Christian Biblical Counsel: PARENTING


Steps for Successful Parenting

by June Hunt

“Kids are much like kites—struggling to become airborne, yet needing the stability of the string. A kite is not designed to be possessively protected inside the home. Though separation is painful, God designed your role as a parent to prepare ‘your kite’ for flight. As the fragile frame dives again and again, don’t be emotionally torn by the changing winds. Keep running with your child, releasing more and more string into the Lord’s sovereign hands.”

—June Hunt


With all the changes that occur from infancy to independence, parents remain as one of the few constants in a child’s life. Though no job is more difficult, no reward is more fulfilling than to see your child blossom and grow “… in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men” (Luke 2:52).

A. What Makes a Parent?

•     A parent (noun) is a mother or father, with responsibilities as provider, protector, and defender of a child.

•     The Hebrew word for parent is horim, derived from the same root word as moreh, which means “teacher.”

•     To parent (verb) means to physically raise, emotionally nurture, and spiritually nourish a son or daughter.

•     A parent is the single most important teacher a child will ever have.

“Listen, my son, to your father’s instruction and do not forsake your mother’s teaching.”

(Proverbs 1:8)

Biblical Accountability for Parenting

To determine your biblical accountability as a parent, ask yourself the following questions:

•     Do you regard your children as a blessing?

“Sons are a heritage from the Lord, children a reward from him.” (Psalm 127:3)

•     Do both you and your spouse approach parenting with common goals and actions?

“Do two walk together unless they have agreed to do so?” (Amos 3:3)

•     Do you take every opportunity to teach your children spiritual truths?

“These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.” (Deuteronomy 6:6–7)

•     Do you clearly instruct your children by doing what is ethically right and just?

“Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.” (Ephesians 6:4)

•     Do you plan ahead to protect your children from danger?

“By faith Moses’ parents hid him for three months after he was born, because they saw he was no ordinary child, and they were not afraid of the king’s edict.” (Hebrews 11:23)

•     Do you provide for your children’s material needs?

“Children should not have to save up for their parents, but parents for their children.” (2 Corinthians 12:14)

•     Do you effectively discipline your children?

“Discipline your son, and he will give you peace; he will bring delight to your soul.” (Proverbs 29:17)

•     Do you deserve the pride and respect of your children?

“Children’s children are a crown to the aged, and parents are the pride of their children.” (Proverbs 17:6)

B. What Is a Father?

•     A father is a man who has begotten a child.

•     The Greek word for father is pater, derived from a root word that means “nourisher, protector, upholder.”

•     To father a child means to accept responsibility for and to provide leadership, guidance, and protection for his children.

•     A child’s perception of his or her earthly father will profoundly influence the child’s concept of God.

“If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!”

(Matthew 7:11)

Biblical Accountability for Fathers

To determine your biblical accountability as a father, ask yourself the following questions:

•     Do you demonstrate before your children a reverence for God?

“Praise the Lord. Blessed is the man who fears the Lord, who finds great delight in his commands. His children will be mighty in the land; the generation of the upright will be blessed.” (Psalm 112:1–2)

•     Do you have a sacrificial love for your wife?

This kind of love by the father provides one of the greatest forms of security for a child.

“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.” (Ephesians 5:25)

•     Do you take godly responsibility for the leadership of your home?

“For I have chosen him, so that he will direct his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing what is right and just.” (Genesis 18:19)

•     Do you provide financial support for your family?

“If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his immediate family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” (1 Timothy 5:8)

•     Do you have a heart of sacrifice for your children?

“When a period of feasting had run its course, Job would send and have them [his children] purified. Early in the morning he would sacrifice a burnt offering for each of them, thinking, ‘Perhaps my children have sinned and cursed God in their hearts.’ This was Job’s regular custom.” (Job 1:5)

•     Do you take responsibility for your children’s spiritual training?

“Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.” (Ephesians 6:4)

•     Do you lovingly discipline your children?

“The Lord disciplines those he loves, as a father the son he delights in.” (Proverbs 3:12)

•     Do you teach your children to respectfully obey?

A requirement for a church leader such as an overseer or elder is …

“He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him with proper respect.” (1 Timothy 3:4)

•     Do you comfort your children and urge them to live godly lives?

“You know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children, encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into his kingdom and glory.” (1 Thessalonians 2:11–12)

•     Do you pray for your children?

