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What the Bible says about Parenting Skills
(From Forerunner Commentary)

Leviticus 19:1-5

Notice that in this five-verse prelude God emphasizes, "Don't copy the people of those nations outside of Israel. Be different by keeping My laws." It becomes clear when this introduction is read along with the laws that follow in this and the next two chapters that God intends that separation from the world begin in the home at the very earliest point in time possible. It should begin in a child's infancy with a right example from the parents combined with their positive instruction.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fifth Commandment

Leviticus 21:15-17

How important to God's purpose are the parents in this mix? God records in Exodus 21:15, 17, "And he who strikes his father or his mother shall surely be put to death. . . . And he who curses his father or his mother shall surely be put to death." To modern child psychologists, these are shocking statements. At the very least, they ought to give us pause to realize the seriousness of being constantly concerned about our child-training responsibilities!

These verses do not in any way imply a child is to be beaten into submission. They do mean that it is a tremendously serious responsibility to produce a godly child who glorifies God. Our responsibility is to follow God's patterns in child-training. He is patient and generous with His affections and mercies, yet He also gives correction in due season and in right measure.

Deuteronomy 21:18-21 adds:

If a man has a stubborn and rebellious son who will not obey the voice of his father or the voice of his mother, and who, when they have chastened him, will not heed them, then his father and his mother shall take hold of him and bring him out to the elders of his city, to the gate of his city. And they shall say to the elders of his city. "This son of ours is stubborn and rebellious; he will not obey our voice; he is a glutton and a drunkard." Then all the men of his city shall stone him to death with stones; so you shall put away the evil from among you, and all Israel shall hear and fear.

Here, the laws given in Exodus 21 are expanded on as the Israelites are about to enter the Land of Promise. If a child were unmanageable and stubbornly disobedient, the judges had a responsibility to back up the parents. However, the right to kill was not given to the parents. This passage indicates a process of evaluation by people not directly, and thus less emotionally, involved. Interestingly, the addictions in the child are directly named. One is a drug addiction, a major problem in our time.

Does it offend us that God's standard is so stern? Do we pass it off as being of little consequence or significance? We should perhaps rethink this. Consider what poor child-training is causing in Britain and America! Does not God prophesy against "the drunkards of Ephraim" (Isaiah 28:1, 3)?

God adds in Deuteronomy 27:16, "Cursed is the one who treats his father or his mother with contempt." Ephraim (Israel) is under divine punishment, cursed, because parenting and parents are considered to be so unimportant. Why is God so concerned? Notice this comment concerning Exodus 21:12-17 in the Keil and Delitzsch Commentary on the Old Testament:

Maltreatment of a father and mother through striking (v. 15), man-stealing (v. 16), and cursing parents (v. 17, cf. Lev 20:9), were all to be placed on a par with murder, and punished in the same way. By the "smiting" (hikaah) of parents we are not to understand smiting to death, for in that case waameet would be added as in v. 12, but any kind of maltreatment. The murder of parents is not mentioned at all, as not likely to occur and hardly conceivable. The cursing (qaleel as in Gen 12:3) of parents is placed on a par with smiting, because it proceeds from the same disposition; and both were to be punished with death, because the majesty of God was violated in the persons of the parents (cf. Ex 20:12). (Vol. 1, p. 133.)

Therein lies a major reason for keeping this commandment. The relationship God intends within the family is an exact type of the Christian's spiritual relationship with God the Father and the church as mother. In the eyes of God and in the eyes of a small child, a parent stands in the place of God Himself. In the physical sense, the parents are the child's creator, provider, lawgiver, teacher, and protector. A child's response to this relationship will in large measure determine his later response to broader relationships in society and beyond that to God Himself.

By direct implication, then, if as parents we represent God, it becomes our obligation to live lives worthy of honor to Him. Ultimately, the responsibility for keeping this commandment falls on the child. However, by carrying out their responsibilities, the parents clearly lay the foundation for the child keeping the commandment.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fifth Commandment

Deuteronomy 6:5

This is the precursor to rearing children the right way (verses 6-9): Parents have to love God this way first.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Sanctification and the Teens

Proverbs 22:6

In Muriel Beadle's book on the importance of early childhood development, A Child's Mind, she expresses her own version of this proverb: "Parents, train up a child in the way that he should go, and when he is old he will be unable to depart from it."

Beadle is a child psychologist. She has an awful lot of clinical experience in dealing with children and their parents. It is her considered opinion that, when people get older, they really never change.

Most adults understand how difficult it is to change, how difficult it is to overcome something. Beadle thinks nobody ever really changes. From her experience she is probably close to being a hundred percent accurate. There is a great parental responsibility to instill the right things in a child, because that child will carry them right through into his adulthood. Thus, God can confidently say that when you train up a child in the way that he should go, when he gets older he will live the way you trained him. If you trained your children right, they will continue, and their lives will be a success—a far greater success that it ever would have been if you had not given them the right instruction in the first place.

Beadle's comment underscores the importance of the immediate with regard to children's conduct. There are things that cannot wait, and training up a child in the way that he should go is one of them. Your time with you children is running out. It is slipping away, and God is still holding you responsible.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Sanctification and the Teens

Proverbs 22:6

No parent trains his children perfectly because everyone is a product of the confused and derailed system the Bible calls "this evil world." Parents tend to repeat and pass on whatever this corrupt system imposes on them. Psychologists and sociologists verify that people who were abused as children often repeat that behavior when they become adults. A recent statistic, mentioned in the television program Scared Silent, says that abused children are six times as likely to abuse their own children when they become parents than non-abused children. The abused become abusers. The system gets a hold on them, and they pass the system on.

