One such responsibility is found in Proverbs 22:6 "Train up
a child in the way he should go, even when he is old he will
not depart from it."
Unfortunately, many well meaning Christian parents have misinterpreted
this verse. Instead of discovering the God-given bent of each
child and adapting his training accordingly, many parents
have attempted to force the child into a particular mold.
It would be like taking a branch of a towering oak tree and
trying to force the individual branches to grow in a particular
direction. If you don't take into account the branch's unique
bent, it will break off or stunt its growth. Just like the tree
branch, children have been uniquely created by God with their
own natural bent. As parents, if we attempt to force the child
into bending the way we want--then the result can be tragic.
As loving parents, how do we adapt our parenting "to the way
they should go," without breaking the branches of our child's
natural bent? The secret is found by first looking at the oak
This happened to my (Greg's) family while we were camping in
One day, while we were driving, the family was started to get
a little irritable. Quickly, we took a family vote and decided
to stop and stretch our legs. Up the road a few miles, we found
a beautiful river that had a special surprise.
As my brother and I were exploring the river, we discovered
a natural waterslide. Over the years, moss had formed over the
rocks, making the river bottom very slippery. In one section
of the river, the water had carved out a nature slide. The slide
went for about twenty yards. However, there was one minor problem.
As you went down the slide, unless you landed into a small pool,
you would pick up speed and eventually go over a waterfall.
We walked up the river bank and hesitantly tested the slide.
It worked perfectly! Over the coarse of several practice runs
we determined that we could slide about ten yards and still
make it into the landing pool.
My brother and I were having a relaxing time until my father
found us. As he watched what we were doing, he determined that
it would make a great picture. As an otter, I definitely wanted
to have my picture taken going down the water-slide. Getting
ready to take the picture, my dad talked me into starting several
yards further than we had done before. Looking at the steep
slide, I realized that I would never be able to stop in the
landing pool. Then my dad said something that would eventually
cause me a great deal of pain. "Trust me. You'll do fine. If
you don't hit the pool, I'll stop you!!"
As my dad got into position to take the picture, I pushed off
and went flying down--perfectly situated to reach the landing
pool. Suddenly, without a second's notice, I hit a bump and
went off course. Instantly, I flew past the pool. I nearly crashed
into my father--who was still trying to take my picture--and
headed for the waterfall.
Right before I went over, I was able to push off so that I
might miss the big rocks. Unfortunately, the pushing action
caused me to land flat on my back in the pool below. If there
had been judges, I'm sure that I would have earned a perfect
"10" for my back-flop.
My first thought when I hit the water was my father's words,
"Trust me...I'll stop you!!" As a result of this trial, I instantly
became very angry. When he got to me, I began to yell and scream
at him. Without realizing the extent of my pain and anger, he
smiled and said, "In all fairness, I wasn't totally wrong when
I said that you'd make it to the pool. You did land in a pool--it
just wasn't the one we'd counted on!"
My dad quickly stopped laughing when my mother came running
down the trail. The scene was like watching a mother bear protecting
her young. After a couple of days--and the feeling returned
to my back--I was able to forgive my father. As a family, the
experience actually brought us closer together. We even laughed
about it when we pulled into the next town and saw a sign which
read: GIANT WATER SLIDE...FUN AND SAFE FOR THE WHOLE FAMILY!
As we examine each type of parent, it is important not only
to examine the kind of parents we would like to be, but also
to evaluate our lives in light of how we were parented.
1.The Authoritarian Parent: the person who
runs along the shore screaming out commands for the woman in
the water. This type of person thinks that he has the best plan
for saving the girl. He gets angry and frustrated each time
the woman is unable to follow his command. "Are you deaf. Do
you want to die!" he screams at her. "Why won't you do what
I say?" Each time the woman swallows water as she gasps for
air, her thought is "Why won't this person stop yelling at me
and jump into the water to save us?"
communication is usually direct. Child does not have to guess.
makes decisions based on very few facts
perfers to be in control
socially is blunt
desires an environment that has challenging activities
judges the child by results
Greatest fear is being taken advantage of
Greatest need is for personal attention, direct answers, step-by-step
approach, enjoys change.
