What About When Parenting Doesn’t Work?
Parenting works when both spouses work hard at it and the children are willing to listen. Parenting doesn’t work when both spouses refuse to work hard at it. Parenting is difficult when only one spouse works hard at it and the other doesn’t. Not matter your situation, if you want to shepherd your children’s hearts to be oriented towards God and the gospel then the father and mother both should work hard to make it that way. You can’t control your spouse nor can you force your children to love God (they have their own free wills), but you can do your part to biblically parent your children and glorify God in the process.
Encountering Problems In Parenting
- Summary: Biblical parenting is all about shepherding your children’s hearts to be oriented towards God and the gospel. God has given authority to parents over their children to bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. By faith, parents faithfully apply the biblical method of the rod (discipline) and reproof (instruction) as God works in the hearts of their children. They train their children in the Lord—meaning they are intentional and habitual about instructing their children in the Christian way. They do their best to organize family worship, establish a household of grace and with the right attitudes, fulfill their biblical roles as fathers and mothers. Problem: But what if it doesn’t work?—Meaning your child doesn’t respond properly to the parenting. Every situation and scenario is different, and too numerous to mention individually, but if your children are still young and living under your authority, please remember the following:
Psalm 78:1-8; Proverbs 4:23; 22:6; 29:15; Ephesians 6:1-4; Colossians 3:21; Titus 2:11-15; Joshua 24:15; Titus 2:4-5
- (1) Continue to faithfully apply all that was mentioned above (please review the parenting lessons) in regard to biblical parenting. Parents are responsible for the right process not the result. Ask yourselves: Are we truly applying the biblical principles of parenting in a consistent and biblical manner? Where do we need to improve? (If you think your children have mental or other medical issues, please see a doctor.)
- (2) Stop any abuse or hypocrisy. If your children experience any of these, then they won’t respond correctly. Ask yourselves: Are we mistreating our children in any way? Are we living lives contrary to what we are teaching our children?
- (3) Overcome your own sins. Are your children’s problems just a reflection of your own problems? Ask yourselves: Are they just copying what they see in us/me?
- (4) Point them to their need of the gospel—it is the only thing that can truly change their lives. Ask yourselves: Are we clearly and consistently teaching them the gospel?
- (5) Pray without ceasing. Parents should cast their cares upon God and ask for wisdom. Ask yourselves: Are we working hard at praying for our children?
1 Thessalonians 5:17; 1 Peter 5:7; James 1:5
A Parable Of Hope
- What if it is too late?—Meaning your child is already grown and is living a life in rebellion against God. The Bible gives us a glimpse at how the gospel can be applied to parenting through a parable about parenting that helps us to understand the gospel. It is the parable of the man with two sons. Both sons represent two types of rebellion against the father and the father represents how true love responds to such children. Read and apply.
Luke 15:1-3, 11
- The riotous child (self-indulgence)—this is the child who is characterized by living a wild and uncontrolled life when he is older. He brings the family shame. In the parable, this was the younger son. He sinned against his parents by: (1) Asking for his inheritance while his father was living—meaning he didn’t care for his father but just wanted his money. (2) He left home, moved far away and wasted his substance with riotous living—meaning he was reckless and wasteful in his morality (harlots) and finances. Results: Eventually, this type of lifestyle lead to him being in want—meaning that he became poor. He had nothing left. He had to get a job feeding pigs. He craved to eat what the pigs did, but nobody gave him any. Finally, he “came to his senses” and decided that the hired servants in his father’s house were treated better than the life he was living, so he decided to return to his father, confess his sins, and ask if he could just become one of the hired servants because he felt he wasn’t worthy to be called a son anymore.
- Parent’s Response: In the parable, the father didn’t approve of his son’s sinful lifestyle, but He allowed him to make his own decisions (he was of age), but when he “came to his senses” he was willing to love him. We can apply these same loving principles when dealing with riotous children: (1) Anticipating your child’s return—he never gave up on the child even though he was greatly dishonored by him. (2) Initiating your child’s reconciliation—he was ready and willing to accept his son as soon as he was ready to return. (3) Bearing your child’s shame—he humbly engage his son, endure shame and criticism to restore him. The father knew the towns people wouldn’t accept the riotous child back without much criticism, abuse, shame, etc., for his sinful lifestyle. Therefore, the father ran (which was a shameful thing for him to do in their day) to protect his riotous son from them and embraced him in the most loving manner (even though the son was most likely in a very repulsive state) without first requiring acts of repentance to prove his sincerity or to earn mercy (like the religious leaders taught in their day). (4) Restoring your child’s reputation—he restored his child’s reputation by greatly honoring him and not shaming him at all even though the son had tarnished both of their reputations.
- The moderate child (self-righteous)—this is the child who is characterized by living a tolerable and controlled life when he is older. He brings the family social acceptance. In the parable, this was the elder son. But he also sinned against his parents by: (1) Being angry over his father’s restoration (dislikes grace but trust his own merit) of the riotous son and refusing to celebrate—meaning the son was proud about his own outward obedience to his father, but was missing the “weightier matters” of obedience in the heart. (2) Being obedient with the only motivation being that he will receive his inheritance after the father died—meaning he didn’t care for his father but just wanted his money. This was the same sin as the riotous son, but just lived out differently. Everything this son is now doing is insulting and dishonoring to the father.
Luke 15:25-30; Matthew 23:23-28
- Parent’s Response: In the parable, the father responds to the moderate son in the same way as the riotous son. He anticipates, initiates and is willing to bear and restore his son even though he has been greatly dishonored. The father affectionately appeals to his son, explains their relationship hasn’t changed and he doesn’t want it to change (he doesn’t want to loose him). He also explains that it was necessary and right to celebrate because of the riotous son’s restoration—thus he is also extending grace and mercy to the moderate son who has yet to come to his senses.
Luke 15:28, 31-32
- What is a summary of biblical parenting?
- What are five steps you can take if it isn’t working?
- What are the two types of sons in the parable? How are they different/similar?
- What was the father’s response to each of the sons?
- What steps do you need to take today?