friends coast by, intent on pulling your young person into their recklessly driven vehicle—headed for disaster.

As parents, we must be attentive to these perils and steer our children around them. Furthermore, we must help our kids recognize them for what they are so when they are ready to assume the driver’s seat, they will be less likely to be involved in an accident.

What hazards threaten your home? In most families, the greatest single influence is the television. A close second is multiple forms of social media. I believe many of the problems that plague the family can be traced to the venom dripped into its veins by the entertainment and media industries. Author Josh McDowell reported a study of 3,700 Christian teens in which 66% said they have lied to their parents and 45% reported they watch MTV daily. (2)

Far too many parents simply ignore the dangers jeopardizing the passengers of their home. They are vaguely aware of their presence, but they won’t maintain the level of alertness and “proactive driving” to steer their family safely.

How can we avoid the dangers? We must guide our homes with biblical principles. In reality, every home already has principles and standards of some kind. The challenge is setting standards for your family based on Bible principles and convictions. Think of these as safety rails—keeping your family from careening off the road into an embankment.

How do you know where to build the safety rail for your family? First, begin with a biblical principle. For example, Psalm 101:3 says, “I will set no wicked thing before mine eyes: I hate the work of them that turn aside; it shall not cleave to me.” From that biblical principle, a conviction is developed: “I won’t watch something that is sinful and wicked.” From that conviction, a standard is set to help keep the conviction. The standard could be that your family will not watch certain shows or networks. It could mean your family won’t have a television at all. The specific standard must be guided by your submission to the Holy Spirit and your commitment to keep the Bible principle. Your decision to set the standard will help your entire family.

We need these safety rails in our families, even if it means our kids accuse us of being “the strictest parents in the world.” That’s okay. They will thank you later. Meanwhile, stay on the road, and have fun with them as you visit safe destinations.

Develop Relationships

Wise vehicle owners maintain their wheel alignment. Not only does this lengthen the life of the tires, but it makes for less stress in steering.

Likewise, wise parents give careful attention to aligning their hearts to their children’s hearts by purposefully nurturing close relationships. In the long run, this actually makes the parents’ job easier—and more enjoyable. You may believe now that you could never set a strict standard for your teen without open revolt. And without a firm relationship, this may be true, for rules without relationships bring rebellion. But when your hearts are properly aligned with one another, steering your child from the embankment is possible.

The foundation for close family relationships is commitment. Your family has to know that, no matter what happens, you are committed to loving them and staying with them. When you need to bring up a tough issue, you do not want the thought in the back of your child or spouse’s mind, “Is he leaving? Is it over?” Relationships are bound by staying together. Mark 10:9 instructs, “What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.”

Relationships are strengthened by involvement. Do things together. Have fun as a family. Consciously work to be part of your children’s lives. Look for and create opportunities to affirm your love and acceptance. Let them know you’re thankful that they are part of your family. Make the most of even ordinary routines, like driving to school, and turn them into relationship-building moments.

Husbands, especially make time for your wives. First Peter 3:7 instructs, “Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honour unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered.” The instruction to “dwell with [your wife] according to knowledge” implies that you should get to know her! And this can only come by spending time together and purposefully pursuing a close relationship with her.

The cultural portrait of the modern American family isn’t good. Hollywood especially enjoys showing families that are fragmented—no more Leave it to Beaver on Thursday nights. Children are battling the parents. The dad is disengaged. The mom is discontented. Sitcom families are portrayed as weak, fragile, and divided.

But God can make a family strong and help parents as they safely guide their children to adulthood. A truly Christian home, in which the members of the family are joined together in Christ and sharing biblical convictions, is a safe vehicle in which to ride through the hazards of life.

Worth the Investment

My first week as the pastor of Lancaster Baptist Church was in July of 1986. That first week I went out knocking on doors and telling people about our church and Jesus Christ. We had left a great place of ministry to come to Lancaster, and I thought behind every other door would be someone who would say, “What must I do to be saved?” But I returned home every evening without seeing anyone saved.

Saturday night I came home deflated. At dinner, my daughter Danielle announced, “Dad, I got saved today.” With my mind still preoccupied with discouragement, I responded, “No you didn’t. I wasn’t here, and you can’t get saved without me.”

After getting the hint from my wife that Danielle really did get saved, I spoke with my daughter just to make sure she understood, and we prayed again together. She was baptized the next day.

To me, it is significant that the very first person saved and baptized in our ministry in Lancaster was our daughter. It’s a reminder to me that no matter how many people come to Christ through our church, my first responsibility is my family. If I had lost them, I would have missed the mark.

My wife, Terrie, and I are grateful beyond measure that all four of our children are wholeheartedly serving the Lord today. We are thankful for every moment of time and every bit of energy that we invested into our home.

The world’s model of parenting may be less costly, but it is flimsy and accident bound. I choose instead the classic model of biblical parenting. It’s worth any investment required to keep your home running smoothly in the right direction—guiding your children’s hearts to a close relationship with their Heavenly Father.


Footnotes

[1] Ted Tripp. Shepherding a Child’s Heart. Shepherd Press, 2001.

[2] Josh McDowell. Josh McDowell’s Handbook on Counseling Youth. Thomas Nelson, 1996, 147.