Like the person running along side the bank yelling at the
girls, this type of parent seldom offers warm, caring support
and very few explanations are given for their rigid rules. As
a result of their very high standards and expectations, they
tend to produce the most negative qualities in children. They
tend to be unbending and demand that their children stay away
from certain activities because of their strong convictions.
But because the children do not know the reasons why these activities
are wrong, they may secretly participate in them.
Story: The Texas millionaire who offers anyone a million dollars
or his daughter's hand in marriage if he will swim across a
pool filled with piranhas. All of a sudden, they hear a splash
and someone goes flying across the pool, and everyone starts
to cheer. The person makes it, and the millionaire asks him
what he wants, and the person says, "Neither, I just want the
name of the person who pushed me in!!"
A group of psychologists and psychiatrists studied 875 third
graders in rural Columbia County, New York, from 1960 to 1981
and made several conclusions concerning "commanding" parents.
They found that high aggression in younger children is caused
by the actions of overly dominant parents. This high aggression
can lead to major violence and usually lasts a lifetime. The
study also showed that harsh punishment, like washing out children's
mouths with soap, coupled with rejection can lead to aggressive
These are some possible reactions by children who have commanding
• They rank lowest in self-respect. They have little
ability to conform to rules or authority.
• The rigid harshness of the parent breaks the spirit
of the child and results in resistance, "claming up,"
• The child usually does not want anything to do with
his parents' rules or values. He tends to reject the ideals
of his parents.
• The child may be attracted to other children who rebel
against their parents and the general rules of society They
may use drugs and participate in other illegal activities.
The child may be loud and demanding of his rights. In a classroom
setting, he may cause disruption in order to gain attention
2.The Easy-Going Parent: "For where your treasure
is, there will your heart be also" (Matthew 6:21). Imagine the
anger and disbelief that the woman must have felt as she desperately
screamed for help, only to find three people on the shore videotaping
her struggle. Instead of wading out into the water to offer
a life-line, these people neglected the woman by focusing on
their own needs. Perhaps the videotapers saw images of their
camera footage on the nightly news. Perhaps they might even
be able to sell the videotape to a tabloid show or even write
a book on the experience.
Like the people standing on the bank, "video camera" parents
treat their children in a similar fashion. They tend to lack
both loving support and control over their children. They show
an uncaring or immature attitude, lashing out at a child when
pushed or irritated. These parents tend to isolate themselves
from their children by excessive use of baby-sitters and to
indulge in their own selfish activities. Children are viewed
as a bother, "to be seen and not heard."
Dr. Armand Nicholi, psychiatric professor at Harvard Medical
School, helps us to understand that neglectful parents are not
only absent when they are away from home. They rob their children
of one of the most important factors in their lives--emotional
accessibility. When they are home, they usually are not listening
or paying attention to their children.
There are four main reasons why our children are being neglected
today, according to Dr. Nidioli:
a. The high divorce rate. Statistics show that there are more
than thirteen million children in single parent homes. The divorce
rate has been upwardly spiraling since the early 1960s and has
increased 700 percent since the beginning of this century. Most
divorces require single parents to work outside the home, allowing
less time for the emotional development of their children. It's
very difficult for single parents to provide their children
with the necessary time each day for listening and emotional
accessibility. However, it's not impossible.
b. The increase of mothers in the workforce. More than 50 percent
of all mothers in the United States are working. This also greatly
increased in the 1960s, with a strong emphasis being put forth
that women were unfulfilled in their homes. The economic pressures
of the times also forced many women to seek jobs. By joining
the work force, mothers are often less accessible to their children.
The suicide rate among children ages ten to fourteen has tripled
in the last ten years. Dr. Nicholi says this can be directly
related to changes in the American home. One study he quoted
shows that American parents spend less time with their children
than parents in any other nation except England. The study quoted
one Russian father who said he would not even think of spending
less than two hours daily with his children. In contrast, a
study at Boston University found that the average father in
the United States spends about thirty-seven seconds a day with
c. Excessive television and video game viewing. This also increased
greatly in the sixties and now more than 90 percent of American
homes have at least one television. The problem with television
is that even though people are physically together in a room,
there is very little meaningful and emotional interaction. As
parents neglect their children by watching television or through
other activities, the children experience an emotional loss
similar to that of losing a parent through death. They often
feel guilty when their parents are not with them. Some even
believe the reason is because they are bad, and if only they
were better, their parents would spend more time with them.