“Then Manoah prayed to the Lord: ‘O Lord, I beg you, let the man of God you sent to us come again to teach us how to bring up the boy who is to be born.’ ” (Judges 13:8)

Q  “My son is rebellious and is getting into trouble. Since he won’t listen to me, should I give up trying to tell him what is right?”

No. Even if your son continues to make choices that are wrong, as a parent, you are responsible for communicating what is right. You are not accountable for your son’s wrong decision, but you are accountable for your own right parenting. If you won’t try to teach your son what is right, who will?

“The teaching of the wise is a fountain of life, turning a man from the snares of death.” (Proverbs 13:14)

C. What Is a Mother?

•     A mother is the one who gives birth to or one who raises a child.

•     In Hebrew the word for mother is em, a word that implies “the bond of the family.”

•     To mother a child is to nurture, protect, and comfort her children.

•     A mother is to be a source of blessing to her children.

“Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her.”

(Proverbs 31:28)

Biblical Accountability for Mothers

To determine your biblical accountability as a mother, ask yourself the following questions:

•     Do you voluntarily defer to your husband’s leadership in your home?

“Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior.” (Ephesians 5:22–23)

•     Do you show respect for your husband?

“However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.” (Ephesians 5:33)

•     Do you give unconditional love to your husband and children?

“Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. Then they can train the younger women to love their husbands and children.” (Titus 2:3–4)

•     Do you exhibit self-control, kindness, and a pure heart in your home?

“Then they can train the younger women … to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God.” (Titus 2:4–5)

•     Do you provide for the needs of your family?

“She gets up while it is still dark; she provides food for her family and portions for her servant girls.” (Proverbs 31:15)

•     Do you openly express a mother’s compassion toward your children?

“Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne?” (Isaiah 49:15)

•     Do you have a gentle, caring spirit toward your children?

“We were gentle among you, like a mother caring for her little children.” (1 Thessalonians 2:7)

•     Do you instruct your children with wisely chosen words?

“She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue.” (Proverbs 31:26)

•     Do you set an example of strength and dignity along with a sense of humor?

“She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come.” (Proverbs 31:25)

•     Do you demonstrate unmistakable faith in Jesus Christ as your Lord?

“Then Jesus answered, ‘Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted.’ And her daughter was healed from that very hour.” (Matthew 15:28)

Q  “What can I do about my ex-husband’s showing our son erotic movies even though both my son and I object?”

Your son needs to be prepared to tactfully appeal to his dad and to respectfully say no to anything his father requests him to do that violates your son’s conscience. He might say,

“Dad, I care about you and want the best relationship we can possibly have. I need to tell you one thing that will hurt our relationship, and that is seeing erotic movies that violate my conscience. I don’t want my mind to go down that road. There are so many other things for me to focus on. Because you are my dad and because of our special relationship, I’m asking if you would be willing to help me and encourage me?”

Your son also needs to be trained in what to do with his eyes and mind. When he is exposed to eroticism, he needs to immediately look away. One of the most helpful things he can do with his mind is memorize and quote a Scripture like Philippians 4:13, “I can do everything through him who gives me strength.”

“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” (Philippians 4:8)



People parent their children differently—your method of parenting impacts the development as well as the behavior of your children. These different approaches will have distinguishing characteristics that make up five basic parenting styles.

A. The Problem Parenting Styles


Goal: To control behavior

When Parents Are …


Children Become …


•     overcontrolling


•     rebellious


•     not flexible


•     fearful of failure


•     performance-oriented (vs.   people-oriented)


•     under or overachievers


•     critical


•     overly sensitive to criticism


•     black/white thinkers


•     bitter


Biblical Example

(Read Genesis 29:1 through 31:55.)

Rachel’s father, Laban, is a picture of a domineering father. He used his authority to control the decisions and activities of his family and his extended family. Laban deceived Jacob in order to get his older daughter, Leah, married first. He cheated Jacob on his wages and then became critical of his son-in-law’s success. Laban eventually disinherited his daughters, resulting in disunity and deceit within his family.

“Fathers, do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged.”

(Colossians 3:21)


Goal: To control feelings

When Parents Are …


Children Become …


•     overprotective


•     spoiled


•     yielding to pressure


•     manipulative


•     desperate for harmony


•     disrespectful


•     rescuing


•     irresponsible


•     too helpful


•     helpless


Biblical Example

(Read 1 Samuel chapters 2 and 4.)

