Christian Churches of God
Christianity and Childrearing
(Edition 1.5 20050612-20131102)
Though there are currently many theories and opinions about childrearing, this paper will cover the basic biblical tenants of family relationships and childrearing.
Christianity and Childrearing
In today’s world one can find advice and guidance on almost any topic. Regarding the topic of childrearing the suggestions will range from very liberal to very conservative. Different countries also have various practices, standards and regulations that determine what is acceptable or unacceptable behaviour. Since the family is the basis from which society evolves it seems clear why Satan is attempting to destroy every facet of the family from any avenue possible. But let us start out with the basic biblical guidelines for the roles and responsibilities of the different family members.
What does the Bible say regarding the roles of man and woman?
Clearly Scripture states, “It is not good for a man to be alone” (Gen. 2:18). Woman was created for man, as a helpmate/helper (Gen. 2:18). The two were to become one flesh and function as one. The husband and wife were to be of one body; that is to say they both have different roles and responsibilities but they are tied together in mind and spirit. Just as in our physical body the various limbs and organs are better designed for different tasks, so is it to be in a marriage.
We are commanded to marry and raise children to the glory of God (Gen. 2:24; 9:1,7; 1Tim. 5:14). The decisions, such as when, and whom to marry, and when to have children are up to the individual. Children are a blessing from God, which He commands (Ps.127:3-5).
Christ is the head of the man
Christ set the perfect example by being totally submissive and obedient to God and His Law. Husbands are to follow Christ’s example and lay down their lives for their wives as Messiah did for the Church. At times this means protecting the wife even if she does not see the need or reason for his actions. The head of the house bears the responsibility under the law (cf. Ex. 22:8 for legal responsibility).
The father is to be the source of physical and spiritual stability for his family. Just as Christ provides for the physical and spiritual welfare of the creation, the wife (Church) supports her husband (Messiah) to bring many sons into glory (Heb. 2:10).
Man as head of the woman
Ephesians 5:24 As the church is subject to Christ, so let wives also be subject in everything to their husbands (RSV).
The woman is not the man’s slave but his helpmate (see also Proverbs 31). The wife demonstrates a lot of authority and responsibility over her household and children. The woman is an example of a type of church. See the paper Proverbs 31 (No. 114). It is through the mother’s and father’s example the children learn how to obey and fear God and keep His Laws.
The Bible says we are all to be brides of Christ (Eph. 5:27). In the future we will not give or be given in marriage (Mat. 22:30). But in the first resurrection both men and woman will be the bride of Christ (Rev. 19:7-10). While we are physical we learn of some of the challenges and strengths of the opposite sex through our respective spouses.
Children in submission to their parents
We are all made in the image of the Father (Gen. 1:27; 2:7). We were commanded to go forth and multiply, and renew the face of the planet. Here we see the concept of God becoming all in all or ehyer asher ehyer (Ex. 3:14 fn. to Companion Bible, and the Oxford Annotated RSV) meaning I will be what I will become. As we have children and raise them in the fear and admonition of the Lord we are also expanding the family of God; which temple we are (1Cor. 3:16-17). We assist in God’s family, growing and expanding as the Plan of God unfolds over time.
We are all to become sons of God (Rom. 8:14; Phil.2:15; 1Jn. 3:1-2).
Generally speaking the father is more responsible for the external working of the family. The male is the head of the family and he represents the family within the society and nation at large.
The father is to provide for the physical necessities of his family such as food, housing etc. “If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially his immediate family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever” (1Tim. 5:8). Also, “If a man will not work he shall not eat” (2Thes. 3:10).
The father is not only to provide for the physical needs of the family but also the spiritual. It is through his example of submitting to God’s Law that his wife and children see and learn from him.
The need for the father’s approval is very great. The children and wives in God-fearing families want and need approval and support from the father and husband.
1John 4:18 There is no fear (5401) in love, but perfect (5046) love casts out fear, because fear involve punishment (2851) and the one who fears (5399) is not perfected in love.
A fear-based home or organization will not last over time. People find it very difficult to live or work in fear. God is a God of love (1Jn. 4:8).
