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Marriage Preparation and Improvement: Raising Children

Marriage improvement: raising childrenWhat principles should parents follow in raising children? How important are Bible teaching, love, and authority? Should father and mother use punishments and rewards? What about spanking?  

This is part of a ten-part series about marriage preparation and improvement. This article should be studied in context of the whole series of articles. To start at the beginning of the series, please click here: Marriage_Improvement.php

Children are a stewardship and a blessing from God. God expects us to train our children to become what He wants them to be, and He will judge us for the work we do as parents.

Yet, children remain one of the biggest problems many families face. Being a good parent requires good preparation and diligent application. The Bible gives instructions that, properly applied, would solve most serious problems.

A. Parents Must Train Their Children to Serve God.

Parents must take time to instruct their children in God's word.

Proverbs 1:8 - Children should hear the instruction of their fathers and not forsake the law of their mothers. Both mothers and fathers should be involved in instructing the children.

Ephesians 6:4 - Fathers should bring their children up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. The idea that fathers may "leave it up to the mother to train the children" is unscriptural. The church may help, but the teaching must not ultimately be left up to the church. Because the father is the head of the family, God gives him the ultimate responsibility to see that the children are correctly trained.

2 Timothy 3:15 - From childhood, Timothy had been taught the Scriptures, because they could make him wise to salvation. Parents must begin at very young ages to train children properly. Too many people neglect the early training of their children, then they try to correct the children when they become teenagers and face serious problems. The problems should have been solved - and would have been much easier to solve - years earlier.

Genesis 18:19 - Abraham commanded his family after him to do God's will. [Deuteronomy 4:9,10; Psalm 78:4-8]

Deuteronomy 6:6-9 - We should diligently teach God's word to our children, talking of them throughout the day. We need set times during the week for teaching the children God's word. But we also need to teach throughout the day as situations arise where we can apply Bible principles.

2 Timothy 1:5 - The faith Timothy had, first existed in his mother and grandmother. Training children properly requires both a good example and good instruction. Many parents tell their children how to live, yet the children do not serve God faithfully because they see that the parents don't practice what they preach.

[Malachi 2:15]

B. Parents Should Show Affection and Make Decisions with Love.

Psalm 127:3-5; 128:3,4 - Parents should appreciate children as a blessing from God. Some parents act as though caring for children is an unbearable drudgery. They grumble and complain about their kids. They may abuse them, desert them, seek other people to take care of them, or even murder them before they are born. Instead, we ought to let them know we love and appreciate them. [Genesis 33:5]

Titus 2:4 - Young women should be taught to love their children. Most people will naturally love their children; even so, there are many aspects of love that we must be taught to practice. There should be no "unwanted children," not because we have aborted them before birth, but because we have learned to love them.

1 John 3:18 - Love shows itself by what we do as well as what we say. We must tell our children we love them, put our arms around them, etc. But we must also act in ways that show we love them.

Colossians 3:21 - Do not provoke the child to discouragement. Often parents continually belittle their children, criticizing and condemning them, with never a word of praise or appreciation. Breaking a child's spirit and destroying his sense of worth is one way to provoke him to discouragement.

1 Corinthians 13:5 - Love does not seek its own. If we love our children, we will not make rules just to please ourselves so we can get our own way. It is not good for the child to be allowed to just do what he wants, but neither is it good if we ignore the best interest of the child to satisfy our own selfish desires. We must make rules for the good of all. And when we must punish a child, let us exercise self-control to be sure we act and speak for the good of the child, not because we have lost our temper.

C. Parents Must Exercise Authority in the Home.

Our society generally frowns on authority, rules, law, and duty. We are told that families should be "democratic," not "authoritarian," and that parents have no right to impose their rules on children. But note what the Bible says:

Proverbs 1:8 - A son should not forsake his mother's law. Good rules actually benefit children. They give the child a sense of security and allow him to benefit from the wisdom of the parents. He does not need to worry, because he knows his parents will not let him do anything seriously bad for him. [Proverbs 29:15; 4:10-12]

Luke 2:51 - Jesus set an example of subjection to his parents.

Romans 1:30,32 - Disobedience to parents is a sin for which one who is guilty is worthy of death [cf. Deuteronomy 21:18-21].

Proverbs 22:6 - Training of children is intended to mold their character for later life, so when they are older they will live by right principles. But children often will not do what is right simply by choice. Parents must tell the children what's right and then insist that they practice it.

Ephesians 6:1; Colossians 3:20 - Children are commanded to obey their parents. If children learn to properly submit to parents, they will benefit all their lives as they relate to other authorities. They must learn to submit to bosses at work, civil rulers, elders in the church, and above all to God. If children are not taught to obey their parents, they will have trouble with authority all their lives. If they learn at a young age to obey parents, they will understand all their lives how to submit to authority and how to use it.

D. Parents Must Motivate Children by Rewards and Punishments.

Some people argue that children can be raised just by instructing them and showing affection. But even with all the instruction and affection in the world, children often simply will not want to do what their parents say. What can parents do then to motivate obedience? Some reject punishment and especially spanking, but what does the Bible say?

The value of punishment

Hebrews 12:7-11 - A father's chastening of his children is compared to the chastisement God gives His people. Chastisement is an act of love, not hatred, because it is done for the good of the child to train him to be a good person. It results in the child respecting the father. To deny the value of proper punishment of children is to deny the wisdom of God, who chastises His own children!

Proverbs 13:24 - To fail to spank children when needed, is to hate them. Many people get upset at that statement, but this is what the Bible says! If we love children, we will chasten them when needed. Properly done, spanking is an act of love; and God says that those who deny the value of spanking are the ones who hate children. [22:15; 19:18]

Spanking and other forms of punishment should be used, as already described, for the good of the child, not for the selfish desires of the parent. But punishment is a good and valid means of molding a child's character, so he grows up knowing that he must be subject to authority and that disobedience has consequences. Spanking, like fire, can be misused, but when used properly it can be a tremendous power for good.

The value of rewards

Luke 15:20-24 - Another valid form of motivating our children is reward. God is not just a punisher of those who do evil, He is also a rewarder of those who do good (Hebrews 11:6). So parents should avoid just criticizing and punishing children. They must also diligently praise and appreciate their children when they do good. Valid rewards encourage obedience.

Rewards and punishments may take many forms, and all of them are capable of misuse. We must use good judgment and common sense in applying the Bible principles. And even when parents do their best, they will often feel inadequate and will find raising children to be a definite challenge.

But there is simply no need for so many parents to have so many problems with their children. Proper application of God's word would solve many of these problems. Understanding these principles is an important part of preparing for or improving marriage.

Young people, when you decide whom you will marry, don't just consider whether you will be happy and get along well with a person. Consider how good a mother or father this person will be to your children. Do they show appreciation for children and understand Bible principles for raising them? Did their parents have a good relationship with their children? If not, what evidence do you have that this person will do a better job with your children? Does he/she demonstrate an example of the kind of godly Christian that you want your children to grow up to be?

You owe it to yourself, to your children, and to God to marry a companion that will help you raise your children to be godly, dedicated Christians. The eternal destiny of your children hangs in the balance. And God will judge you and your spouse for the work you have done in raising your children.

This is part of a ten-part series of articles about marriage preparation and improvement. To continue with the next article in the series, please go to /family/marriage-sexuality.php  To start at the beginning of the series, please click here: Marriage_Improvement.php

(C) Copyright 2007, David E. Pratte;

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