Eli was a good man who served as a spiritual leader of Israel, both as a judge and as a priest, yet he was a doting, permissive father who failed to discipline his two sons. He did not restrain his sons’ rebellious behavior nor did he model an accurate picture of the character of God. By giving up leadership for the sake of harmony, Eli raised sons who became irresponsible men who had no regard for the Lord or His laws.

“He who spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is careful to discipline him.”

(Proverbs 13:24)


Goal: To control behavior and feelings

When Parents Are …


Children Become …


•     possessive


•     fearful


•     manipulative


•     deceitful


•     suspicious


•     jealous


•     inconsistent


•     indecisive


•     controlling


•     passive


Biblical Example

(Read Genesis 27:2–17, 41–45.)

Rebekah tried to fill the role of God in the life of her favored son, Jacob. She felt she must not only protect this younger child, but also make all the important decisions for him. Failing to trust God, Rebekah schemed and manipulated Jacob into deceiving his father in order to gain God’s blessing. This enmeshed relationship between a controlling mother and her passive son resulted in hatred, jealousy, and division within the family. Rescuing him from his brother’s anger, Rebekah sent Jacob to his Uncle Laban, where he was again passive and indecisive in his relationships.

“This is what the Lord says: ‘Cursed is the one who trusts in man, who depends on flesh for his strength and whose heart turns away from the Lord.’ ”

(Jeremiah 17:5)


Goal: To avoid responsibility for failure

When Parents Are …


Children Become …


•     apathetic


•     self-sufficient


•     ambivalent


•     emotionally hardened


•     uninvolved


•     rebellious


•     lacking follow-through


•     underachievers


•     lacking boundaries


•     insecure


Biblical Example

(Read 2 Samuel chapters 13, 14, 15, and 1 Kings 1:5–6.)

King David was highly successful on the field of battle, but woefully ineffective at home. He was, in fact, detached from the responsibilities involving his many wives’ children. David apparently put all his energy and time in “attending to business.” There is no evidence of effective discipline in response to the outright defiance and sinful behavior of his own children. The rape of his daughter went unpunished, and two of his own sons, in outright rebellion, considered how to usurp the power of their father.

“He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him with proper respect.”

(1 Timothy 3:4)

B. The Positive Parenting Style


Goal: To develop character

When Parents Are …


Children Become …


•     loving


•     secure


•     encouraging


•     confident


•     comforting


•     compassionate


•     sincere


•     honest


•     teaching


•     wise


Biblical Example

(Read 2 Timothy 1:5–7 and 3:14–15.)

Timothy was raised by a godly mother and grandmother. Lois and Eunice modeled sincere faith, which encouraged love and developed self-discipline. They also trained Timothy from infancy in the Holy Scriptures, which led him to a saving faith in Jesus. Timothy became a leader in the church at a young age and was greatly respected by the apostle Paul.

“And the child [Jesus] grew and became strong; he was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was upon him.”

(Luke 2:40)

Q  “My wife doesn’t want the two of us to spend time alone apart from our daughter, and she won’t go on a vacation with me. Should my priority be my daughter or my wife?”

When one parent focuses the majority of their attention on a physically healthy child, sometimes that parent is using the child as a buffer against intimacy with the marriage partner. One problem with this adult behavior is that the child feels excessively responsible for the enmeshed parent. Additionally, your life is not modeling before your daughter a healthy bonding in marriage. Although an enmeshed parent feels that investing in the child is all-important, there needs to be balance. However, Ecclesiastes 3:1–2 says it best …

“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot.” (Ecclesiastes 3:1–2)



A. Surface Causes

Parents do not set out to be failures at child rearing. They desire to do their best for the precious gifts God places in their care. Although you may take your parenting role very seriously, beware of hidden traps that cause even the most dedicated parents to miss their goals.