Obviously, this awareness lowers a child's sense of worth.
d. An increasingly mobile society. More than 50 percent of
Americans change addresses every five years. This mobility robs
children of their parents' time as well as the emotional strength
and accessibility they have from friends and relatives in their
former home. Yet even if we have to move our families, we can
still provide emotional accessibility to our children. This
can be done by setting aside time every day to spend with each
of our children or together as a family. Dr. Nicholi stressed
that this time should be used to counteract the effects of our
To illustrate how prevalent the problem of emotional accessibility
is, take a short break and try spending just five minutes concentrating
on your family's welfare and how you can help meet each child's
emotional needs. You may find it very difficult because we're
not used to doing this in our culture.
Here are some possible effects on children of neglectful parents:
• The harshness and neglect tend to wound the spirit
of a child, resulting in rebellion.
• The neglect teaches the child that he is not worth
spending time with.
• The child develops insecurity because his parents are
• The child may not develop a healthy self-respect because
he is not respected and has not learned to control himself.
• Broken promises break the spirit of the child and lower
• The child tends to do poorly in school because he has
Did you know that children spell love differently than adults
do? Most children spell love with a T, an I, a M, and an E.
That's right. TIME is how kids spell love. We are not saying
that family time is a cure-all for all family problems, or that
the family will be free of hassles if they spend a lot of time
together. We have problems in our families, as we're sure you
do in yours. Being together as a family, however, creates a
climate of closeness that makes family members think, "We will
work this out becasue we care. We are a family." This closeness
lasts even after the children are grown and the family is no
longer physically together. Remember that now is the time to
live tomorrow's memories. Tomorrow is too late!
3. The Permissive Parent:
Although the woman who jumped into the raging water knew what
she was doing, perhaps she might have been able to run down
the river and pick an appropriate spot to rescue the girl.
Permissive parents tend to be warm, supporting people, but
weak in establishing and enforcing rules and limits for their
children. This was the type of parents that I had. My mother
and father were very warm and loving and accepting of me. But
as far as I can remember, there were no rigid rules in our home.
They usually gave in to my demands. Even when I was in trouble,
they would not spank or discipline me. My mother said she never
spanked because her first child died of blood poisoning and
she had spanked her two weeks before she died. She made my father
promise to never spank any one of their five remaining children.
Although they meant well, that leniency affected me negatively
My parents left all decisions concerning how I would spend my
spare time up to me. In fact I didn't start formally dating
until . . . the third grade! This caused a number of problems
in my life. Once my father caught me in a serious infraction
as a young boy. From his firm voice I knew that I was in trouble.
But later, he said he would let me off without punishing me
if I promised not to do it again. I actually told him that I
needed a spanking but he wouldn't do it. There was something
in me that wanted to be corrected.
I found the same permissiveness in school. Once a teacher caught
me passing notes in the third grade after warning me of the
consequences if I didn't stop. She sent me to the principal.
He talked to me for awhile, told me I needed to shape up, then
said that he was going to spank me. I thought he really meant
business, but about fifteen minutes later, he said he was going
to give me another chance if I promised not to pass notes again.
Of course, I promised the world, but inwardly I can remember
being disappointed that he didn't follow through.
One of the major reasons why some parents are too permissive
is an inner fear that they may damage their children if they
are too strict. That fear of confronting their children may
actually produce the very things they fear.
On the positive side, permissive parents are strong in the
area of support. I am very grateful that my parents showed me
warmth and love. They were very giving, very understanding,
very comforting. Effective parents realize that a certain degree
of permissiveness is healthy. That means accepting that kids
will be kids, that a clean shirt will not stay clean for long,
that children will run instead of walk, and that a tree is for
climbing and a mirror for making faces. It means accepting that
children have the right to childlike feelings and dreams. That
kind of permissiveness gives a child confidence and an increasing
capacity to express his thoughts and feelings.
