Category Archives: Family/Parenting Questions

Questions about Family / Parenting: Is Giving a Child a Christian Education Important?

 

For believers in Jesus Christ, the question of whether or not a Christian education is important seems obvious. The answer would be an emphatic “Yes!” So why ask the question? It’s because the question comes from a myriad of perspectives within the Christian faith. Maybe the question should be “who is responsible for introducing my child to Christianity?” or “should my child’s education be done in a public, private or home-based system?” There is no shortage of opinions on this topic, some very strongly held and endlessly and emotionally debated.

As we begin to search for a biblical perspective, we come to the definitive Old Testament passage on educating children found in Deuteronomy 6:5–8: “Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. 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. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads.” Hebrew history reveals that the father was to be diligent in instructing his children in the ways and words of the Lord for their own spiritual development and well-being. The message in this passage is repeated in the New Testament where Paul exhorts parents to raise children in the “nurture and admonition of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4). Proverbs 22:6 also tells us to “train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.” Training includes not only formal education, but also the first instructions parents give to a child, i.e., his early education. This training is designed to plant the child firmly on the foundation upon which his life is based.

As we move to the subject of formal education, however, there are misunderstandings that need to be addressed. First, God is not saying that only parents are to educate children as many would assert, and, second, He is not saying that public education is bad and we are to educate our children only in Christian schools or home schools. The principle found throughout all of Scripture is that of ultimate responsibility. God never directs parents to avoid education outside of the home; in fact, it isn’t even addressed. So, to say that the only “biblical” method of formal education is home schools or Christian schools would be adding to God’s Word, and we want to avoid using the Bible to validate our own opinions. Just the opposite is true: we want to base our opinions on the Bible. We also want to avoid the argument that only “trained” teachers are capable of educating our children. Again, the issue is that of ultimate responsibility, which belongs to parents.

The issue in Scripture is not what type of general education our children receive, but through what paradigm that information is to be filtered. For example, a homeschooler can be given a “Christian” education but fail in life because he or she does not truly know the God of Scripture and does not truly understand scriptural principles. Likewise, a child educated publicly can grow to understand the fallacies of the world’s wisdom by seeing its failure through God’s Word which has been diligently taught to him at home. Information is being sifted through a biblical lens in both cases, but true spiritual understanding only exists in the latter. Similarly, a student can attend a Christian school but never grow to understand God in an intimate, personal relationship. Ultimately, it is the parents who are responsible for shaping and molding the child in a way that will succeed in accomplishing true spiritual education.

In Hebrews 10:25, God gives Christians the command, “Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” The body of Christ is an integral part of the education of children, assisting parents in nurturing and educating children in spiritual matters. Exposure to something outside of the family structure, in this case sound biblical teaching from church and Sunday school, is good and necessary.

So, no matter what type of institution of learning we choose, parents are ultimately responsible for their children’s spiritual education. A Christian school teacher can be wrong, a pastor and Sunday school teacher can be wrong, and parents can be wrong on any particular viewpoint theologically. So, as we teach our children spiritual things, they need to understand that the only source of absolute truth is the Scripture (2 Timothy 3:16). Therefore, perhaps the most important lesson we can teach our children is to follow the example of the Bereans who “examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true” (Acts 17:11), and to test all things they are taught—from whatever source—against the Word of God (1 Thessalonians 5:21).[1]

 

[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Questions about Family / Parenting: I Want a Baby, but My Spouse Does Not. What Do We Do?

 

The Bible declares children to be a blessing. Psalm 127:3 says, “Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb is a reward.” This is contrary to the way much of the world views children—as a hindrance and a burden. Children should not be viewed as a liability.

The lack of desire to have children often stems from selfish motives. Some people do not want children because they want to focus on themselves, their careers, and their money. They do not want to be “tied down” or give up their expensive cars, homes, or vacations. This kind of attitude is sinful. Others do not want children because of fears about not being able to parent successfully, not being able to afford to raise the child properly, or fears about childbirth itself.

Without knowing the reasons for not wanting to have children, it is difficult to determine whether or not the feelings are “wrong.” Are there health issues? Are there unresolved issues from childhood? These are things that should be discussed between spouses, and if need be, Christian marriage counseling should be sought.

As Christians, our devotion should first be to God, who says that children are a blessing. After that, the most important relationship is with our spouse. If it is very important to a spouse to have children, it should definitely be considered, with an attitude of respect and submission (see Ephesians 5:21–33). Practically speaking, this is a topic that should be thoroughly discussed before marriage.

If we devote ourselves to prayer, Bible reading, and meditation, God will reveal His will if we put Him first. Romans 12:2 declares, “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.”[1]

 

[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Questions about Family / Parenting: I Am a Parent; How Can I Let Go of My Adult Children?