Treasure seeking

• Prioritizing money and possessions

• Preoccupation with popularity

• Pushing for prominence and success

• Preferring pleasure and travel

Rejection messages

• Lack of eye contact

• Lack of physical contact

• Lack of focused attention

Lack of discipline

Absentee parenting

• Workaholism

• Two-career parents

• Unnecessary frequency of child care

• Lack of quality time

Power struggles

• Mother/father role reversals (passive father, controlling mother)

• A parent’s unwillingness to admit mistakes

• A parent’s possessiveness of the child or the other parent

• Parents competing with other parents through their children

Spiritual roadblocks

• Differing goals and expectations

• Serving God to the detriment of your family

• Misunderstanding the character of God

• Living out of your own resources (not appropriating the life of Christ within you)

“Free me from the trap that is set for me, for you are my refuge.”

(Psalm 31:4)

Q  “My nineteen-year-old son is a college sophomore and wants to do things that I feel are wrong for him. Do I have the right to say no?”

If your son is earning his own living, buying his own food, paying his own rent, fueling his own car, and providing his own schooling, then he has earned the right to make his own decisions. However, if your son is not living autonomously, then he has not earned the “right” to make autonomous decisions. In that case, he needs to respect your right to make decisions on his behalf.

If he says, “That’s not fair,” simply explain that whoever assumes the responsibility has the authority. At any time should he want to shift all the responsibility to his shoulders, he will then have the right to make his own decisions.

“Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.” (Romans 13:1)

B. Root Cause

The root cause for excessive child rearing problems is a wrong belief regarding the proper balance between love and limits. Conscientious parents who provide positive structure and protective limits do so out of love. Giving love without limits is not positive parenting; neither is giving limits without love.

Wrong Belief:

•     Permissive Parent

“All that my child needs is love. Imposing limits and structure will only produce a bitter heart—then I’ll lose the love of my child.”

•     Powerful Parent

“All that my child needs is strict limits and structure. Allowing independence will encourage self-will and rebellion—then I’ll lose control of my child.”

Right Belief:

Even if our relationship is strained, I will be consistent and balanced in exhibiting love, enforcing limits, and teaching my child the character of God through the way I live my life.

“Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.” (Proverbs 22:6)



Parents often feel they are thrust into a position for which they are thoroughly unprepared. However, a basic understanding of child development, along with the art of positive disciplining, will serve you well as you endeavor to become the parent God wants you to be. The first important step is to go to God’s Word.

A. Key Verse to Memorize

“Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.”

(Ephesians 6:4)

B. Key Passage to Read and Reread

1 Thessalonians 2:7–12

Follow Paul’s Example of Parenting the Church

•     Be a blessing, not a burden, to your   children.


vv.   7, 9


•     Be gentle in all your ways.


v.   7


•     Be aware that you are “one sent forth” (apostle) from God to your children.


v.   8


•     Be an avenue of God’s love by sharing the   life-changing truth of Christ.


v.   8


•     Be willing to share yourself on an   intimate level.


v.   8


•     Be willing to endure hardship for the   benefit of your children.


v.   9


•     Be an example of a blameless, righteous   life.


v.   10


•     Be committed to leading, guiding, and   protecting your children.


v.   11


•     Be encouraging and comforting.


v.   12


•     Be conscious of exhorting your children   to live responsible, godly lives.


v.   12


C. Your Child’s Development

To young children, parents are an earthly reflection of the unseen God. By His design, you are God’s instrument for meeting your children’s needs in a way that will awaken their spiritual sensitivity and draw them to placing faith in the Lord.

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; all who follow his precepts have good understanding.”

(Psalm 111:10)



Bonding Stage:


Parent’s Goals:


•     Infants’ needs are met by forming an   attachment to their parents.


•     To help your child feel secure with   tender caressing and cuddling


•     Infants cannot understand spiritual   concepts but can be influenced by the overall spiritual atmosphere within the   home.


•     To provide a spiritual atmosphere by   praying over your child and filling your home with Christian music




Exploration Stage:


Parent’s Goals:


•     Toddlers are intensely curious, unaware   of danger, and eager to explore their world.


•     To encourage your child’s curiosity in a   protected environment instead of being annoyed or harsh


•     Toddlers begin to separate from parents   by being independent and saying no.


•     To support your child’s separation by not   overreacting or squelching the child’s spirit




Testing Stage:


Parent’s Goals:


•     Preschoolers push against the rules to   test the limits.


•     To establish structure, set limits, and   hold the line with love


•     Preschoolers begin to be deceitful,   realizing that their parents are not omniscient and can’t read their minds.


