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What the Bible says about Parent's Responsibility
(From Forerunner Commentary)

Exodus 20:12

In God's eyes—and in a small child's—a parent stands in the place of God Himself. In the physical sense, parents are the child's creator, provider, lawgiver, teacher, and protector—and sometimes even savior. A child's response to this relationship will greatly determine his later response to larger relationships in society. And it is ABSOLUTELY CERTAIN to affect his relationship with God. Thus, since parents represent God, it becomes their obligation to live lives worthy of that honor. Ultimately, the responsibility for keeping this commandment falls on the child, but it begins with the parents through child training and example. If parents neither provide the correct example nor teach the correct way, they can hardly expect their children to honor them.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fifth Commandment (1997)

Exodus 20:12

Life begins at home and wisdom should begin there too. The home is the primary and most vital factor in a child's development into a mature and stable member of society. Church and school play secondary roles, if only because of the amount of time spent at home and all the personal interaction that takes place there.

In keeping this commandment, the Bible divides responsibility between parents and child, even though the child eventually bears the greater responsibility. It is his responsibility to learn from his parents, not just because they are his human lifegivers, but because the parents have been what the child has not—both young and old.

Therefore, parents should have accrued wisdom from situations the child has not yet experienced. It is the parents' responsibility to create an environment in which they can pass wisdom on so that the child can learn the lessons of life more easily. And so society benefits from the resulting stability of that family unit.

If the child learns these lessons, the wisdom will be an enriching ornament, a sign of honor, and a guide to long life and prosperity. These are the fulfillment of the fifth commandment's promise. The process begun in the home then prepares the way into the Kingdom of God.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fifth Commandment (1997)

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

Just because he says "fathers," he does not exclude mothers. Paul simply addresses the party with the overall responsibility.

Even though it is not directly stated, we must remember that God consistently teaches that the strong are responsible to care for the weak. In this context, the parents are strong, the children are weak. However, parents must not depend upon their size and strength to demand respect, but should strive to earn it through strength of character, wisdom, and clearly expressed love.

The Greek word translated "bring them up" at first meant merely providing bodily nourishment. Through time its usage extended to include education in its entirety since bringing up children obviously is more than just feeding a child food. "Training" is more correct than the weak "nurture" used in the KJV. The Greek word means "to train or discipline by repeated and narrow exercises in a matter." It implies action more than intellectual thought and corresponds to the word "train" in Proverbs 22:6, which means "to hedge" or "narrow in." Thus God expects parents to train their children to walk the straight and narrow way rather than allowing them to wander aimlessly about on the broad way.

Paul adds in Colossians 3:21, "Fathers, do not provoke your children lest they become discouraged." To some degree, all children resist their parents and what they represent and teach. How parents overcome it is Paul's concern. These verses testify that many parents strive to elicit their children's obedience and respect in the wrong manner.

The wrong way provokes embittered, fretful, defensive, listless, resentful, moody, angry, or sullen children. Paul counsels not to challenge the child's resistance with an unreasonable exercise of authority. Correction is necessary, but a parent must administer it in the right spirit, counterbalanced by lavish affection and acceptance. A twig should be bent with caution.

Firmness does not need to be harsh nor cruel. Punishment should never be revenge nor dispensed just because the parent is irritated. Severity only hardens the child and makes him more desperate. If a parent does not use his authority justly, he cannot expect a child to be respectful. It does not happen automatically.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fifth Commandment (1997)

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


 




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