Muriel Beadle paraphrased this scripture in her book, A Child's Mind. "Today the proverb could be amended to read '. . . and when he is old, he will be unable to depart from it'" (p. xx). Her point is that an adult's hope of change is a slim one. It is extremely difficult for one to change what is ingrained in him when he is young. The cliché of a man being "set in his ways" is true.

Succinctly, the principle is that the right training produces the right results. Thus, athletic teams, ballet and stage productions, and armies train—drill, drill, drill, over and over—until all of the participants, if possible, can do their parts automatically. The skills become such an integral part of them that they perform well routinely.

Proper training will endure throughout life. This principle also applies to what God is doing in a Christian's life. People are material and mortal. But God puts His children through a training program to prepare them for eternal life. He trains them in a way that will endure for all eternity. In dealing with eternal consequences, we understand why God considers doctrine—teaching, instruction—so important.

A satirical interpretation of this verse reads, "Train a child according to his evil inclinations [let him do his own will], and he will continue in his evil way throughout his life." So either way, the principle is a true one. Training determines what a person will become. And doctrine will determine what His people will become.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Guard the Truth!

Proverbs 29:15

If a child is "left to himself," where is his training coming from? Obviously, in this case, mom and dad are not having a great impact on their child. The training must then be coming from society, most likely from the child's peers. Because "foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child" (Proverbs 22:15), a child left to himself brings shame—he is bound to get into trouble if his training is haphazard or undirected, or if he is not drilled or disciplined. The flipside of this verse says, "But the rod of correction will drive it far from him." The rod symbolizes that someone has taken an interest in the outcome of this child's life. He is giving direction, correction, instruction, to steer this child where he is to go. The training, the teaching, makes all the difference in the world.

An example from the life of David illustrates this proverb. "And [Adonijah's] father had not rebuked him at any time by saying, 'Why have you done so?' He was also a very good-looking man. His mother had borne him after Absalom" (I Kings 1:6). David was very old and was very shortly to die. His family and his close advisors probably knew that he intended to pass his crown to Solomon. But Adonijah tried to prevent that. He made a political move to grab the throne before Solomon had a secure grip on it. His ploy failed because Bathsheba, Solomon's mother, and David's faithful advisors appealed to the king, and he made it very clear whom he had chosen to succeed him.

David, though a man after God's own heart, did not take an active hand in teaching Adonijah. In this verse God states why Adonijah rebelled. In essence, David actually encouraged his son to rebel by not taking an interest in rearing him. David failed to train him in the way he should go, so that he would not depart from it. Instead, David trained him in a way that was bound to produce rebellion. This flaw of David's shows up in others of his children: Absalom, Amnon, and others. It does not matter whether one is a child of God having His Spirit or not. If a parent does not carry through with the right kind of training, then the results will surface in his children.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Guard the Truth!

Ephesians 6:4

Parents are not to provoke their children "but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord." Our heavenly Father sets the example by publicly honoring His Son more than once (Matthew 3:17; 17:5). Jesus preaches a heartwarming passage of the closeness He has with His Father (John 5:18-30) and the mutual respect and honor that is present in their relationship. Our heavenly Father honors His Son and expects us to honor Him also (John 5:23).

Those of us with children, especially, should take time to study this section carefully. Do we treat our children with dignity and respect due someone made in the image of God? How we treat our children can indicate how we might lead a city. Are we prepared to receive a city from God (Luke 19:15-24), or do we need to learn more about encouraging and even correcting in a way that maintains a person's dignity, self-respect, and honor?

Staff
A Matter of Honor

Ephesians 6:4

In Ephesians 6:4, Paul directly addresses fathers. Connecting it to Colossians 3:21 will give us a broader view of what Paul is addressing: "Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged." Mothers can also have this problem, but fathers are by nature far more likely to commit this child-training error. This verse is more clearly rendered, "Do not embitter or exasperate your children lest they become discouraged." The words "to anger," as in the King James Version, are not in the Greek text. The apostle is encouraging parents not to do things to their children like being overbearing, constantly finding fault, and nagging. The final phrase indicates, ". . . for fear that the child will become listless, moody, or sullen."

Paul appeals to parents to train their children thoughtfully, so that their children's characters and personalities are formed without self-esteem being destroyed. He allows for correction, but at the same time he urges patience with the children's inexperience. Correction should never be revenge. It must be given for the child's good but always within measure to the infraction.

His directive in Ephesians 6:4 is stronger; it could easily be translated, "Do not enrage your children to anger." Discouragement, growing from exasperation, tends to lead a person to give up. By contrast, enraging inclines a person to fight back stubbornly. Neither is good, but the anger is the worse of the two.

The words translated as "provoke" and "wrath" are exactly the same word in Greek. The verse can legitimately be rendered as, "Do not enrage your children to enragement." We might say, "Do not arouse your children to rage." Overall, Paul is teaching us not to promote an angry mood or disposition in our children. Doing so may boomerang on us because children will eventually reflect the disposition of the parents. Firmness in correction is fine, but men, especially, must be careful about their temperament when they give correction. Paul is talking about injustice, favoritism, over-correction, neglect, and physical cruelty in correction.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fifth Commandment


 




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