•     To reflect the compassion of God while   correcting your child


Elementary School Children


Desire for Acceptance Stage:


Parent’s Goals:


•     Children seek acceptance from different   groups through performing various activities and roles.


•     To reflect acceptance—enabling your child   to see their God-given worth


•     Children want to please parents and   teachers, and they adopt their parents’ morals, whether good or bad.


•     To help your child memorize meaningful   Bible passages that show God’s holy standards and His plan for eternal life








“Anyone, then,   who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it, sins.” (James 4:17)




(Also   read Romans 3:23 and 6:23; Proverbs 14:12; 1 John 1:9; Romans 10:9; John 1:12   and 14:6; Matthew 16:24 and Psalm 119:11.)




Identity Stage:


Parent’s Goals:


•     Teens seek to define their own set of   values rather than mindlessly parroting their parents.


•     To increase your teen’s exposure to godly   role models (pastor, youth leaders/ youth camp counselors, biographies of   Christian leaders)


•     Teens are idealistic and begin to search   for their purpose for living.


•     To reflect the character of God,   explaining that God’s purpose is that you both become more and more like   Christ


Q  “As a parent, how can I communicate to my children that having sex outside of marriage is not wise?”

There are practical, social, and spiritual problems they need to consider.

•     Practical

When males and females become sexually involved, babies are often produced. Even if they use products designed to prevent the conception of a baby, often the products fail and pregnancy results. Ask your teenager, “Are you ready to give up almost everything you are doing in order to support a child? And even if you were to consider abortion, which means destroying the life of an unborn baby, do you want that on your conscience for the rest of your life?”

•     Social

It’s much harder for children born out of wedlock to be well parented, well taken care of, and well educated. Children born in a two-parent home that is intact feel much more secure.

•     Spiritual

Animals have sex whenever they want; however, God designed the sexual act as “holy” for human beings. Since holy means “set apart,” sex is to be set apart for marriage in which a covenant commitment protects the relationship between husband and wife. The Bible says,

“It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; that each of you should learn to control his own body in a way that is holy and honorable.… For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life.” (1 Thessalonians 4:3–4, 7)

D. Develop Positive Discipline

Discipline is training that corrects, molds, or perfects the mental faculties or character.

Principles of Discipline

Hebrews chapter 12

•     Discipline is essential.


v.   5


•     Discipline is positive and meant to   encourage.


v.   5


•     Discipline is an expression of love and   acceptance.


v.   6


•     Discipline is a natural part of healthy   parent-child relationships.


v.   7


•     Discipline builds a sense of security.


v.   8


•     Discipline instills respect.


v.   9


•     Discipline develops godly   characteristics.


v.   l0


•     Discipline is painful.


v.   11


•     Discipline produces right living and   peace.


v.   11


•     Discipline must be consistent.


v.   11


•     Discipline, to be accepted, requires   strength.


v.   12


•     Discipline, when willingly accepted and   acted upon, brings healing.


v.   13


“Folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline will drive it far from him.”

(Proverbs 22:15)

The Don’ts of Discipline

Don’t feel guilty when you discipline your child. You are loving your child well when you hold the line on limits.

Don’t be afraid of losing your child’s love. By doing God’s will, you will earn your child’s respect.

Don’t view structure and limits as punishment. You are establishing beneficial boundaries.

Don’t try to manipulate your child with fear or guilt. See discipline as a positive step to put your child back on a correction course.

Don’t embarrass your child in front of others. Remember to praise in public and correct in private.

Don’t belittle your child with sarcasm. Speak the truth in love and discipline with compassion.

Don’t compare your child with others. See your child as a unique creation of God.

Don’t discipline your child in anger. Wait for your anger to pass as you pray for wisdom in order to discipline appropriately.

Don’t use your hand for correction. Use a neutral object—not a father’s belt or a mother’s brush—but an object such as a paddle.

“He who spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is careful to discipline him.”

(Proverbs 13:24)

The Do’s of Discipline

“The rod of correction imparts wisdom, but a child left to himself disgraces his mother.”

(Proverbs 29:15)

Do … Mold the will without breaking the spirit.

•     A child’s will is molded by applying appropriate discipline when the child seeks to go in a direction contrary to the will of the parents.

•     A child’s spirit is uplifted by being valued as a unique creation of God and by being treated with kindness and respect.

