Raising Children in the Gospel
September 20, 2007, 5:53 pm
Filed under: parenting

As we are trying to center our lives in the Gospel, we’ve had to think through parenting in light of the gospel. In the process, I found a 12-step program to raising a Pharisee (coming from a seminar given by Rev. Carey Hardy), which is kind of a backwards way of thinking about Gospel-centered parenting. If you follow these practices, you will increase the probability of raising a Pharisee, rather than a child who understands the grace of the gospel. Here they are :

1. Majoring on external instead of internal issues.

This is majoring on controlling a child’s behavior without using Scripture and prayer to deal with his or her heart. This will produce a Pharisee–everything looks good on the outside, but inwardly he is corrupt (Matthew 23:23-24, 27-28). Don’t settle for superficial repentance by your child.

2. Excessive control

This is not balancing discipline with instruction. If you try to control and micromanage everything a child thinks and does, you build accountability only to yourself instead of God. Instead, you want to create a God-consciousness. Don’t seek to be the ultimate authority. You must teach them how to think for themselves–how to evaluate. Otherwise, they grow up only knowing how to live by a set of rules and do’s and don’ts.

3. Overreacting to failure

This includes not allowing the freedom to fail. It’s treating failure as the end of the world. you must see failure as an opportunity for instruction. But many parents live in fear of failure–and thus they become excessive controllers. This may be manifested in calling attention to every mistake. It’s a performance-based love that expects perfection.

4. Being unforgiving and impatient.

Instead of a home that is filled with joy, there is an oppressive, negative atmosphere. Sinful choices by your children definitely need to be dealt with. But make sure there is a visible end to the consequences, with the home thus returning to a pleasant atmosphere of peace and tranquility. When you are not getting over their failure, you are teaching how to be unforgiving.

5. Elevating preference over biblical principle.

Some parents are prone to emphasize rules that really don’t reflect the Bible at all. Instead, the rules reflect personal preferences. There is nothing inherently wrong with maintaining some rules that flow out of personal preferences. But care must be taken to avoid equating them with biblical commands, or again, allowing them to become excessive. That is what the Pharisees did. If you are enforcing too many of your preferences, or neglecting to teach biblical principles as the child matures, then preferential rule may be perceived as being the same as biblical commands and principles…and they grow up with this pharisaical mindset.

6. Unnecessary separatism

As your children grow, they must be involved with other children; this is a testing ground and provides opportunities for training. There is a balance here — you have to be discerning about the company your child gets involved with. But some parents go to such an extreme that they won’t allow their children to be involved with other children–even Christian children. Children need to be around other kids — lost kids, spiritual kids, mediocre kids. Separating them will teach them to have a mentality of superiority that is not in line with the gospel. It also keeps them from learning to love others who are not like them.

7. Judging others…other families

This is being judgmental about other families, about things going on in the church; being critical of everything, constantly fault-finding, producing constant criticism. When you do this in front of children, you’re developing that judgmental spirit in them.

8. Being “belligerent” — a fighter

As the child watches you take on every wrong thing in the church, every example of wrong thinking in others, they learn the lifestyle of a fighter. Thus, they end up learning what to fight against and not necessarily what to fight for.

9. Favoritism

Favoritism teaches a child to want to be only with people who are like you and who meet your standards. This leads to the separatism mentioned earlier.

10. No humor

You need to know how to not take yourself so seriously and how to not take things in this world so seriously at times.

11. Building up their self-esteem

A “high self-esteem” is not a biblical concept. Nor is the need to learn to love yourself. Emphasis on self-esteem encourages individuals to become like Pharisees; they are encouraged to delve into self, to be focused on self, to build up self.

12. Lack of genuine spirituality

Living hypocritically teaches hypocrisy. You won’t be perfect as a parent, but there must be a level of integrity visible to your children. Hypocrisy can be manifested in a parent who never admits his or her wrong. This gives children a wrong impression of spirituality, and that’s a cheap substitute for true spirituality.


3 Comments so far
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Excellent piece. I agree with all the 12 points (or rather i should say i disagree with them since it’s about raising a Pharisee.)While agreeing with the principle behind all of these, putting them into practice is not all that easy.

For example, while reading step# 6 about separatism, i was reminded of our trying to teach our kids to respect all their classmates and those who ride in the same bus, including the ones who call them names and give them the finger.

Recently my oldest said that he is “socially incompetent” because when others in his bus call him names or flip the bird he doesn’t know how to react since he cannot retort likewise. We weren’t sure how best to advise him other than to say that he needs to ignore them and that these kids actually need to be ministered to.

Comment by Abey

Honestly, one of the thoughts that ran through my head in response to your comment was, “I think we will need to teach our children to suffer persecution in a way we didn’t.” I didn’t grow up as a Christian, so I don’t know experientially what difficulties that Christian youth experience. Furthermore, times have changed. We are living in increasingly post-Christian times where there is much hostility towards the Christian faith and its values. Maybe we have to hammer in books like 1 Peter in the lives of our youth, books that were written “To God’s elect, strangers in the world…”, and where they were encouraged with the thought “But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed” (1 Peter 3:13), and ” It is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil” (1 Peter 3:17).
As I think about my young children and the America in which they will grow up, I can help but think that I must teach them that they will have to suffer for their faith. I’m guessing that young Christian children who grow up in China or in Indonesia or Thailand or many other countries throughout the world have to be taught such.
I don’t know if I responded directly to your comment as much as going on another tangent.

Comment by Immanuel Pastor

Teaching children about suffering for their faith is absolutely essential. But in this particular case, i don’t think he is targeted directly because of his faith. It could be his race or his geekiness or his sensitivity. But his faith is what prevents him from responding the way his friends respond to these bullies. His friends don’t ignore the abuses of the bullies, they respond in kind – with the choicest abuses in their vocabulary. Once they establish their supremacy or at least their parity in this regard, they are left alone. My son doesn’t react and that is perceived as timidity or inferiority and all the vultures swoop down to prey on the weak.

Comment by Abey

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