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What does the Bible say about parenting?

Bible parenting

Procreation is central to God’s plan for families and the world, as seen in His command to Adam and Eve, “be fruitful and multiply,” a directive that is repeated to future generations (Genesis 1:28; cf. 9:1). Expanding on this theme, the Bible declares that children are a blessing from God (Psalm 127:3–5), thereby making parenting a sacred responsibility. To this end, Scripture provides fathers and mothers with moral principles and practical instructions—from explicit commands to wise guidance—for raising their sons and daughters.

God designed parenting to occur in the context of a family, the foundation of which is marriage. The Bible defines marriage as a lifelong, monogamous covenant between one biological male and one biological female (Genesis 2:24; Mark 10:7). Heterosexual marriage not only makes procreation biologically possible, but through the complementary pairing of a man and woman, children experience the full breadth of the image and likeness of God that He imprinted on humanity’s two genders when He created them (Genesis 1:26, 2:18; cf. Ephesians 5:22–33).

While God designed parenting to occur within the context of a child’s biological family, adverse circumstances sometimes require the support and care of adoptive parents or legal guardians. An example of this is seen in the story of Esther. After her parents died, her uncle “Mordecai took her as his own daughter” (Esther 2:7, ESV). In such situations, adults other than a child’s biological parents get to experience the blessing of raising children.

Whatever the makeup of the child’s family, biblical parenting starts with modeling faithfulness to God in a winsome manner to their children (Exodus 12:24; 13:8). A father and mother’s relationship with God should be so evident that it solicits questions from their children (Exodus 12:26–27; Deuteronomy 6:20–25; Joshua 4:6–7). With this aim, parents can follow the examples of holy fathers in the Bible like Joshua, whose devotion to God characterized his household, and holy mothers like Hannah, whose persistence in prayer shaped her child’s identity and purpose in life (Joshua 24:15; 1 Samuel 1:11).

In addition to parents exemplifying faith in God, the Bible emphasizes the crucial role fathers and mothers have in directly teaching their children to follow Jesus. The Bible assigns parents the primary role of discipleship (Matthew 28:19; John 8:31; Psalm 78:4). This implies that, while others such as Sunday school teachers and youth pastors, can support a child’s faith, God obligates parents to undertake the primary discipleship role in their sons’ and daughters’ lives (Deuteronomy 6:6–9).

In practice, discipling children starts with teaching them about God. Deuteronomy 6:7 commands parents to continuously teach God’s words in their home: “You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise” (ESV; cf. Deuteronomy 31:12–13; Proverbs 31:6). Similarly, in the New Testament, fathers are told to raise their children in the “instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4). Given that children, like their parents, possess a sinful nature, it’s crucial for fathers and mothers to avoid intentionally provoking their children to sin and to guard against accidentally doing so (Ephesians 6:4; cf. Matthew 18:6).

God also assigns parents the task of teaching their children how the Bible applies to life. Understanding the relevancy of Scripture not only edifies a child’s faith, but also forms character, values, priorities, and decisions. Applying the Bible cultivates integrity (Proverbs 15:27), humility (Proverbs 16:19), and purity (Proverbs 20:9). Also, as children gain more independence, parents should work to protect their children from making decisions that could have long-term negative consequences (Numbers 30:2–15).

Furthermore, disciplining children is pivotal to biblical parenting (Deuteronomy 8:5; 2 Samuel 7:14; Proverbs 13:24), and a lack of it negatively impacts a child’s future (Proverbs 19:18). Yet biblical discipline is not merely punitive but formative. Discipline is designed to refine a child’s behavior, mirroring God’s loving discipline of His people (Hebrews 12:6).

Other aspects at the heart of biblical parenting include emotional nurturing, physical provision, and keeping children safe. First, godly parenting is rooted in love, expressed through heartfelt emotions such as compassion (e.g., Psalm 103:13). Second, responsible parents provide essential needs, like food and drink, to their children (Proverbs 31:13–14; 1 Timothy 5:8). Third, parents are tasked with protecting and defending their children, ensuring their safety (e.g., Deuteronomy 22:14–15).

To carry out the responsibilities God has given them, it’s important for fathers and mothers to develop a fervent prayer life (e.g., 1 Samuel 2:1–10; Luke 1:46–56). While the work of raising children is challenging, with God’s help, parents can experience the blessing expressed in Proverbs 22:6, “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it” (ESV).

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What does the Bible say about parenting?
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This page last updated: March 27, 2024