•     A child’s spirit can be broken in an atmosphere of overreacting or too many rules, criticizing or teasing, false accusations or inflexibility, impatience or harsh punishment.


A wild stallion has some intrinsic value; however, the most valuable horse turns with the slightest nudge from the rider’s reins. The goal of the master is to break the will of the horse, but not the spirit. Your goal as a parent should be to mold the will of your child, without breaking the spirit.

“Fathers, do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged.”

(Colossians 3:21)

Do … Communicate your expectations clearly.

•     Get on your child’s eye level.

•     Prior to any problems, describe in detail what you expect of your child regarding structure and limits.

•     Form an agreement with your child and ask for a statement of his or her understanding of your expectations.

•     When it is time for your child to obey, give one gentle reminder


Don’t Say:

“Don’t you think it is time for you to go to bed now?”

Do Say:

“Remember, we agreed that your bedtime is 8:30. It’s 8:20 so what do you need to be doing now?”

“We instructed you how to live in order to please God.”

(1 Thessalonians 4:1)

Do … Establish negative consequences for misbehavior.

•     To establish effective consequences, know your child’s likes and dislikes.

•     If possible, choose a consequence related to the behavior.

•     Clearly communicate the consequence.

•     Prior to a problem, get your child’s agreement to the consequence.

•     Allow your child to experience the consequence for disobedience.


Tommy, age ten, lives on a busy street. He likes to ride his bicycle with his friend who lives across the street, but he was told never to cross the street without an adult. If Tommy disobeys, he will not be allowed to ride his bicycle the next day.

“Discipline your son, for in that there is hope; do not be a willing party to his death.”

(Proverbs 19:18)

Do … Consider spanking when a young child defies your authority.

•     The purpose for spanking is for the child to associate wrongdoing with pain.

•     Never spank your child in anger or revenge, but rather in sorrow.

•     Spank your child in private, not in the presence of others.

•     Explain the reason for the spanking.

•     Ask your child to repeat why the spanking is being given.

•     Give a few swift swats only on the buttocks.

•     Verbally and physically comfort your child immediately after spanking.

•     Spanking should be used only when productive. (Some children don’t require spanking to be repentant; others don’t respond to spanking.)


“Susan, what did Mommy say about spitting on your sister?” … “Yes, you are not supposed to spit on anyone ever. But, what did you do?” … “Yes, you disobeyed. What happens when you disobey Mommy or Daddy?” … “That’s right, we give you a spanking because we love you, and we want you to learn to do what is right.” (After spanking, hold your child close, allow time for crying.) Then say, “Susan, are you sorry you disobeyed?” … “Good, I am glad, and I forgive you. Now, go ask your sister to forgive you.”

“Do not withhold discipline from a child; if you punish him with the rod, he will not die. Punish him with the rod and save his soul from death.”

(Proverbs 23:13–14)

Do … Encourage and develop responsibility.

•     Allow your child to make choices and decisions.

•     Permit your child to experience the consequences of wrong choices and the benefits of right choices.

•     Give increased freedom when your child is responsible.

•     Restrict freedom when your child is irresponsible.


Seven-year-old Karen is told, “You may play in the front yard, but do not leave or go in the street.” If Karen disobeys, say, “What is the rule about leaving the yard?” … “Why do we have this rule?” … “Yes, the rule is for your safety. You may not play in the yard any more today.”

“A foolish son brings grief to his father and bitterness to the one who bore him.”

(Proverbs 17:25)

Do … Assign beneficial chores.

•     Chores need to be assigned to everyone in the family.

•     Chores need to be explained as benefiting the whole family.

•     Chores need to be clearly defined and detailed.

•     Chores need to be compatible with your child’s capabilities.

•     Chores need to be given an assigned time for completion.

•     Chores need to be consistently enforced by making sure they are done.


Don’t Say:

“Michael, I want you to mow the lawn once a week.”

Do Say:

“Michael, since you agreed to mow before you leave each Saturday, be sure to use the edger around the curb and sidewalk. Then clean and put up the equipment.”

“All hard work brings a profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty.”

(Proverbs 14:23)

Do … Reinforce positive behavior.

•     Give your child praise regarding character traits.

“Your room looks great! I’m proud of your faithfulness to finish the job well.”

•     Give your child “thank-you’s.”

“I really appreciate your willingness to bring in the groceries. Thanks for your help.”

