“Godly Parenting: Structure!” overflows with practical wisdom and application for today’s families. Biblical counselor Sherry Allchin, M.A., founded Biblical Counseling Center with her husband Dr. Ron Allchin, D.Min., in 1989 and has counseled thousands of families over three decades. This is the first of two parts. Watch for Part 2 later this week here on our blog. At the end of this article, click the link to download a valuable parenting resource.
As Biblical counselors, we have heard from the beginning of our training that no one can blame their environment for their failure to walk the Christian walk. We cannot blame our home, family, friends, culture or country of origin, our church, school, or teachers, even though these do impact every child’s early formation.
As parents, however, we must look at the need to structure the environment for better parenting of our children. As counselors, we must be prepared to help parents understand the principles of effective parenting.
Structuring the environment is a key factor in successful parenting.
A structured environment is fertile soil for Deuteronomy 6:2-9 parenting. Ephesians 6:4 directs fathers to train their children effectively by balancing nurture (structured discipline) with admonition (heart training for godliness). In today’s “Christian” culture, children hear a lot of admonition to do right, but often lack the structure to put that admonition into practice. Structure will be the emphasis of this article.
Modeling after God the Father
Hebrews 12:5-13 encourages all of us to accept our Heavenly Father’s discipline as that which helps us to grow and to peacefully and productively walk the straight and narrow path of righteousness. Likewise, the goal of good parenting is to help children mature in wisdom and moral judgment in the context of a disciplined and holy lifestyle. Effective parenting structures a child’s environment to encourage maturity in every sphere of the child’s life.
The home is where this all begins. We are talking about an environment where discipline means more than just giving consequences when the child does wrong, but also establishes a structured environment where there are controls to help prevent temptations and wrongdoing. These parental consequences and controls progressively diminish as a child matures. The goal is moral maturity, not just age or physical maturity.
Parents represent God’s authority to their children. Parents must live under the authority of God just as they want their children to live under their own biblically directed authority. 1 Timothy 3:4 requires a godly man to manage his own household well. His children are under control with all dignity. He knows how to structure the environment of his home so his children will live in submission to an organized environment. Children tend to flourish in a structured environment when guided by parents who model a life that honors God and that their children want to emulate.
Proverbs 22:6 is a principle reflecting this, though we as counselors must be careful not to use this verse to chastise parents when a child chooses a prodigal lifestyle. Children can choose to go against God the Father’s model and their own parents’ authority. After all, God’s very first children, Adam and Eve, chose rebellion over obedience, and it was not God’s fault! As parents, we are responsible for the training; the child is responsible for his response to the training.
What Does Modeling Look Like?
Godly parents reflect Christ-likeness in their own life. They create a structured environment for their child to facilitate and provoke biblical maturity. Luke 2:52 reflects upon Jesus’ maturity in mind and body, both spiritually and socially. Children who feel safe and protected within structured boundaries are free to develop as God designed each of them in all spheres of their life.
We are warned against allowing children to structure their own environment with foolish standards. Proverbs 29:15 contrasts how discipline produces wisdom, but lawlessness brings shame to parents. The child left to structure his own environment will find out that all the freedoms he thinks are really cool and satisfying often result in painful consequences and enslavement.
When we structure the environment for our families we must be aware of the shaping influences in the child’s experiences. His environment may either provide temptation to sin or fertile soil for godliness. His response will be wise or foolish choices. This in turn gives parents opportunity to evaluate the need for greater structure, or the freedom to transfer responsibility to the maturing child.
Matthew 6:13 reminds us that our Heavenly Father does not lead us into or leave us in situations that would encourage us to sin. We are to pray for deliverance from evil. A consistent and structured environment at home helps guide a child who is out in the community with temptations all around. Parents help deliver their children from evil when they have modeled godliness and have given him instructions on how to deal with the temptations within his environment.
Our Heavenly Father calls upon us to control the shaping influences of our own environment. We are told to control our thoughts and behaviors because what we think about and act upon influences the environment around us. We must also control our thoughts about and behaviors toward an environment that is beyond our control (2Cor 10:5, Php 4:8). We have a responsibility before God to respond biblically to all the situations of life and to trust Him in the midst of difficult circumstances (1Cor 10:13-14; Jas 1:2-4). We teach and model this in every day life.
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