Over the years I have observed many different people utilize very distinctive and diverse parenting styles. This got me thinking about the fact that God is also a parent and likely has His own parenting style.
Once I started to dig into this concept, I realized the application spans through many different layers of Scripture and life. Over the next three weeks I want to try to unpack concepts like what is God’s parenting style, does God parent differently in the Old Testament versus in the New Testament, and why is correcting our children so important in our own parenting.
Parenting, I think, is one of the hardest endeavors on the planet. Every parent is different along with every child, thus in a way no two factors are ever exactly the same when it comes to parenting. What works for one parent-child duo may not work the same even for the same parent with a different one of their children. It’s a complicated balance of love and discipline which we are ourselves experiencing with God.
However, for the sake of discussing God’s parenting style in a blatant and more contained structure, I am going to set aside many of the vast diversities in parenting and instead attempt to approach this topic by generalizing and defining four broad categories of parenting styles, all of which I have witnessed to one degree or another. (Please note that I am in no way saying these are the only styles of parenting out there.)
- Communication: Strongly controls and specifically tells children what they should or shouldn’t be doing
- Consequence if not obeyed: Harsh physical repercussions if the child disobeys, little to no room for questions or appeal
- Creates: Children who toe the line but have no idea why the line is important or why they should care other than simply to avoid consequences.
- Results: Adults who don’t know the definition of right and wrong and will submit to abusive leadership if only to keep at bay the conflict of not submitting
- Communication: Allows children to do whatever they want, until it becomes inconvenient to the parent and then the parent responds with a swift verbal or physical reprimand and harsh correction
- Consequence if not obeyed: Often extreme public embarrassment and randomly chosen repercussions, no room for questions or appeal
- Creates: Children who have no idea where the line is and feel they have the freedom to do as they please but constantly fear accidentally violating their parents’ desires (They learn that lines are not consistently right or wrong, but rather that right or wrong hinge upon their parents’ momentary or current preferences.)
- Results: Adults who don’t know the definition of right and wrong and who have learned to pay attention to and appease the stronger, more vocal people around them
- Communication: Explains to the child the expectations of their behavior. Calmly tells the child what they did wrong and how to fix it
- Consequence if not obeyed: None or simply re-explains expectations and what the child did or didn’t do
- Creates: Children who understand their parent’s rules but since these rules are not reinforced by actual consequences they come to the conclusion that rules are more like guidelines from which they can pick and choose
- Results: Adults who have been taught that they can define right and wrong for themselves and who have no respect for others or authority figures
- Communication: Explains to the child what is right and wrong, their expectations for their behavior in this regard, and the pending consequence if disobeyed. Calmly tells the child what they did wrong, how to fix it, and what consequence will result
- Consequence if not obeyed: Allows the child to experience the repercussions of their actions that they were warned they would receive if they disobeyed. Questions and appeals may or may not be allowed depending on the situation and circumstances
- Creates: Children who understand their parent’s rules, why they are right and wrong, and that these rules are important enough to be reinforced by consequences if violated
- Results: Adults who know right and wrong and have been taught to treat others well and respect authority figures
Which one of these four style do you think is possibly most like God’s parenting style?
I think there are many people out there who believe that God has a controlling parenting style. They are possibly the same people who question God’s commands in the Old Testament. And I admit when I look at some of the passages from Proverbs, I do cringe at how harsh they sound. Passages like the ones below, without more context, do make it seem like God may have a controlling parenting style, but does He actually?
“Do not withhold correction from a child, for if you beat him with a rod, he will not die. You shall beat him with a rod, and deliver his soul from hell.” ~Proverbs 23:13-14~
“Blows that hurt cleanse away evil, as do stripes the inner depths of the heart.” ~Proverbs 20:30~
“Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child; the rod of correction will drive it far from him.” ~Proverbs 22:15~
These passages sound pretty harsh and mean, and I think that sadly many a controlling parent has utilized such Biblical instruction without understanding the heart behind these words or the broader principles of God. And in so doing they have created in their own children either copies of this or cautious parents. These parents reject the unjustified harshness they experience from their parents along with their rules, and instead of using any physical means of discipline to reinforce right and wrong they choose the opposite extreme of being lenient about right and wrong to the point of being misperceived as not caring if their children actually do what is right.
Thus, I think it is important that we take a look at what sort of situations might in fact rightly warrant such a strong corrections.
“ As righteousness leads to life, so he who pursues evil pursues it to his own death.” ~Proverbs 11:19~
“The desire of the lazy man kills him, for his hands refuse to labor.” ~Proverbs 21:25~
“Getting treasures by a lying tongue is the fleeting fantasy of those who seek death.” Proverbs 21:6
“A prudent man foresees evil and hides himself, but the simple pass on and are punished.” ~Proverbs 22:3~
“Whoever has no rule over his own spirit is like a city broken down, without walls.” ~Proverbs 25:28~
Notice in Proverbs 23:13-14 it says, “Do not withhold correction.” Often we’re so busy looking at how harsh the correction is and talking about how maybe it should be more lenient, when in reality we should be evaluating what would happen if that strong correction wasn’t there. The kind of correction that comes from a conscience style of parenting.
“He who spares his rod hates his son, but he who loves him disciplines him promptly.” ~Proverbs 13:24~
“Even a child is known by his deeds, whether what he does is pure and right.” ~ Proverbs 20:11
“The fear of the LORD is a fountain of life, to turn one away from the snares of death.” ~Proverbs 14:27~
God isn’t correcting out of control but out of love and a desire to save.
“The right hand of the LORD is exalted; the right hand of the LORD does valiantly. I shall not die, but live, and declare the works of the LORD. The LORD has chastened me severely, but He has not given me over to death. Open to me the gates of righteousness; I will go through them, and I will praise the LORD. This is the gate of the LORD, through which the righteous shall enter. I will praise You, for You have answered me, and have become my salvation.” ~Psalm 118:16-21~
Next week we’ll dig into the question of whether or not God parents differently in the Old Testament versus in the New Testament.