The Three Phases of Child Rearing

Jonathan Mullings shares his story on behalf of the UPCI Family Ministries Council. He offers tips on child rearing.

Many parents find themselves spending extra time at home with their children. As the saying goes, “It’s a blessing and a curse.” You are likely encountering boredom, anxiety, and a bit of disobedience.

During these years, we thoughtfully and prayerfully answer our children’s moral and ethical questions and give them reasons behind the prohibitions and commandments. #childrearing Click To Tweet

As you traverse this season, it is good to be reminded of our biblical mandate to take responsibility for the raising and training of our children. Ephesians 6 gives us the biblical model for child rearing. Understand, Paul gives these instructions in the middle of a greater discussion about authority and submission. In God’s economy there is a premium placed on submission to authority.

With this truth in mind, let’s look at the three phases of child rearing covered in Ephesians 6.

Three Phases of Child Rearing

1. The Discipline and Training Phase

“Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right” (Ephesians 6:1, KJV). child rearing seoWe’ve all likely witnessed the scenario wherein a child is told to do something, yet she screams no, and runs away. A bystander tries to relieve the tension by saying, “They sure are a handful at that age,” or “Mine used to do the same thing.” And in far too many cases, people wind up accepting the behavior.

The problem is that this behavior clearly violates principles laid out in God’s Word. It is not okay for our toddlers to be free to blatantly disobey without consistent and firm correction. In fact, if they aren’t disciplined, they will grow to be disobedient, disrespectful, obnoxious teens whom no one wants to be around. Additionally, they will likely become self-centered and destructive adults. Consider the following:

  • Children must be trained to do what they are told.
  • Children must be trained to do it when they are told.
  • Children must be trained to obey with a respectful attitude.

The bottom line is that delayed obedience is disobedience, and disrespectful obedience is dishonorable obedience. Train your children to “Honour thy father and mother” (Ephesians 6:2).

2. The Question and Answering Phase 

“And ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath” (Ephesians 6:4). The Message translation states, “Don’t exasperate your children.” This is a vital part of the adolescent years.

Rules without underlying principles will exasperate or frustrate your children.

During these years, we thoughtfully and prayerfully answer our children’s moral and ethical questions and give them reasons behind the prohibitions and commandments. Everything from sexual purity and honesty to generosity and forgiveness must be taught beyond just the “because I’m your parent” approach. Rules without underlying principles will exasperate or frustrate your children.

3. The Discipleship Phase

“Bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4). After you train their hearts in the discipline phase and train their minds in the question and answering phase, it is time to take their hand and guide them in the discipleship phase.  We physically model to them and guide them through the spiritual minefields of our world.

You cannot effectively lead a child into Christian discipleship until you have trained them to obey and taught them why they are to obey. Discipleship is the application of what we believe. If our children don’t know what we believe or why we believe it, they will have a difficult time understanding why one lifestyle choice—Christianity—is superior to any other. Yet with consistent discipleship and basic lifestyle training at home, they can grow to become faithful, mature Christians.

Bio: Jonathan Mullings is the senior pastor of Truth Tabernacle in Bakersfield, California. He has a master of arts in theology from Fuller Theological Seminary. He is the global missions director for the UPCI’s Western District and a member of the UPCI’s Global Missions board. He is a frequent speaker at marriage and family life retreats and seminars.