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Biblical Counseling Coalition: Grace & Truth

Be the Parent

Parenting Series - Be the Parent

BCC Staff Note: You’re reading Part Three in a four-part BCC Grace & Truth blog mini-series on biblical parenting. In addition to today’s post by Sherry Allchin, you can read Part One by Keri Seavey: The Down-to-Earth Gospel for Parenting and Part Two by Nicolas Ellen: Things to Consider in Parenting. You’ll also enjoy Part Four by Todd Hardin.

“It’s so much easier to be their friend than the parent!”  

Yes, friendship will come in time, but for now, be the parent. God will help you because it follows His design for their maturity.

Children are to obey their parents, and we all as parents like that command! But what about the part that requires parents to balance nurture and admonition in order to avoid exasperating the children, provoking them to wrath (anger, rebellion, disobedience).

No, the parents are never responsible for sinful choices the child/teen makes, but parents are responsible for their own parenting style, for the models they follow and for the ways they model life for their children (Eph. 6:4). Proverbs speaks to both parents and children about their individual roles in the maturity children are expected to attain.

Nurture & Admonition in Balance

I like to describe this to parents I counsel as a huge X. This is a very delicate balancing act that requires two parents dancing in unison over a period of 18-21 years! Start drawing the X at the top left with Nurture for the Toddler (Eph. 6:1-3). That means both parents lay the groundwork of order (structured time management for meals and bedtimes; reasonable rules with consequences for disobedience and plenty of blessing for obedience). The bottom left of the X is about Admonition, minimal for the toddler but increasing with age. During the pre-school years, children are primarily learning about obedience to the authority God has given their parents to teach and train them in obedience to the Lord (Nurture). Nurture is the structured discipline that moves a child toward maturity and self-control, but admonition plays an increasing role in maturity.

Admonition helps the maturing child begin to understand God’s heart for him. Admonition is a parent’s heart for God that instructs his child in such a way as to encourage the child to seek God’s heart for himself. Out of the parents’ love for God (Deut. 6) flows the desire to disciple their children in love, which encourages the child to mature in obedience to the Lord (John 14:15,21). As the child increasingly chooses obedience, the focus becomes more Admonition (instruction and counsel) and less Nurture (structured discipline) until the mature young adult functions out of love for God and others rather than out of “Rules.”  So the top right side of the X represents Admonition for a mature young adult. The focus completely changes over the years, moving from primarily Nurture in a young child to primarily Admonition in the young adult. The relationship between a parent and their adult children has become counsel and friendship.

However, most of the years of training fall in the center part of that X, meaning the balance of Nurture and Admonition is extremely important during those developmental years. Sometimes I see a child/teen with one parent acting like the army drill sergeant, while the other parent just wants to be the nice guy to make the kid feel good. It doesn’t take long for that kid to be in charge while the parents end up fighting each other over every discipline issue. Everybody loses! Parental unity in front of the kids is much more important than which parent has the better techniques.

Two parents bring into marriage and parenting very different upbringings. Even though a parent may hate the way his parents yelled constantly, he finds himself defaulting to yelling. Or, an insecure child who believed his uninvolved parents never cared may grow up to be the overprotective parent that hovers over his children. When a couple can set aside their own experiences with earthly parents and focus on ways their heavenly Father parents His children, then they are able to establish a biblical model of discipline that truly works!

Who’s In Charge?

When kids rule, a home becomes chaotic. Boundaries give freedom to mature within the parameters of God’s moral laws and parental efficiency rules. Children need freedom to be kids, to learn and explore, to have fun. But they also need rules to guide them into productivity and maturity. God gave Adam and Eve only one rule, and then His children though Moses ten rules, and now we have those rules clarified in His Word, admonishing us to follow them! Scripture gives us a clear picture of the chaos that comes when we think we are in charge. There is an authority, but we are not our own, just as children cannot be in charge of their own lives and the home cannot revolve around them.

When parents rule, the home may also become chaotic if they are ruling out of their own beliefs and desires which conflict with one another and with God (James 4). Examples of chaotic parenting are abusive discipline to make the children obey or control that never allows the child to make mistakes and mature. Parenting motivated by fear or by anger always produces negative results (James 1:19, 20). The home cannot revolve around either or both of the parents or their agendas. When parents look at God’s model for how He trains His children, they can learn methods that produce desirable results.

When God rules a home in love, the fruit of the Spirit grows in both parents and children. The home then revolves around what the Lord desires, not what either the children or the parents desire. When individual desires are realigned with God’s desires, there is peace and unity. The parents who allow God to rule in their own hearts are then free to teach and train their children, balancing Nurture and Admonition as He does (Heb. 12:5-10).

Get Practical!

God has goals for His children and gives them rules, but not so very many that we can’t remember them all. In fact, Jesus simplified the Ten Rules to “Love God and love others, treating others as you would like to be treated.” There are clear and definable and enforceable boundaries. God wrote them down. He is consistent and clearly states the consequences for disobedience and the blessings for obedience. He gives rules (Nurture – structured discipline), but the real focus is on the issues of the heart, why we do what we do (Admonition – heart to heart instruction and encouragement to make wise choices). Foolishness is treated with a rod, but admonishment suffices the wise (Proverbs).

Our parenting should follow His style that always combines instruction and correction. The child should not only know what is expected and how to do it, but why it matters to God and to parents that he obeys. When children understand God’s heart for obedience and obey parents out of obedience to God, maturity is happening and parents rejoice! But that takes a lot of consistent work, paralleling the sanctification process in both parents and their children.

I often remind parents to be more corrective than punitive. Punishment comes from anger, while correction is motivated by love and desire to see the child mature. There is a major difference! How to Spank a Child teaches parents to be corrective in loving discipline. We use a Behavior Goals Chart to help parents set age appropriate goals for each child, along with the consequences for disobeying and the benefits of obeying.

These should be individualized for each child, because for one child, isolation to his room is torture while for another it is a bit of heaven! Know what motivates each child and let the pain of losing those things motivate him away from foolish behaviors and toward wise and mature behaviors. However, keep in mind that the ultimate goal is sanctification, not just making the parent look good through behaviorism.

Parents, take heart when your child doesn’t learn to obey overnight. Neither did you or I. God gives us 18-21+ years to teach and train, love and correct, rebuke and encourage each of our children to maturity. Keep praying and dancing in balance with Nurture and Admonition! They WILL grow up!

Join the Conversation

How can you follow our heavenly Father’s model of parenting that blends Nurture and Admonition?

Note: Mentioned worksheet can be found at Biblical Counseling Center’s website and at the BCC’s Resource page here and here.

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