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How to Be a Better Parent

Parenting is, largely, the act of raising children. Considered literally, the phrase “raise children” means to lift them up: to raise the skills, attitudes, and abilities of budding young people and help them become upstanding adults.

5 Timeless Scripture Teachings for Better Parenting

While there are plenty of child development theories and parenting trends to explore, perhaps the ultimate parenting books are the holy scriptures. The Bible is full of stories of family successes and failures. It contains examples of disciplining children, dealing with problem children, different parenting styles, and even single parenting. While modern cultures and traditions have changed, the scriptures hold these timeless teachings for raising children.

Listen tirelessly, speak openly

Who listens to His children better than God, our Heavenly Father? He welcomes our thoughts and our worries, our complaints and our concerns, our gripes and our gratitude. You can follow God’s example as you work to communicate effectively with your children. 

Be connected

Turn off the TV. Put down the phone. Make eye contact with your child—and just listen.

Deepen the conversation

In this world of texting and social media, children often need to be prompted to look up—and open up. So ask questions, request specifics, and inquire about their feelings and opinions. Conversations with your children should be frequent and often informal. Talk to your children in the car, while they are getting ready in the morning, when they come home from school, during dinner, before bed—any opportunity you can find.

Be open and nonjudgmental

Children need to know they can trust your confidence—and your calmness—in any situation. Respect their feelings and their inexperience. Children need to feel safe bringing up the everyday issues as well as the not-so-easy topics such as dating, pornography, friends, sex, money, and more.

Don’t neglect your child’s spiritual side

While society has safety nets to ensure a child’s physical, emotional, and social needs are met, God also gives parents charge for each child’s spiritual learning. “Thou shalt teach [my words] diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up” (Deuteronomy 6:7). In other words, you’re on call for spiritual upbringing every hour of every day. Here’s what you can do:

Study the scriptures as a family

Read a few Bible verses each night. Tell favorite scripture stories. Talk about the people and the principles that are taught. Children can get some of this teaching in Sunday School, but studying the scriptures as a family can help you teach your children how they can seek and receive guidance. 

Go to church together

Attending church as a family emphasizes your family morals, and it’s something that you can all do together. Being connected with a church provides your children a sense of community and belonging with people who share similar values.

Share your faith frequently

Talk openly with your children about religion, why it’s important to you, and how you feel about God. Children are great observers and great imitators. Sharing your faith gives them motivation—and permission—to do the same.

Teach your children how to pray

One of the most important skills any person can have is the ability to pray. When children learn to pray it can instill faith in them, can help them recognize the influence of the Holy Spirit, and lets them know that they can turn to God for help, comfort, and strength.

Teach children how to behave

The Bible states clearly that parents are to “train up a child in the way he [or she] should go,” and then it follows with the great promise that “when he is old, he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6). So what is the way a child should go? And how do you explain so that the teachings last?

Explain commandments, rules, and consequences

The previous teaching mentioned in this article, developing your child’s spiritual side, involves teaching God’s commandments and Jesus’s example of how we should live. But every family should have its own rules, too.

Using your family morals as a guide, set clear expectations for behavior, chores, playtime, media, and so forth. Be consistent in what you say and set logical consequences for disobeying. These consequences should be reasonable and related to the rule. For example, if your children fight over a toy, then they lose their privilege of playing with that toy. Or if a teenager stays out past curfew, then he or she would lose permission to go out in the evening next time.

Discipline lovingly and wisely

Following through on consequences is necessary for children to learn—and it’s part of being a loving parent. “He that loveth [a child] chasteneth him betimes” (Proverbs 13:24). This doesn’t mean using physical punishment or losing your temper—simply be firm but kind. And make sure to explain to your children why you’re disciplining them; don’t expect them to just know why they’re being punished. 

Help children think through their decisions

Instead of constantly correcting them, ask questions that help your children interpret a subject and come to their own conclusions. If they want to watch a movie that doesn’t meet your family’s standards, you might ask questions like, “What do you think about that movie? Why do you think it’s restricted for kids?”

Walk the walk

Now the toughest reminder of all: Your children are watching you all the time. It’s a hard truth that the way they react to different situations often reflects the emotions and behaviors that they see you use. While there will be age-related tantrums, separation anxiety, teenage rebellion, and public stubbornness, the way you respond as a parent largely influences the way your child’s behavior will evolve. Be the role model. As the Apostle Paul taught, “Provoke not your children to wrath: but bring [your children] up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4). Show them how you would like them to behave by behaving that way yourself. 

Let children solve their own problems

You can prepare your children for the world by teaching them how to deal with opposition and how to make good decisions. They can learn these lessons if you let them make decisions, experience consequences, and sometimes even fail on their own.

Give children choices

Let children make mistakes when consequences are small. This is hard for parents to do because the small mistakes are often easy to foresee and you know how to “do it right” yourself. But let them learn for themselves. Resist the temptation to help, and let your child fail.

Guide instead of simply punish

When your child makes a wrong choice, be consistent with your family’s consequences (see suggestion 3 above), but turn it into a teaching moment, as well. Help him or her identify what happened, analyze what contributed to the outcome, and identify what can be done better next time.

Show love—no matter what

One of the most famous parenting stories in the Bible is that of a father and his young adult son who refused advice, broke the commandments, and lost his inheritance through his poor decisions. This father had taught his son, raised him in faith, and even likely knowing what lay ahead for this young man, let him face his own consequences. (See Luke 15:11–24.) The prodigal son’s story exemplifies the unending love a parent has for a child—the same love your Father in Heaven has for you. A few ways you can show your love for your children are by doing the following:

Show affection to your children

Demonstrate every day your love to your children—give them hugs, kisses, pats on the back, high fives, and sincere compliments. 

Express your children’s value

Reinforce the good decisions your children make. Commend their hard work. Praise their strengths and encourage them in the areas in which they aren’t as strong yet. Don’t compare your child with anyone. He or she is a unique child of God and should feel a deep-rooted and intrinsic worth.

Prioritize time with your children

Even necessary work and good causes shouldn’t take priority over family time. When Martha complained that she was “cumbered about much serving” while her sister visited, Jesus reminded her that life can make us “careful and troubled about many things,” and that His conversation with Mary was “needful” (see Luke 10:40–42). Sometimes you need to simply stop what you’re doing and spend time with your children. Jesus, although tired after work and traveling, set the example again when He said, “Suffer [or “allow”] little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me” (Matthew 19:14).

Make sure your children know that they take first priority. Ensure that they know that as their parent, you love them and you are always there for them.

Study the verses referenced in this article. Request a free Bible.