1John 4:16-17 And we have come to know and have believed the love, which God has for us. God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God and God abides in him. By this, love is perfected with us, that we may have confidence in the day of judgement because as He is so also are we in this world.
We all need to strive to be loving parents. Fathers need to be careful not to provoke their children to wrath.
Ephesians 6:4 And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath (3949): but bring them up in the nurture (3809) and admonition (3559*) of the Lord (KJV).
Ephesians 6:4 And, fathers, do not provoke your children to anger (3949) but bring them up in the discipline and instruction (3559) of the Lord (NASV).
Wrath is SHD 3949 parogizo to rouse to wrath, to provoke, exasperate, anger.
Rather we are to bring them up and nurture them. Nurture is paideia (SGD 3809). (See also 2Tim. 3:6; Heb. 12:5,7,8,11.)
1) The whole training and education of children (which relates to the cultivation of mind and morals), sometimes entails commands and admonitions, reproof and punishment. It also includes the training and care of the body.
2) In adults good character is built by correcting mistakes and curbing passions.
a) Instruction, which aims at increasing virtue.
b) God chastises men for their benefit (Heb. 12:5-11).
Just as Christ corrects and admonishes us, so too does the husband/father need to deal with his wife and children. The wife is clearly the weaker vessel (1Pet. 3:7). Depending on the age of the child he/she may or may not have abstract thinking or fully developed comprehension. Men need to strive to be like Christ in dealing with faults, imperfections and developmental issues in their wives and children.
*The notes to the Key Study Bible on 3559 are as follows:
Nouthesia admonition from nous (3563) mind, and thesis, a putting. The verb noutheteo (3560) from nous mind and tithemi 5087 to put or put into the mind. Nouthesia is the training by word of encouragement when it proves sufficient, but also by word of remonstrance, reproof, blame as required, Paideia (3809) instruction, training by act and discipline Nouthesia is the milder term with which paideia would be incomplete, Nouthesia involves correction by deed as needed. In both words there is the appeal to the reasonable faculties.
Hebrews 12:11 Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them, which are exercised thereby.
In these texts we see how God deals with us and we are to deal with our children.
Colossians 3:21 adds: Fathers do not exasperate your children, that they may not lose heart (NASV).
Exasperate is 2042 from a presumed prol. form of 2054 to stimulate (espec to anger): provoke.
Again we see the caution to fathers not to incite or provoke the child. Unfortunately, if this occurs it is a lifelong struggle for the child to overcome the negative experience he/she had with a physical father. This then also makes it more difficult to understand God’s love for us.
Under the Law of God, a father or a husband can revoke a vow his wife or unmarried daughter makes (Num. 30:1-16). This is another example of the protection that is offered to the female through the male, and the responsibility the male has as head of his household. See also Law and the Fifth Commandment (No. 258).
Mother’s are more responsible for the internal workings of the family in the home. She clearly was created to be a helper to her husband. Unfortunately, in today’s society many women learn how to undermine and destroy their husband’s authority. The out and out attacks on a man’s character are extremely damaging to the husband and to the children. Rather than learning obedience to God and His Law, the children witness rebellion which is as witchcraft (1Sam. 15:23). At times women seem not to realize the power of the their words. This also holds true for men. Both individuals need to be very careful how they use words with each other. The tongue can be a deadly weapon (Jas. 3:5-8). Our children will learn by our example.
If we do not want to set the wrong example, then we need to strive to be as the women of former times, the holy women who hoped in God and used to adorn themselves being submissive to their own husbands (1Pet. 3:5-6).
All women should strive to be the Proverbs 31 wife and mother. See also Role of Christian Woman (No. 62); Marriage (No. 289) and Law and the Seventh Commandment (No. 260). The instruction in Proverbs 31 is a very hard act to follow, but needless to say it is valuable for the individual woman as well as the Church (cf. the papers Proverbs 31 (No. 114) and also Song of Songs (No. 145)).
Many today do not realize what a powerful witness they are to their children by their very example. Young children do not have abstract thinking. They watch and learn how their parents respond to them and to each other, and model their own behaviour likewise. Children typically can be mirrors of the adult’s behaviour, be it positive or negative.