•     Give your child recognition in front of others.

“Jim, I wish you had heard the compliments about the way our lawn looked after Peter mowed it.”

•     Give your child attention.

“Lisa, I heard you have learned to dive from the side of the pool. I would love to see you dive.”

•     Give your child respect.

“Chris, I respect your need for privacy. I won’t enter your room without knocking.”

•     Give your child smiles and physical affection.

Children need to be lovingly touched by their parents—with plenty of hugs, kisses, squeezes, pats on the back, or a hand on the shoulder.

“Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.” (1 Thessalonians 5:11)

Do … Maintain consistency.

•     Both parents need to come to an agreement on issues regarding the children, even if they disagree in private.

•     Make only promises you know you can keep.

•     Give careful thought to a request before denying it.

•     Refrain from requiring too many major changes at one time.

•     Evaluate your rules and change them as your child grows.


If you and your spouse disagree on a method of discipline, discuss the situation in private. Listen to each other share feelings and reasons for or against the correction. Come to an agreement or compromise so that there can be the security of consistency in your child’s life.

“By wisdom a house is built, and through understanding it is established; through knowledge its rooms are filled with rare and beautiful treasures.”

(Proverbs 24:3–4)

E. How to Help and Heal Angry Children

Children are moldable. While they have their own wills (and sinful ones, at that), they do respond to people and to their surroundings. When parents structure their home according to God’s Word, children learn to turn their destructive anger into constructive problem solving—they learn to be loving instead of angry.

“Hatred stirs up dissension, but love covers over all wrongs.”

(Proverbs 10:12)

Model Love and Listen Attentively

•     Listen with your ears and your heart.

—  If you have an angry child, ask, “Help me understand why you are angry—would you please tell me?” Listen carefully. Repeat what was said. Then ask, “Did I get it right?” And, “Is there more?”

—  Get to really know the heart of each child. Ask them about their dreams and desires, their feelings and fears, their likes and dislikes. Listen without judging them, with the hope of understanding them.

“Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.”

(James 1:19)

•     Model repentance and forgiveness.

—  The best way to teach a child how to repent and ask for forgiveness is to show it in your own life. When you sin against your spouse in the presence of your children, you should ask for forgiveness in front of your children and then demonstrate your change of behavior.

—  When you sin against your children, ask for their forgiveness, and then change your behavior toward them. “I realize I was wrong in (). Would you forgive me?”

“If you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.”

(Matthew 5:23–24)

•     Organize your family God’s way.

—  If your family is controlled by your children, they will tend to demand their own way and become angry when they don’t get their way.

—  When the home is controlled by godly parents, many of the dynamics that create anger in children are removed.

“Listen, my son, to your father’s instruction and do not forsake your mother’s teaching.”

(Proverbs 1:8)

•     Establish reasonable age-appropriate “boundaries” with rewards and repercussions.

—  Determine rewards for staying within the boundary (example, increased time with friends) and repercussions for crossing the boundary (decreased time with friends).

—  Explain: “I want you to be able to be with your friends, but you will be the one who determines whether you get the repercussion … or the reward. If you cross the line, you are the one choosing how much time you will be able to spend with your friends.”

“We instructed you how to live in order to please God.”

(1 Thessalonians 4:1)

•     Enforce boundaries consistently.

—  Never make ultimatums that you do not carry out. Be true to your word.

—  If you are not able to disciple at the time of disobedience, let your child know that the repercussion will be enforced at a later time.

“Discipline your son, for in that there is hope; do not be a willing party to his death.”

(Proverbs 19:18)

•     Learn to deal appropriately with your own anger.

—  You are your children’s model for proper relationships. They will learn angry relationship skills if you are an angry parent.

—  Children who have angry parents often think of God as an angry God. If you are an angry parent, your children may reject your religious faith because they perceive it as harsh and filled with anger.

“Now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips.”

(Colossians 3:8)

•     Let your discipline be based on love, never on anger.

—  Discipline because your child needs it, not because your child has hurt you.

—  When you discipline, be sure your children recognize that you love them. Do not give the impression that you hate or disapprove of them. Value them as your children and as your treasured family members. Make it clear that their behavior is what you are rejecting, not them.

“Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest, and repent.”

(Revelation 3:19)

•     Love your spouse openly and unconditionally.

—  How the parents relate to each other is often reflected in how the children relate to others.

