Setting Limits: A Christian Parent’s Responsibility
All parents have the
responsibility to set limits for their children. We make sure they eat the
proper foods, dress appropriately for the weather, and are in bed at a reasonable
time. As they get older we expand their limits, giving them more freedom to
make their own choices, while staying close by to step in if necessary. The
ultimate goal of setting limits throughout our children’s lives is to help them
develop the ability to set their own responsible boundaries once they are out
of the nest.
It doesn’t take much effort to see
that somehow in our world today the process of setting limits has broken down.
The stories in the news about out-of-control children are only slightly more
appalling than the thought of all the ones whose stories don’t make the
headlines. Why is this happening? More importantly, what can we
as Christian parents do to serve as role models for nonbelieving
It would be impossible to list all
of the reasons for the breakdown of parents asserting their role as
limit-setters in families today, but let’s touch on a few:
Both parents working outside the home leaves
large numbers of children home alone before and after school, as well as during
summer vacations. These children are basically left to raise themselves.
Parents want to be “fair.” How can we think of
telling our children “no” when all their friends are allowed to do something?
Parents want to be their children’s friend. Somewhere along the child-rearing
path, adults have come to think that their offspring should see them as equals.
Society as a whole seems to have a higher
tolerance for sin in the form of media violence, sexual content, and
Christian families are not exempt
from having to face these situations. How we handle them, however, is what
makes a difference. By following godly mandates, we
can set a positive example for others and at the same time provide a witness to
our faith in Jesus Christ and in God’s provisions.
BEING PRESENT TO NURTURE
The Mother’s Role
Today it is not uncommon for both
parents to be in the workforce at least part-time. I truly believe that when a
mother works outside the home, the family suffers, as she is not able to
fulfill her God-given role as completely as she could if she were at home.
Although it may appear to be somewhat politically incorrect in today’s society,
it is important that the mother, as the primary nurturer of the family, spend
as much time at home with the children as possible.
And the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall on
Adam, and he slept; and He took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh in its
place. Then the rib which the LORD God had taken from man He made into a woman,
and He brought her to the man. (Gen 2:21-22)
God created woman from man, and
thus He made them differently to fill different roles. It is known that women
are intrinsically better equipped to be nurturers and supporters. By being
there to help during the critical years of the formation of the child’s
personality, character, and habits, the mother can better train the child in
the way he or she should go. When a wife fulfills this role, a husband can
better fulfill his role as spiritual leader and provider. God did not mean for
women to compete with men in these areas, although women certainly can and
should provide spiritual guidance to their children, as well as provide for
their families in many other ways.
Proverbs 31 provides a beautiful
description of the characteristics of a perfect wife and mother. The woman
described in this chapter of Proverbs, though most likely a composite
character, beautifully illustrates all that a woman can do to benefit her
Christian women should resist the
temptation to work outside the home if the need is not there. Ask the Lord to
show you ways to adjust your financial situation that will not require you to
hold a paying job while your children are at home. Of course, this does need to
be a personal decision, one made with your husband and in prayer. If taking a
job is your only option for providing for your family’s needs, then you should
try to seek a position that will be the least disruptive to the life of your
family—perhaps one that you can do while the children are in school or when
your husband is home to care for the children. Children need their parents, and
non-believing families need to see that Christians are willing to make
sacrifices in their lives for the good of their children.
The Father’s Role
Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD,
the fruit of the womb is a reward.
Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, So are the children of one’s youth.
Happy is the man who has his quiver full of them (Ps 127:3-5).
With the mother concentrating on
being the primary nurturer, the father can focus more on fulfilling his role as
the spiritual leader of the family—training his children to be God’s children
by leading through example.
God wants every family to be a
loving one, so as fathers we should ask ourselves whether or not we are loving—not only to our family, but also through living
the life of Christian love for God, for His sheep, and for souls who are lost.
God wants every family to be a prayerful one, so as the spiritual leaders in
the family, do we lead by example? Is our life of prayer strong, mild, or weak?
Have we taught our children the importance and value of effective prayer and
Bible reading? Have we established a program to help build strong spiritual
habits and character in our family? The father must always carefully examine
his own spiritual behavior if he expects his children to learn the true meaning
The father’s role should also be
to support the mother in her role as nurturer. He should always be in tune to
the demands placed upon the mother in raising children and keeping a tidy
household. How else can he help his wife in carrying out her duties, so that
she can also remain at peace with God, herself, her children, and very
importantly…with her husband?
BEING A FRIEND vs. BEING A PARENT
Both parents should be in
agreement about the issues and methods of discipline: about which infractions
require calling a “time-out” and which behaviors should demand sterner
discipline—perhaps even corporal punishment. It is extremely important that
parents be unified and consistent in the discipline of their children.
Fairness is certainly an admirable
attribute in friendship, but the parent/child relationship was not designed to
be that type of relationship.
Train up a child in the
way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it. (Prov 22:6)
God gives parents the
responsibility to teach their children right from wrong. At the same time, He
warns parents not to exasperate their children.
And you, fathers, do not provoke your children
to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord. (Eph 6:4)
So many parents today go to the
extreme of “not exasperating” their children that they let them do whatever
they want. They have paralyzed their role as parents by believing that it is
better to let a child make his own unwise choices rather than to make him
“suffer” by saying “no.”
Beyond spoiling a child, this
behavior can harm the child more deeply. How can children learn what their
parents’ values are if they are not made aware of them through their judgments
about what they can or cannot do? Telling a child what he “should” do is one
thing, but true learning takes place when it is both observed in
non-conflicting parental behavior as well as lived out by the child himself.
As Christian parents, we should
seek God’s wisdom in all matters pertaining to choices for our children. We
need to recognize, too, that the choices God would have us make on our
children’s behalf will not always be popular with them and may subject us to
criticism from non-believers. This should not sway us in our decision to follow
the Lord’s direction, but rather it should encourage us that we are bearing a
powerful testimony to the world.
BEING YOUR CHILD’S CENSOR
Take a look at today’s movie
listings, the top 50 CDs, and popular computer and video games. If you examine
them closely, you may be shocked to see just how many contain violence,
obscenities, hatred, and sexual explicitness, as well as anti-Christian
sentiments. Sometimes these things are quite obvious, other times they are
buried under the surface and take some discernment to find. Why is there so
much vile material out there? Because society has accepted it as “normal.”
Standards have been drastically lowered, and Christians are being dragged down
right along with the rest of the population.
There is no good that can be
obtained from allowing our children to be bombarded with ungodly images,
lyrics, and pastimes.
Finally, brethren, whatever things are true,
whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure,
whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any
virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things. (Phil 4:8)
Paul’s exhortation should be our
touchstone. Paul knew how insidiously appealing worldly things can be, and they
remain so for our families today just as they were for the Philippians of
Paul’s day. Do not be afraid to censor your child’s media intake… consider it
your God-given duty.
We as Christian parents certainly
have our work cut out for us. We need to remain confident that God will provide
us with the answers about what limits we need to set for our children. He has
provided us with all the tools we need: His written word, His Holy Spirit, and
the gift of prayer through which we can communicate our worries and concerns to
Him. May He guide us to use these tools to set healthy limits for our children
and to teach them how to set their own.