A house divided cannot stand (Mat. 12:25). The same applies within a family too. Children by nature seek consistency and security. They will at times ask each parent separately regarding permission for a certain thing. When the parents give different responses it is chaotic and confusing for the child. As the child grows into an adolescent he/she will actually learn to “work the system” to get what they want. Yet, God and His Laws are not changeable (Mal. 3:6; 1Sam. 15:29; Num 23:19; Jas 1:17). Christ did what he saw the Father do. We need to strive for this consistency, clarity and oneness of minds in raising our children and in our physical relationships, just as Christ and the Church demonstrate oneness of mind and action.
We are to teach our children
We are to teach our children and raise them in the admonition of the Lord (Deut. 4:9,10; Psa. 78:1-7).
We are to teach our children at all times:
Deuteronomy 11:19 And you will teach (3925) them to your sons, talking of them when you sit in your house and when you walk along the road and when you lie down and when you rise up (NASV).
SHD 3925 Lamad to learn, to study, to be accustomed to; to teach to instruct to practice to train, to be taught, to be trained. A derived form malmad (4451) was a goad for oxen. Lamad has both the idea of training and education. Greek required 2 words manthano (3129) to learn, and didasko (1321) to teach, to achieve what the Hebrew does in lamad. All knowledge resides in the fear of the Lord (Deut. 4:10; 14:23; 17:19; 31:12,13; Pro. 1:7). No one teaches Him or advised Him (Isa 40:14) He is the Source of truth (cf. NASV Key Word Study Bible note).
Proverbs 1:8 Hear, my son your father’s instruction, and do not forsake your mother’s teaching (8451).
SHD 8451 Towrah or torah. This Hebrew noun comes from 3384. The meaning is instruction doctrine a regulation, direction, a precept, a statue, (human) law, (divine) law, collective laws …eventually towrah became synonymous with the Pentateuch. …So towrah was much more than a law or set of rules, it was not to be perceived as restrictions but the very means by which one could be reach spiritual ideal…
(NASV Key Word Study Bible note).
Proverbs 22:6 Train (2596) up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old he will not depart from it.
SHD 2595 chanak to initiate, teach; to dedicate, to consecrate, to inaugurate. This Heb. verb occurs only 5 times. It is similar to our “groundbreaking ceremony;” very early training for children is indicated by the word in Prov. 22:6. It is a community action. (NASV Key Word Study Bible note).
Through the different words for teaching and instructing, we see a concept developing. From a very young age we are to train our children. A dog can be trained, and our children are more valuable than animals, so they can and should be trained in obedience to all the parents’ commands. The training we do with our little ones helps them to develop a solid emotional base to continue to practise the self-control needed throughout their life- spans. As the child matures he/she needs to be taught the ways of God.
Parents function as the child’s guardian, sustainer and protector until the child is an adult and is able to totally care for him or herself. The more evil or negative influences the parents can protect the child from, the fewer “emotional or physical scars” the child has to deal with as an adult. But this does not imply the child should grow up in a vacuum.
Our children are holy and sanctified in us (1Cor. 7:14). Yet we are to consecrate them through our instruction in word and in deed. It is like that groundbreaking or inauguration ceremony that lays the foundation for the building to be erected on. If the foundation is strong and stable the finished building is also strong and stable. God has entrusted us with a priceless being when we are given a child; it is not a responsibility to be taken lightly.
As the child grows the training in self-control and obedience serves as the basis for more complex aspects of the Laws of God and His Plan. The parents and church are to instruct the child or adolescent in the doctrines of the faith, so they can reach the spiritual ideal.
Our children are to hear and learn to fear the Lord our God and observe all the words of the law (Deut. 31:12,13; Psa. 34:11; Pro. 5:1,2; 6:20-23; 23:26). They are not only taught in the home but also at God’s commanded assemblies (Jos. 8:35; Ex. 13:8-10, 14-16; Deut. 31:12). The Church functions as a community of believers assisting in teaching the child directly or indirectly by words and examples.