Over-permissiveness, on the other hand, allows for undesirable
acts such as beating up other children, marking on buildings,
and breaking objects.
These are possible reactions by children who have permissive
• A child senses that he is in the driver's seat and
can play the parent accordingly.
• A child develops a feeling of insecurity, like leaning
against a wall that appears to be firm, but falls over.
• A child may have little self-respect because he has
not learned to control himself and master certain personal disciplines.
• A child learns that because standards are not firm,
he can manipulate around the rules.
4. The Perfectionistic Parent
The young boy who was outside the service looking at the pictures
of the past senior pastors when the new pastor walks up to him
and tells him that these are the pictures of the men who have
died in the service of the Lord. Young boy, "Was that the 9
o'clock or the 11 o'clock service?"
The Secret of Becoming a "Balanced" Parent
Balanced parents usually have clearly defined rules, limits,
and standards for living. They take time to train their children
to understand these limits-like why we don't carve love notes
on the neighbor's tree-and give clear warnings when a child
has transgressed an established limit. But they also give support
by expressing physical affection and spending personal time
listening to each child. They are flexible, willing to listen
to all the facts if a limit has been violated.
The balanced parent is a healthy mixture of firmness with clearly
defined rules like, "You cannot intentionally harm our furniture
or anyone else's," but this firmness is combined with loving
attitudes and actions.
Typical characteristics of children who have loving and firm
• The warm support and clearly defined limits tend to
build self-respect within the child.
• A child is more content when he has teamed to control
• His world is more secure when he realizes that there
are limits which are unbending, and he understands why--the
• Because the spirit of a child is not closed, the lines
of communication are open with parents. There is less chance
of the "rebellious teen years."
• The children from loving and firm parents ranked highest
in: (a) self-respect, (b) capacity to conform to authorities
at school, church, etc., (c) greater interest in their parents'
faith in God, and (d) greater tendency not to join a rebellious
The Two Most Important Factors In Raising Children
The purpose for understanding your natural parenting bent is
so that it can help you balance the hard and soft sides of love.
It is extremely important to be balanced in the way we love
our family--especially our children. Providing only one side
of love can cause real problems in a family. In relating to
your family, are you shifted to one extreme or the other? Are
you camped out in the far reaches of a hard ide life, easily
issuing commands and criticism but not given to aring actions?
Is it easy for you to be hard on problems but easy to be hard
on your children as well? Or do you rarely move beyond an unhealthy
soft ide, unwilling to confront someone or take the lead? Do
you hesitate to act, even when you know you should be firm and
others need you to be strong? Is your softness with your children
pushed so far that you're soft on the problems facing you and
your family--even serious problems?
Respond to the following question according to how you currently
and consistently act toward your children, not according to
how you wish you would or occasionally do act. We also highly
encourage that you have your wife or children rate you on the
same scale based on how they see you. Note the difference (if
any) of perception that exists.
Hard Balance Soft Side Side
Keep in mind that regardless of where you score today, you
can move toward a healthy balance. The key to becoming balanced
is learning that each one of us has a natural parenting bent.
This is a God-given parenting style that we use every day in
a multitude of situations. At different times and for different
reasons, we all utilize many different parent skills. But we
still seem to function from one or two different styles. The
reason it is so important to learn our natural tendencies is
to see what happens when our natural strengths get pushed out
of balance, and the possible effects upon our children.
As Christain parents, trying to fulfill our responsiblities
can be very difficult. In order to help in this process, we
have found that learning about our parenting style can help
to understand the two most important factors in raising children.
As we take a look at ourselves--the hands that rock the cradle--we
can learn how to give our children these two extremely important
1. Establishing clearly defined and understood rules in the
home, limits that the children know they cannot violate without
2. A commitment to love each child in a warm, affectionate,
and supportive way.
The supportive and firm parent reflects the very specific biblical
instruction for parenting. It stresses two important ways that
parents must take care of their children. First, they must discipline
their children, which partly means setting clearly defined limits
in the home. Second, they must follow the greatest instruction
in Scripture--to love one another. By doing these two things,
you will be helping your child from departing from your
training when he is older.
A caring friend will be there to pray with you in your time of need.