Thou shalt make your children eat broccoli. Thou shalt not give your child an unsterilised dummy. Thou shalt let your teen sleep in on Saturdays. I’ve searched the Bible from cover to cover and never found specific parenting advice like this.

While the Bible says a lot about parenting, there are very few specific instructions on how to parent. At times I’ve wished God had been as specific about motherhood as He was about the dimensions of Noah’s ark or the preparations for a thank offering.

Some books and programs claim to know exactly how God wants us to parent our children. As solid as the advice may be, this type of thinking runs the danger of promoting a Christian formula — and formulas can result in a prideful approach to parenting and independence from God. You might believe you’ve found the secret to balancing love and discipline, and sheltering your kids while raising evangelists, but 1 Corinthians 10:12 admonishes, "If you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!"

Choose relationship over technique

Parenting formulas can result in bitter disappointment. Raising children is not like a math equation that guarantees the right result. The perfect balance of discipline, love and Bible teaching does not equal passionate Christian adults when our kids are grown.

If God wanted us to have a precise method, He would have given us one. He could have spelled out how long a timeout should be for a 3-year-old who lied. He could have instructed us on how to respond when a 17-year-old comes home after curfew. But He didn’t.

Instead of providing detailed techniques, God invited us into a relationship. While we parent our children, He parents us.

Dependence on the Father

God doesn’t want mathematicians who figure out the perfect calculation to make the perfect child. He wants parents who desperately cling to His promises, humbly hang on His every word and trust Him regardless of the outcome.

As I learn to resist the formula approach to parenting, I’m reminded of Proverbs 8:34, "Blessed is the man who listens to me, watching daily at my doors, waiting at my doorway." I love the imagery of waiting daily for my Father to teach me as I teach my kids.

Recently someone asked me, "How do you know if you’re a good mum?" My response was simple. "I know I’m a good mum when I’m first a good daughter." Great mothering begins and ends with a dependence on the daily guidance of my heavenly Father.

From the Focus on the Family website at © 2012 Focus on the Family. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

Dr. Julianna Slattery

Dr. Juli Slattery is a clinical psychologist, author and the co-founder of Authentic Intimacy, a ministry dedicated to reclaiming God’s design for sexuality. In addition to speaking, she hosts the weekly podcast Java with Juli. In 2020, Juli launched Sexual Discipleship®, an online platform to equip Christian leaders for gospel-centred conversations about sexual issues. Juli served at Focus on the Family from 2008 to 2012 as a writer, teacher and co-host of the Focus on the Family Broadcast.

She’s the author of 12 books, including God, Sex, & Your Marriage; Rethinking Sexuality; and Sex & the Single Girl. She and her husband live in Akron, Ohio, and have three grown sons.

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