How we choose to parent our children is much like how we choose to spend our money. We don’t talk much about it.

“Whatever works for you” is the mantra I so often hear. This approach may be fine when deciding whether to swaddle or not to swaddle, whether to bottle-feed or breast feed but on important matters of the heart, thankfully, we are not left to our own devices.

Here are six principles, from the Bible (God’s instruction manual for all of life) on how to parent our children like Christians.

1. Be a fitness coach not a Maître D’.

We are not in the hospitality business as parents. Tedd Tripp, in his book Shepherding a Child’s Heart, explains how parenting has been “watered down to the task of providing food, clothes, a warm bed and some quality time” (Page 32).

Much more than this, parents have the responsibility to “train up a child in the way he should go” (Proverbs 22:6). Being qualified to train means ensuring you are keeping yourself “fit” as a Christian; that you are reading God’s words; attending a Bible-teaching church regularly; spending time with other Christians; modeling grace and forgiveness in your relationships; and praying with and for your children.

2. Clear your schedule

Fitness training takes up a great deal of time. So does Christian parenting.
It doesn’t fit neatly into the box of reading Bible stories at bedtime or, if you have older children, dropping them at Youth Group – or worse still, hoping their teacher at school will cover it. No!

While I agree there is a danger of idolising our children, it is my opinion that so often the opposite danger is true. We neglect to make the necessary time for what is really important for our children – training in righteousness. Are we too busy to read the Bible with our children? Do we take the time needed to research answers to difficult questions from our children – especially when the answer actually has eternal consequences? Or do we move swiftly along?

Deuteronomy 6:6–7 says “And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.”

3. Be a warrior not an ostrich

Anyone who thinks the Bible is an old book without relevance in the 21st century, has obviously not read it properly. The Bible is alive, it is “God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking and correcting in righteousness.” (2 Timothy 3:16).

We should not cower away from talking about difficult issues with our children. We should use principles from the Bible to answer relevant questions: What do Usher’s lyrics teach your teenage son about how he treats girls? What desire does the latest electronic dance-scene craze promise to fill in young hearts – only to disappoint? And what of Taylor Swifts’ choice of vocabulary?

Christian parenting should be right on the front-line. It should be relevant and exciting as we explore the very different world our children find themselves in compared to the world in which we grew up.

4. Guard the heart

“Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.” (Ps. 4:23)

Since our attitudes and actions flow out of our hearts, the heart seems a very good place to start. Forcing our children to behave a certain way with threats (to stick them in a corner or to take away privileges) does not necessarily teach them to engage with and “understand their motivations, goals, wants, wishes, and desires” (Shepherding a Child’s Heart, page 90). This is our task.

My four-year-old son was quite put-out this week when I told him that no-one is good – not even him and that he needed God’s help. An explanation of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross followed but my son believed he was capable of being good all on his own – much like brushing his own teeth or getting dressed.

The understanding that we all desperately need forgiveness and are incapable of being “good” does not come naturally to children (or adults). Even well-educated adults delight in how good they are; how they’re not as bad as the next person.

Children (with their parents’ guidance) must understand that faith in Jesus Christ and his death on the cross is the only way for us to enter eternal life with God. Our society will lure us into believing our hearts “need” all sorts of things, but we must keep ourselves and our children from being “polluted by the world” (James 1:27).

5. Discipline in love

Sounds like an oxymoron? The Bible teaches that “God disciplines those He loves, as a father the son he delights in”. (Proverbs 3:12) and “Whoever spares the rod hates their children, but the one who loves their children is careful to discipline them”. (Proverbs 13:24).

The emphasis for me in both verses is on loving our children. The idea of spanking our children is certainly not politically-correct and has, in so many tragic circumstances, been abused. The image of a shepherd leading his sheep with a rod for steering the sheep away from grave danger and also, the root word to “disciple”, are helpful in a gaining better understanding of what it means to discipline our children in a Christian way.

I recommend that you read Tedd Tripp’s book Shepherding a Child’s Heart for a thorough exploration of what the rod is and what it is not, and once you have read the book for yourself, go on to my final point.

6. Treat every morning as an opportunity to start again.

Don’t be discouraged by past failures. As a mom of two, I have been challenged by the above principles. I regret things I have or haven’t said to my children but God’s mercies are new every morning to parents actively seeking Him. Apologise, learn from past failures, work to put them right but rejoice that with every sunrise comes an opportunity for a new start.

Lamentations 3:22–23
“The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases;
His mercies never come to an end;
They are new every morning;
Great is your faithfulness.”

Written by Bronwen Anderson. Original article can be found here.