If we teach our children, our immediate families and then the nation will be blessed (1Kgs. 2:1-4). If we do not teach them in the fear and admonition of God negative consequences follow (Deut. 4:25-28; 8:18-20; 30:17-19). Having children is a huge blessing and responsibility. It is the parents’ responsibility to teach their children to fear God.
Though discipline is clearly scriptural and needed, an aspect of teaching children that cannot be ignored is praising them when they do make the correct and right choices. Just as God clearly tells us to choose life and we will reap the blessings. Children need constant reinforcement and praise for doing the right thing. Most individuals, young or old, crave and need love and attention. At times, children will act out or make poor choices just to get a parental response. We should never underestimate the value of praising and shaping behaviour by acknowledging the positive choices the child makes. God clearly does this with us since we receive blessings for obedience (Deut. 28), and greater understanding in His Law (Pro. 16:3).
Unfortunately in today’s society two God- fearing individuals joined together in a Godly marriage is very rare indeed. Yet all things are possible through God. So whatever the situation: marriage to an unconverted person, divorce or death, there are numerous examples of how God looks after the widows and fatherless. It is up to the grandparents and the Church to assist in raising the children so they can learn a balance of the male and female roles.
We are to discipline our children
Just as we are to train, teach and educate our children, we are to discipline and correct them when needed.
Proverbs 13:24 He who spares his rod hates his son, but he who loves him disciplines him diligently.
Proverbs 19:18 Discipline your son while there is hope, and do not desire his death.
Proverbs 22:15 Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child; the rod of discipline will remove it far from him.
Proverbs 23:13-16 Do not hold back discipline from the child, although you beat (5221) him with the rod (7626) he will not die. You shall beat (5221) him with the rod and deliver his soul from Sheol.
SHD 5221 means: beat 1) to strike, smite, hit, beat, slay, kill a) (Niphal) to be stricken or smitten b) (Pual) to be stricken or smitten c) (Hiphil)
1) to smite, strike, beat, scourge, clap, applaud, give a thrust
2) to smite, kill, slay (man or beast)
3) to smite, attack, attack and destroy, conquer, subjugate, ravage
4) to smite, chastise, send judgment upon, punish, destroy d) (Hophal) to be smitten 1) to receive a blow 2) to be wounded 3) to be beaten 4) to be (fatally) smitten, be killed, be slain
5) to be attacked and captured
6) to be smitten (with disease)
7) to be blighted (of plants)
SHD 7626 rod
1) rod, staff, branch, offshoot, club, sceptre, tribe a) rod, staff b) shaft (of spear, dart) c) club (of shepherd's implement) d) truncheon, sceptre (mark of authority) e) clan, tribe
Here we see the word “beat” has a very wide range of meanings from striking to killing and capturing, in addition to other meanings. The same wide concept of the meaning of the word “rod” also holds true from being a branch or spear, to a mark of authority.
From these Hebrew words we learn that we are to discipline our children, but how that is administered is a parents’ decision. There are basic guidelines in most nations, such as “spanking” or “swats” which should be done with open hand versus clenched fist. The spanking should be done through clothes. There should be no hitting across the face or head. Clearly, using electric cords, etc. as a means to administer punishment is viewed as abuse.
Depending on the country, those in the health care system and in regard to the law of the land, need to report bruises or broken bones to child protective agencies and/or the police. We need to use wisdom in disciplining our children and never resort to cruelty and violence.
Just as God deals with us individually, the correction should be undertaken in private with the parent and the child. God never disciplines or deals with us in anger. Likewise we should never administer correction to our children when angry. The main thing is that the parent should be in control of his or her emotions before dealing with a child that is out of control.
The corrections should be administered swiftly and quickly so the child can see the cause and effect. Parents need to be consistent in correcting their children and delayed punishment often means no punishment. The child should know and understand what he or she did wrong and be clearly taught what is acceptable behaviour.
The punishment also needs to be in proportion to the infraction. One would not be administering corporal punishment for each offense. One also needs to consider the make- up of the offender. Some children can be brought to tears and repentance through a stern look. Other children need to be spanked; still others need a loss of privileges or toys to see the consequence of their actions.
