As Seemed Best to Them…

It is incumbent on us to avoid a one-size-fits-all approach to disciplining our children because each of our children are different.

While the Bible speaks both directly and indirectly to every aspect of parenting, it does not give us a detailed checklist that–if husbands and wives would simply consult in each and every interaction with their children–would guarantee a favorable outcome. On account of this, quite a number of parachurch ministries (e.g. NCFIC and the formerly influential Vision Forum) have, in my opinion, often unwisely sought to speak in much greater detail than the Scriptures as to how Christian parents are to educate, discipline and govern their children’s lives. Speaking in more binding detail than Scripture can give the sense that there is a one-size-fits-all approach to parenting that–if followed–will guarantee a favorable outcome. 

 

My parents sought to bring my sister and me up in the nurture and instruction of the Lord. While I despised the discipline of my father as a child, I came to look back on it with enormous gratitude after I was converted. If you asked my dad about the way in which he disciplined us, he would be the first to tell you that he failed in many ways and at many times. As my wife and I are now seeking to bring our three sons up in the nurture and training of the Lord, I too recognize that I fail in many ways each and every day. I’m grateful that behind whatever attempts my father made to discipline and bring us up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, the loving hand of God the Father was at work; and, I am grateful that His loving hand of discipline is behind my feeble attempts to bring my sons to trust and know Him. More than anything, I need wisdom and discernment in bringing my sons up in a way that is pleasing to the Lord and spiritually beneficial to them. This is one of those places in life where we feel what we lack the most.

Most of us would admit, if we were honest, that we often wish that the Scriptures were a detailed handbook for what to do in each and every interaction with our children. While the Bible speaks both directly and indirectly to every aspect of parenting, it does not give us a detailed checklist that–if husbands and wives would simply consult in each and every interaction with their children–would guarantee a favorable outcome. On account of this, quite a number of parachurch ministries (e.g. NCFIC and the formerly influential Vision Forum) have, in my opinion, often unwisely sought to speak in much greater detail than the Scriptures as to how Christian parents are to educate, discipline and govern their children’s lives. Speaking in more binding detail than Scripture can give the sense that there is a one-size-fits-all approach to parenting that–if followed–will guarantee a favorable outcome. This, in turn, often functionally cuts against the clear teaching of Scripture regarding God’s sovereignty in the regeneration of His people (Rom. 9); it then runs the risk of falling into the unbiblical ditch of behaviorism.

It is incumbent on us to avoid a one-size-fits-all approach to disciplining our children because each of our children are different. Sinclair Ferguson has explained that it is one of the great wonders and mysteries of the world in which we live that several children can come from the same parents and be so different from one another. It takes great wisdom to know how to bring each of our children up in the training and admonition of the Lord. It takes great discernment to know how to best motivate them and to know what kind and what measure of discipline they need. The Scriptures speak to this extremely challenging aspect of parenting when, the writer of Hebrews–while dealing with how the heavenly Father disciplines those whom He loves–gives us a little phrase about the need that earthly fathers have to parent by wisdom and discernment.

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