Sometimes I cringe when people tell me I am a good mother. It’s not that I think I’m a bad mom; but I know I could have done better—and I humbly acknowledge that all the credit for any good that others see goes to my heavenly Father. Every Christian parent realizes this, sooner or later, once they stop to think about it or as they look back in hindsight. This certainly doesn’t take away our responsibility as parents, or even our ability to parent with wisdom and confidence. 

But in spite of our “good” or “bad” parenting skills—none of us really knows or understands God’s will. And as in all our relationships with other human beings, none of us can predict outcomes nor do we have the power to arrange them. As parents, we simply plant seeds. Seed planting in our children is the most important aspect of parenting. In many ways it is all that really matters.

Then there are the comparisons we often make. Woe to the parent who thinks they are suited to judge another parent, because they have a good grip on it. Yet, I confess, this is exactly what I’ve done in my past—and sometimes, even now… until “judge not, lest I be judged” pushes its way into the forefront of my mind, and I realize the equal footing we all have as parents. I’ve seen sorrowful outcomes from what I consider good parenting and successful outcomes from what I would classify as not-so-good parenting. Clearly, I am not qualified to judge. I’m old enough to realize that all I can actually control is myself, my attitude, and how I choose to live.

“ As parents, we simply plant seeds. Seed planting in our children is the most important aspect of parenting. ”


Take the first parents for example; sin was new in the world, and right away one brother killed the other. Their parenting produced very different outcomes. Why was Cain angry with Abel? Because God found favor with his brother’s meaningful sacrifice and not so much with his own “trying to get by with no real heartfelt sacrifice.” Perhaps, though, we are given some insight into parenting from this incident. Notice the tribute to Abel from the writer of Hebrews: “Through his faith, though he died, he still speaks…” (11:4).

Abel’s faith in God is still speaking to us. Obviously, Adam and Eve had familiarized their children with God. Let’s start there. Cain and Abel were young adults (or maybe teens when teens were still considered adults; there’s something to ponder) when this sibling murder took place. We are given no clue about any rivalry between them before that. But there is every reason to believe that Adam and Eve were just as enchanted with their babies as any of us, and wanted them to grow into successful and prolific adults. There were no books for them to read about parenting, or seminars for them to attend, nor anyone’s experience to borrow from. Only whatever God had originally instilled in them and taught them, even though it had become marred by sin.

God’s best advice for rearing children could be summed up by Proverbs 22:6: “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” One of those downright dependable promises of God. So, if I train my children well [by whose standards?], that guarantees that my child will keep the biblical faith that I have taught him/her for the rest of their lives. Right? I don’t think it’s that simple. Not at all.

“ Proverbs 22:6: 'Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.' ”


I do not mean to cast doubt on the promise itself, nor am I trying to diminish the truth of it. But the idea is similar to keeping my faith and running my course with endurance. It is not a one-and-done task. Training a child can be a complicated and exhausting process. Like Adam and Eve, we are still marred by sin. The simplest summarization I can make is this: how I train and what I train will be closely correlated with the condition of my own heart, the relationship I have with Jesus, and how deeply I am seeking Him. If my own faith is shaky, I cannot adequately train my children.

The world has pulled us into many different tangents regarding child rearing, which I will mention here briefly. We are told to concentrate and give consideration to things like: self-esteem, education, respect for others, honesty, creativity, well-rounded interests, good citizenship, community contribution, and financial gain. We are given public figures, currently living or not, as role models. We are told that if we focus our child rearing in ways that accommodate these ideals, the children may turn out well. There is no guarantee.

These are not terrible ideals to live by… but they just are not the things God tells us to make our goals. Referring back to Proverbs 22:6, it should be noted that Proverbs is the book of wisdom. Or truth. Both wisdom and truth point to the only One who is all-wise and all-truth. When we try to frame what we are teaching our children from a secular standpoint and elaborate on the topics listed above, we are missing the point of Wisdom and Truth and knowing God.

“ When we try to frame what we are teaching our children from a secular standpoint and elaborate on the topics listed above, we are missing the point of Wisdom and Truth and knowing God. ”


Deuteronomy 6 gives us a clear understanding as to what we are to teach our children, and admonishes us to be constant in that teaching, training them “when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.” All the time. 

Now we are not the Israelites who literally left Egypt and journeyed to the land of Israel, and then conquered it. We are not the first recipients of the law God gave Moses. When we read these passages, we are aware that we are under a new covenant in Jesus Christ. Our faith has a bit more sight, so to speak, than that of the Israelites. We understand what we have been given in Him, and are daily being sanctified to become more like Him. We have been purchased by His blood from the slavery of sin and are journeying through a flawed world to our eternal heavenly promised land. 