—  When parents show little love toward one another, children can feel insecure and, therefore, angry.

—  The best way to give security to your child is to love your spouse.

“Each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.”

(Ephesians 5:33)

•     Validate each child by refusing to show favoritism.

—  By showing favoritism to one child, you breed anger within the other children.

—  Fairness does not mean that you must give each child the same present or that all have the same amount of ice cream. But it does mean that you are not showing more love to one child than to another.

“My brothers, as believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ, don’t show favoritism.”

(James 2:1)

•     Encourage and affirm each child daily.

—  Offer praise regularly, for the little things as well as the big things. Children want to please their parents. Let them know that they do not have to seek your approval, but that you love them unconditionally.

—  Children are a gift from God. Remind them how thankful you are that God has given them to you.

“Sons are a heritage from the Lord, children a reward from him.”

(Psalm 127:3)

F.  Hope for Hurting Parents

Parents of Prodigals

The parable of the prodigal son describes the response of a parent suffering the pain of raising a child who rejects his early training and goes his own way. The godly father in Luke 15:11–32 let his rebellious son go! Yet, he gave his child the dignity of choice, while maintaining a heart of hope. Only when you become desperate enough to release your children into the Lord’s loving hands, will He have the full freedom to work in their lives.

Receive the compassion of God.

• God understands your pain.

• God is aware of your needs and weaknesses.

• God loves your child even more than you do.

• God’s compassion never fails.

“Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail.” (Lamentations 3:22)

Examine your emotions.

• Am I embarrassed about what others are thinking?

• Am I afraid of what will happen to my child?

• Am I angry at my child for doing this to me?

• Am I disappointed at how life has turned out?

• Have I let self-pity drag me into depression?

• Has grief caused me to lose faith in God?

“Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” (Psalm 139:23–24)

Leave the past in the past.

• Don’t play the “blame game.”

• Don’t rehearse the “what if’s.”

• Don’t try to figure out what went wrong.

• Don’t assume responsibility for your child’s choices.

“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland.” (Isaiah 43:18–19)

Entrust the future to God.

• God is the God of a second chance.

• God has a timetable different from mine.

• God is working continually.

• God has all the resources He needs to accomplish His purposes.

“That is why I am suffering as I am. Yet I am not ashamed, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him for that day.” (2 Timothy 1:12)

Acknowledge your need for the Lord.

• I admit I am brokenhearted over my child.

• I cannot carry the pain on my own.

• I see this breaking as an act of God’s love, drawing me into deeper dependence on Him.

• I will look to Christ, who is in me, to be my sustaining source of strength.

“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20)

Seek to build a new relationship with your child.

• Stop trying to change your child—start changing yourself.

• Stop judging—start respecting.

• Stop criticizing—start complimenting.

• Stop talking—start listening.

“Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” (Colossians 3:13)

Exchange your pain for God’s peace.

• Choose to trust in God’s goodness.

• Choose to rely on God’s faithfulness.

• Choose to believe in God’s involvement.

• Choose to live in God’s presence.

“You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you. Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord, the Lord, is the Rock eternal.” (Isaiah 26:3–4)

“This is what the Lord says: ‘Restrain your voice from weeping and your eyes from tears, for your work will be rewarded,’ declares the Lord. ‘They will return from the land of the enemy.’ ”

(Jeremiah 31:16)

G. Letting Go

Your child is a temporary gift from God. Just as arrows are made to be thrust from the bow, children are created to soar on their own. The more you pray and trust in God’s personal involvement in your child’s life, the less possessive and reluctant you will be to release your child into His hands.

•     Let go of seeing your child as an extension of yourself.

•     Let go of your desire to possess your child.

•     Let go of the inclination to control your child.

•     Let go of your expectations for your child.

•     Let go of jumping in to save your child from failure.

•     Let go of seeking harmony at all times.

•     Let go of your need to be appreciated.

•     Let go of parenthood as your primary identity.

“Sons are a heritage from the Lord, children a reward from him. Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are sons born in one’s youth.”

(Psalm 127:3–4)

The most compelling act you can perform as a parent is to reflect the character of Christ to your child.

—June Hunt



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[1] Hunt, J. (2008). Biblical Counseling Keys on Parenting: Steps for Successful Parenting (1–27). Dallas, TX: Hope For The Heart.

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