The relationship with a child starts with the baby’s birth. It is up to the parent to determine when and how the correction is administered as the child ages. God gave man and the host free moral agency, so too it is to be with our children. We are to nurture, train, teach and guide them in the Laws of God. We must also wisely correct them.
After the correction the child needs to know the parent still loves and cares for him/her even though they may have made a bad choice or mistake. If we can keep God’s Plan in the foremost of our minds when we deal with our children, we increase our chances of administering correction in a godly fashion. The capacity to learn from correction is a mark of wisdom (Pro. 15:31-33).
Under the Law of God, children are responsible to the parents and subject to the death penalty if they are rebellious (Deut. 21:18-23). The death penalty rests in the parents and, the state through the elders, and extends then to the people. See the paper Law and the Fifth Commandment No. 258. Obviously, no one ever wants death for a child, so parents need to continually work to train their children so they will act in an acceptable manner.
Parents are to lay up and provide for their children.
2Corinthians 12:14 Behold, the third time I am ready to come to you; and I will not be burdensome to you for I seek not yours, but you: for the children ought not to lay up for the parents, but the parents for the children (KJV).
The first-born child is given a double portion of any inheritance and is thus responsible to provide and care for his or her elderly parents and extended family (Deut. 21:17).
God was very clear in what He expects us to do in the family relationship. The fifth commandment is directed solely to the family (Mk.10:19; Lk. 18:20; Eph. 6:1-3).
Exodus 20:12 Honour your father and your mother, that your days may be prolonged in the land which the lord your God gives you.
Deuteronomy 5:16 Honour your Father and your mother, as the Lord your God has commanded you, that your days may be prolonged and that it may go well with you on the land which the Lord your God gives you.
Ephesians 6:1-3 Children obey our parents in the Lord for this is right. Honour your Father and Mother - which is the first commandment with a promise - that it may be well with you, and that you may live long on the earth.
We are to respect, reverence and remember our mother, father, elders and God (Lev. 19:3, 32; Ecc. 12:1; Mat. 19:19).
Colossians 3:20 Children obey your parents in all things; for this is well pleasing unto the Lord. (KJV)
Children obey your parents (Gen.28:7; 47:30).
It is a choice to be wise and obey God (Pro. 10:1; 23:15; 27:11,29).
1Timothy 4:12 Let no one look down on your youthfulness, but rather in speech, conduct, love, faith and purity show yourself an example of those who believe.
We are told in 2Timothy 2:22 to flee youthful lusts and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.
Promises to children for obedience
Proverbs 3:1-8 My son, forget not my law; but let thine heart keep my commandments: For length of days, and long life, and peace, shall they add to thee. Let not mercy and truth forsake thee: bind them about your neck write them on the tablet of your heart: So shalt thou find favour and good repute. Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding in all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths. Be not wise in thine own eyes: fear the LORD, and depart from evil. It shall be health to thy navel, and marrow to thy bones.
Long life is a blessing to those who obey God’s words (Pro. 4:10,11, 20-23; 8:32,33).
Proverbs 30:17 The eye that mocked at his father and despiseth to obey his mother, the ravens of the valley shall pluck out, and the young eagles shall eat it. (KVJ)
Mark 7:10-13 For Moses said, Honour thy father and mother; and whoso curseth father or mother let him die the death. But ye say, If a man shall say to his father or mother, It is Corban, that is to say, a gift, by whatsoever thou mightest be profited by me; he shall be free, And ye suffer him no more to do ought for his father or his mother, Making the work of God of none effect through your tradition, which ye have delivered; and many such like things do ye (KJV).
In love let each esteem others better than himself (Phi. 2:3). Let us all try to function in our godly ordained roles and assist the family of God to be brought up in the fear and admonition of God the Father.
As time progresses and this age is brought to a rapid close let us work while there is still light and use love and wisdom in our childrearing.
James 3:17-18 But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, [and] easy to be entreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy. And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace.
Let us pray that our children learn through us of the perfect love the Father has for each of us. God and His Son and the Church demonstrate this to us. Whatever correction our children receive from us, let it yield the peaceable fruit of righteousness.
(All references from Strong's are from the notes in the Blue Letter Bible unless otherwise noted.)