 

Letting go of adult children is a struggle for all parents, both Christian and non-Christian. When we consider that nearly twenty years of our lives are invested in raising, nurturing, and caring for a child, it’s easy to see why letting go of that role is a daunting task. For most parents, child-rearing consumes our time, energy, love, and concern for two decades. We invest our hearts, minds and spirits into their physical, emotional, social and spiritual well-being, and it can be very difficult when that part of our lives comes to an end. Parents who find themselves in the “empty nest” often struggle to find an appropriate balance of love and concern for their adult children while resisting the impulse to continue to control.

Biblically, we know that God takes the role of the parent very seriously. Admonitions to good parenting abound in Scripture. Parents are to raise children in the “training and instruction of the Lord,” not frustrating or exasperating them (Ephesians 6:4). We are to “train a child in the way he should go” (Proverbs 22:6), giving him good gifts (Matthew 7:11), loving and disciplining him for his sake (Proverbs 13:24), and providing for his needs (1 Timothy 5:8). Ironically, it’s often the parents who take their parenting roles most seriously and who do a great job at it who struggle most to let go. More mothers than fathers seem to experience difficulty, probably due to the strong maternal urge to nurture and care for children and the amount of time spent with them as they grow.

At the heart of the difficulty of letting go of our children is a certain amount of fear. The world is a scary place, and the numerous stories of terrible things happening increase our fears. When our children are young, we can monitor their every moment, control their environment, and guard their safety. But as they grow and mature, they begin to move out into the world on their own. We are no longer in control of their every move, who they see, where they go, and what they do. For the Christian parent, this is where faith enters the picture. Perhaps nothing on earth is more testing of our faith than the time when our children begin to sever the bonds that have held them close to us. Letting go of children doesn’t mean simply turning them loose in the world to fend for themselves. It means turning them over to our heavenly Father who loves them more than we ever could, and who guides and guards them according to His perfect will. The reality is that they are His children; they belong to Him, not to us. He has loaned them to us for a while and given us instruction on how to care for them. But eventually, we have to give them back to Him and trust that He will love them and nurture their spirits in the same way we have nurtured them physically. The more faith we have in Him, the less fearful we are and the more we are willing to turn our children over to Him.

As with so many things in the Christian life, the ability to do this depends on how well we know our God and how much time we spend in His Word. We cannot trust someone we don’t know, and we can’t know God except through Scripture. When God promises not to test us beyond our ability to bear it (1 Corinthians 10:13), how can we believe that unless we know in our hearts that He is faithful? Deuteronomy 7:9 says, “Know therefore that the LORD your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commands.” Deuteronomy 32:4 concurs: “He is the Rock, his works are perfect, and all his ways are just. A faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is he.” If we belong to Him, He will be faithful to us and to our children, and the more we know and trust Him, the more we are able to put our children in His capable hands. Lack of faith in Him and His purposes for our children will result in an inability or an unwillingness to let our children go.

So what is the parents’ role as children become adults? Certainly we never ‘let go’ of them in the sense of abandoning them. We are still their parents and always will be. But while we no longer nurture and guard them physically, we are still concerned for their welfare. For the Christian family, they are no longer just our children; they are now our brothers and sisters in Christ, and we relate to them as we do our other friends in the Lord. Most importantly, we pray for them. We encourage them in their walk with God, offering advice when it is asked for. We offer help if it is needed and accept their decision to receive it or reject it. Finally, we respect their privacy just as we would any other adult’s. When parents finally do let go of adult children, they often find a stronger, deeper, and more fulfilling relationship than they ever could have imagined.[1]

 

[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Questions about Family / Parenting: How Should Christians Discipline Their Children? What Does the Bible Say?

 

How to best discipline children can be a difficult task to learn, but it is crucially important. Some claim that physical discipline (corporal punishment) such as spanking is the only method the Bible supports. Others insist that “time-outs” and other punishments that do not involve physical discipline are far more effective. What does the Bible say? The Bible teaches that physical discipline is appropriate, beneficial, and necessary.

Do not misunderstand—we are by no means advocating child abuse. A child should never be disciplined physically to the extent that it causes actual physical damage. According to the Bible, though, the appropriate and restrained physical discipline of children is a good thing and contributes to the well-being and correct upbringing of the child.

Many Scriptures do in fact promote physical discipline. “Don’t fail to correct your children. They won’t die if you spank them. Physical discipline may well save them from death” (Proverbs 23:13–14; see also 13:24; 22:15; 20:30). The Bible strongly stresses the importance of discipline; it is something we must all have in order to be productive people, and it is much more easily learned when we are young. Children who are not disciplined often grow up rebellious, have no respect for authority, and as a result find it difficult to willingly obey and follow God. God Himself uses discipline to correct us and lead us down the right path and to encourage repentance for our wrong actions (Psalm 94:12; Proverbs 1:7; 6:23; 12:1; 13:1; 15:5; Isaiah 38:16; Hebrews 12:9).

