As parents, we have an awesome responsibility to raise our children for the Lord. Parenting is so much bigger than providing basic necessities of life; it requires nurturing young hearts in the ways of the Lord.
Our culture pressures us to assume false methods of parenting that sound logical by man’s reasoning but will ultimately damage our children. We must reject these worldly philosophies and follow the principles of God’s Word to bring up our children, “In the nurture and admonition of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4).
Below are four descriptions of parenting styles, three of which describe unbalanced approaches. These descriptions are helpful for parents with children of any age, as they outline the heart philosophy of the parent rather than the behaviour of the child.
1. Neglectful—Low in Love, Low in Control
This parent avoids or flees his children. He finds it easier to say “Ask your mother” and continue watching a ballgame than to engage in opportunities to spend time with his children. He avoids setting boundaries and ignores the precious few boundaries that are broken. Unfortunately, children discern the neglect. Even as they take advantage of the relaxed rules, they translate the lack of attention as a lack of love.
Proverbs 29:15 describes the dangers of this parenting philosophy: “The rod and reproof give wisdom: but a child left to himself bringeth his mother to shame.”
2. Permissive—High in Love, Low in Control
This parent allows his children to lead him rather than leading them. He fears his children and is reluctant to say “no.” While being your child’s friend is important, remember that you are his only father/mother. Be your child’s true best friend by fulfilling your role as his parent.
The book of Proverbs is full of Solomon’s admonishion to his son to listen to and heed his father’s instruction: “My son, keep thy father’s commandment, and forsake not the law of thy mother” (Proverbs 6:20). Solomon knew that he could give Rehoboam advice and instruction that would help him live a successful life.
3. Authoritarian—Low in Love, High in Control
This parent pushes his children to conformity, rather than leading them to maturity. Parents who lean toward this parenting philosphy should remember Ephesians 6:4, “And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.”
The goal for Christian families is not to raise well-behaved children; it is to mature Christlike adults. To do this, you must reach your children’s hearts. Discipline and instruction is necessary, but never forget that heart strings are tied with cords of love.
4. Authoritative—High in Love, High in Control
This is the parent who accepts and fulfills his role as a parent by lovingly nurturing his child’s heart with love while training him in obedience. He sees the big picture and ultimately directs his child’s heart to the Lord (Ephesians 6:4). While retaining the role of a parent, he is able to fellowship with his child, spending quality and quantity time together.
It is God’s design that an earthly father would display an accurate representation of the heart of our Heavenly Father: “Like as a father pitieth his children, so the LORD pitieth them that fear him” (Psalm 103:13). Authoritative parenting that maintains a balance of committed love and caring control gives children a picture of their Heavenly Father that creates a hunger to know Him.
As we strive as parents to draw our children’s hearts toward the Lord, it is so important to recognize that in our own strength and through our own wisdom we are insufficient for this incredible responsibility. As Jesus clearly stated, “…without me ye can do nothing” (John 15:5).
Terrie and I are so thankful for our four children and their heart for God. Although we’ve worked hard to learn and grow as parents, we’ve made our share of mistakes through the years. Our ultimate necessity in parenting is God’s grace, and God’s grace is sufficient (2 Corinthians 12:9)!