Training Up a Child

All the nurture in the world cannot make a rose out of tulip. A parent has to train up a child in the way the child should go (Prov. 22:6), not the way the parent wants them to go. Consequently, parents need to be students of their own children and assist them in being what God intended them to be. To accomplish this, the parent has to adapt the right parenting style. The following diagram depicts four different styles:

The two most powerful influences in parenting are control and support. Parental control is defined as the ability to manage a child’s behavior. Parental support is the ability to make a child feel loved. By definition, authoritative parents have the ability to make their children feel loved and the ability to control their behavior. Permissive parents love their children, but fail to control their behavior. Neglectful parents do neither. Authoritarian parents try to control their children’s behavior but fail to make them feel loved.

Research has shown that children of authoritative parents have the highest sense of worth, conform most easily to authority, are most likely to accept their parent’s religion, and are least likely to rebel against society. Permissive parents produce children who rank second in all four categories just mentioned and authoritarian parents produce children who rank the worst. Obviously it is more important to make a child feel loved than it is to control their behavior. You may not always be able to control your child’s behavior, but you can always love them because your ability to love is not dependent upon the child. Research reinforces what Paul wrote: “Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4).

Children ask two questions. “Do you love me and can I get my own way?” The permissive parent answers yes to both questions and potentially spoils the child. The child of a neglectful parent doesn’t feel loved and gets his own way. The neglected child has the greatest potential of being a juvenile delinquent. The authoritarian parent answers no to both questions. Tragically, many parents resort to authoritarianism when problems surface in the home, which is the worst thing they can do. The overly controlled and under loved child is either riddled with guilt and shame and/or rebels against authority. Authoritative parents set boundaries and maintain discipline while demonstrating genuine love. They will have the most well-adjusted children.

Dr. Neil

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