In order to apply discipline correctly and according to biblical principles, parents must be familiar with the scriptural advice regarding discipline. The book of Proverbs contains plentiful wisdom regarding the rearing of children, such as, “The rod of correction imparts wisdom, but a child left to himself disgraces his mother” (Proverbs 29:15). This verse outlines the consequences of not disciplining a child—the parents are disgraced. Of course, discipline must have as its goal the good of the child and must never be used to justify the abuse and mistreatment of children. Never should it be used to vent anger or frustration.

Discipline is used to correct and train people to go in the right way. “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it” (Hebrews 12:11). God’s discipline is loving, as should it be between parent and child. Physical discipline should never be used to cause lasting physical harm or pain. Physical punishment should always be followed immediately by comforting the child with assurance that he/she is loved. These moments are the perfect time to teach a child that God disciplines us because He loves us and that, as parents, we do the same for our children.

Can other forms of discipline, such as “time-outs,” be used instead of physical discipline? Some parents find that their children do not respond well to physical discipline. Some parents find that “time-outs,” grounding, and/or taking something away from the children is more effective in encouraging behavioral change. If that is indeed the case, by all means, a parent should employ the methods that best produce the needed behavioral change. While the Bible undeniably advocates physical discipline, the Bible is more concerned with the goal of building godly character than it is in the precise method used to produce that goal.

Making this issue even more difficult is the fact that governments are beginning to classify all manner of physical discipline as child abuse. Many parents do not spank their children for fear of being reported to the government and risk having their children taken away. What should parents do if a government has made physical discipline of children illegal? According to Romans 13:1–7, parents should submit to the government. A government should never contradict God’s Word, and physical discipline is, biblically speaking, in the best interest of children. However, keeping children in families in which they will at least receive some discipline is far better than losing children to the “care” of the government.

In Ephesians 6:4, fathers are told not to exasperate their children. Instead, they are to bring them up in God’s ways. Raising a child in the “training and instruction of the Lord” includes restrained, corrective, and, yes, loving physical discipline.[1]

 

[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Questions about Family / Parenting: How Should Christian Parents Respond If a Child Has a Learning Disability?

 

It seems that today more and more parents in the western world are saying “My child has a learning disability!” In western society more and more children are being identified as having ADD, ADHD or being diagnosed as afflicted with autism or some sort of mental condition that makes them unable to relate to others or develop “normally.” This is a scary reality and believers are not exempt from these things. How should believers respond when faced with these issues?

The only lasting formula for responding to the issues of living in our fallen world is to choose to walk by faith. That sounds very trite and over-simplified for parents who are desperately searching for answers, but for the believer, it is the only answer. In fact, for the believer the hope of God’s grace through faith is the one true foundation we can stand on when our child is in crisis and we cannot fix things with a kiss and a band aid.

If a child breaks a leg or an arm, a trip to the hospital corrects the break. It is not left to heal on its own and be a lifelong issue that the child must deal with. It is our calling as parents to nurture our children in the Lord in every aspect of their lives, not for our convenience, but for their spiritual good. So if a child has a learning disability or has trouble maintaining attention or behaving appropriately due to being autistic or to having some mental disability, we do not leave that child to flounder. Rather, we do as much as we can with as much love as we can for as long as we can without regard to the cost. There are resources available through organizations dedicated to research and support for each disability. A great deal more is known about how children learn than ever before, and much more help is available now than ever before. For some there is only the help and comfort of church and family to come alongside with resources and practical help. That means we reach out and do not isolate ourselves from God’s people. The “one another” commands are a great resource in time of need (1 Corinthians 12:25; Galatians 6:2; 1 Thessalonians 5:11; 1 Peter 3:8).

Conditions such as autism are not a reflection on us as parents or the result of something we did or did not do, nor are they something we somehow deserve. Just as no one “deserves” cancer, no child or parent deserves autism or mental retardation. The child with a disability is just as precious to the Lord as any other child (Matthew 19:14). In this world, there is no rhyme or reason why one child is afflicted and another is not. We live in a fallen world and the infirmity of the flesh can manifest itself in devastating ways. It is God’s amazing grace alone that overcomes the sad realities of a world tainted by sin. Indeed, one wonders how those who are not believers cope with these issues without the grace of God in their lives.

So the believer responds to their child’s learning disability with faith and puts that faith into action, bathing that child with love and acceptance at every opportunity. We enlist family, the church family, and every other resource available to help. We ask others to pray for us and help us through this time, all the while understanding that none of this is out of God’s control.