Building on Deuteronomy 6 in light of who we are in Christ, here is a very basic list (far from exclusive) of what our training entails. After each is a practical suggestion on how to teach it:

1. The theology of God. His persons. His attributes. Why He made us. His redemption plan. All of it.

Continuous study of the Word of God. For me, the parent. And as a family and in Christian community commonly referred to as church.

2. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.

This is the summation of all the commandments, so it covers all relationships.
Your (the parent’s) obedience to this law is essential. Read God’s Word, teach it, keep your parenting rules in sync with loving God, explain the reasons for rules and how they reflect loving God. Demonstrate your love for God before your children. Make prayer your go-to in all situations. Pray with your children and for them. Love God, love your family, love your brothers and sisters in Christ, love your neighbors. Show compassion and generosity.

3. Do not stray from the Word of God. Idolatry is still alive and well and practiced by all of us.  

Weigh the values and activities of your household. Do they honor God? Do they put Him first? This is not to say that having fun should not be part of family life, but having fun should not become the goal. Rather be grateful for all the good things there are all around us, including fun activities, and teach your children that God is the creator of all good things. 

4. Clearly explain Jesus, His purpose in coming to earth, and His redemption. 

Tell your own story. You were once enslaved by sin and your children need to know what God has done in your life.  Always be quick to see sin in your life and in your parenting, and confess it to God in front of your children. Ask their forgiveness when necessary and encourage them to confess their sin to God in your presence. Forgive them with words that relate a biblical forgiveness. Remind them of boundaries but keep yours as well. Call wrong behavior sin, and show how we need to desire the Holy Spirit to help us and to do what we should. Explain how God sees Jesus’ righteousness in us and is at work in us to be more like Him. Practically define how to please God.

5. Diligently live for God. 

You are a role model, a mentor, and a confidant. Love your children and tell them you want to spend eternity together with them, loving and praising your Savior.

As with all the work He gives us to do, He has given us the resources to accomplish these seemingly overwhelming tasks.


We have all likely received both good and bad parenting throughout our childhoods. We often take our biggest lessons on how to parent from our own experiences as children. Better than that, though, is realizing the kind of father God has been to you, and how the Bible describes His care for you. Does He shout at us and call us names? Does He abuse us? Is He unfair with us? Does He wish we would go away and leave Him alone? Does He get too tired to listen to us? Is He quick to forgive? Is His love for us based on our behavior? Will He ever stop loving us? When we stray, does He yank us back and rough us up a bit? Isn’t it more of a molding process? Does He expect us to be perfect? Or rather, doesn’t He want our behavior to reflect Him and His goodness? Isn’t life all about Him?

As with all the work He gives us to do, He has given us the resources to accomplish these seemingly overwhelming tasks. He has not given us too many or too few children than we are able to parent. He has told us to advance His kingdom, and raising our children to know Him achieves that. My training time is pretty much over. A lot of it was flawed. Sometimes I wish I could go back in time and do some things over again. As I review what I just wrote, I want to say I think I failed at training well. But God compensates mightily. That’s just the thing. We seek Him and step by step, He pours out His strength and blessings abundantly. He continuously teaches us while we teach our children. He takes what I have poorly offered and multiplies it. 

Finally, there will come a time when accountability moves directly to children, but what parents have taught sets the foundation. When children reach this age, it is important to remember God’s ways are not our ways. Let God be God. We don’t know the will of God. Parenting involves faith and trust. Sin will always fall into the mix, with both parents and children; but the will of God will prevail.

“ Without faith it is impossible to parent well and successfully. ”


I can attest to the fact that there are times when grown children stray from God, from doing what is right. There are times they fail completely. I submit myself to what God has called me to do, I do not control outcomes. To me, He has extended His mercy over and over again, and that same promise rings true for my children. He alone works in hearts, softening them and preparing them to receive Him and follow Him. Though my children’s hearts may harden for a time, the teachings I have instilled remain. I will never fully know the end of their stories, but neither do I know my own.  Our heavenly Father always has the last word, and His will is always perfect.

Abel’s faith still speaks. Our faith will continue to speak to our children, too, down through generations to come. “Without faith it is impossible to please [God].” Without faith it is impossible to parent well and successfully. “For whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him” (Hebrews 11:6). This I know. The One who promises is faithful!

Elisabeth Elliot has wisely said, “This job [of parenting] has been given to me to do. Therefore, it is a gift. Therefore, it is a privilege. Therefore, it is an offering I may make to God.” 

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