We can ask, “Why my child, Lord?” and “Why would a loving God allow this?” That is normal and natural and the answer is that God uses the details of this earthly life to demonstrate His provisions and grace and, ultimately, to glorify Himself. As believers, we are given a higher calling and a greater resource (1 Corinthians 1:26–30). The Apostle Paul declares that God displays His might and power through men and there is no unrighteousness in His purpose (Romans 9:14–23). We may not understand, but He will use the details of our lives to build in us His good and His glory. Therefore, when undeserved suffering comes to our children, the correct response of believing parents is to use God’s resources to stand by faith and leave the rest in His hands.[1]

 

[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Questions about Family / Parenting: How Should Christian Parents Respond If One of Their Children Comes out as Gay?

 

If a child reveals his or her homosexuality, the first thing for Christian parents to do is let their child know that, no matter what, love and grace will win the day. Mom and dad’s love will continue, regardless. First John 4:8 says, “The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love.” “God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance” (Romans 2:4).

All parents need to remember that our children (like ourselves) have heart issues. We’re not trying to put good fruit on bad trees; we are passionately praying for our wayward children that God would change the roots of the tree—that He might remove their heart of stone and replace it with a heart of flesh (see Ezekiel 36:26).

Parents should also encourage a child who has “come out” not to define himself as a “homosexual.” It’s important to ask questions: Are you in a relationship? Is the relationship sexual or platonic? Have you acted out your feelings of same-sex attraction, or are they just thoughts you have? Parents can come alongside a struggling child and help him see that he is not “gay” simply because he has homosexual thoughts. Rather, he is struggling with homosexual desires or same-sex attraction.

The difference between struggling with homosexuality and identifying oneself as gay may seem subtle, but it is a huge distinction, and here’s why. God never created us to be homosexual. In Christ that is not who we are. In Christ we are a new creation. Christians may struggle with impatience, idolatry, lust, or pride. Christians may struggle with same-sex attraction, but that does not make them homosexuals. We are new creations in Christ.

So, Christian parents can approach their child as broken people and offer to struggle together through their imperfections. It is important that we never communicate to those who have same-sex tendencies that their sin is the worst of all sins. Yes, homosexuality is sinful, but not to a level above that of heterosexual lust or lying or pride. The truth is we are all broken, and we all need help to remain pure.

Also, Christian parents should make clear their biblical convictions, but only after they have established a basis of love and grace and empathy and compassion. Your children need to know that the Bible is the supreme authority on all matters of faith and conduct. Not mom, not dad, not peers, not the church. And the Bible says that homosexuality is counter to God’s intended purpose for human beings. Sexuality must be heterosexual in nature and within the boundary of marriage.

If a child says, “I am homosexual. That’s the way it is, and I don’t care what God thinks,” then clearly the parents are back at step one. This child needs a serious heart change, and only God can change the heart. Sin is a heart problem, and until God changes the heart and the child is gripped by the grace of God, nothing will matter. A parent’s convictions will not matter. The letter of the law will not matter. Love is key. It is what drove the prodigal son back to the arms of his father (Luke 15:11–32), and it is, according to the apostle Paul, the greatest of gifts (1 Corinthians 13:13).[1]

 

 

[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Questions about Family / Parenting: What Does the Bible Say about Obeying Parents?

 

Obeying one’s parents is a direct command from God. “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right” (Ephesians 6:1). The word obey in this verse cannot be separated from the idea of “honoring” them. Ephesians 6:2–3 continues: “ ‘Honor your father and mother’—which is the first command with a promise—‘so that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on earth.’ ” Honor has more to do with one’s attitude of respect toward one’s parents, and it’s understood that the obedience is to be done with an attitude of honor toward one’s parents. Grudging obedience does not conform to the command.

It may be challenging for children to learn to obey and honor their parents—for some children, it’s harder than others! But there is a very good reason for this command. Proverbs teaches that those who listen to their parents gain wisdom: “A wise son heeds his father’s instruction, but a mocker does not respond to rebukes” (Proverbs 13:1). God’s design is for children to learn to honor and obey their parents as they grow up so that they can live wisely. As they learn respect at home, they will respect others appropriately when they leave the home. Even young Jesus, though he was the Son of God, obeyed His earthly parents and as a result grew in wisdom (Luke 2:51–52). The Bible says that children who are not disciplined or who fail to obey to their parents are much worse off in life (see Proverbs 22:15; 19:18; and 29:15).

As children have a responsibility to obey their parents, parents have a responsibility to instruct their children in the ways of God. “Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4). But even if one’s parents are not following the command directed toward them, children still have the command to obey and respect their parents.

Our ultimate responsibility is to love and obey God, above all else. He has commanded children to obey their parents. The only appropriate reason for disobedience of one’s parents would be if the parents were instructing a child to do something that clearly goes against one of God’s commands. In that case, the child must obey God instead (see Acts 5:29)[1]

 

 

[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.