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Basic Priniples of Parenting

Although children are very different, certain general principles apply to each. Here are several habits every parent should develop and incorporate into parenting skills.

First, demonstrate a genuine interest in the lives of your children. A couple once disapproved of their daughter’s choice regarding a young man she planned to marry.

At their urging, I talked to the daughter. I discovered that her parents had always been too busy to spend time with her. Suddenly, now that she was a young adult, they wanted to help her with this important decision. However, the daughter was used to making decisions on her own. Her parents had always been too busy to care. Now, their concern felt like control, not love.

Children spell love T-I-M-E. Playing with your child can set the tone of the relationship between you and your future teen. And each time your children ask for advice or share the events of the day they are basically saying, “Will you be involved in my life?”

A large part of expressing interest is listening. You communicate your heart and your value system when you spend time with them and listen to what they are saying and feeling.

Second, love and accept your children unconditionally. Unconditional love is a habit, not a feeling. Unconditional love means putting others first—in this case, your children.

It is imperative that you accept your children and love them unconditionally. God does that for you, and He wants to do the same for your children through you.

One way to find out whether or not your children feel unconditional acceptance is to ask them: “What do you think it would take for you to make Mom and Dad as proud of you as we could possibly be?”

Is it performance-oriented? Or, is the answer more character-oriented? Do they feel they would make you proud by obeying God, regardless of the cost?

Third, set limitations. Since children are unique, the lines might have to be drawn differently for each child. Nonetheless, God has put limits on His children, and you need to put limits on yours.

Your objective as a parent is to strive to produce responsible adults who are able to function independently of parental authority, yet wholly submitted to God’s. Discipline should prepare your children to live outside your home. As someone said, parents are really trying to work themselves out of a job. Here are some tips for disciplining your children:

  • Limits need to be clear. Saying, “Be home early,” or “Don’t waste your money” generally doesn’t work. Be specific: “Be home by 11:00 P.M.”; “Don’t spend more than ten dollars.”
  • When setting limits, keep in mind the nature of children is to push those limits.
  • Whenever possible, explain the “why” behind the what. If you have not effectively communicated the why behind the what, it will be easy for your children to leave their standards at home.
  • Along with loving limitations, there must be clearly defined consequences. “Or else you’ll be sorry” isn’t enough.
  • Be sure your disciplinary action corresponds to the offense.
  • Work out a system of rewards for your children, as well. There’s no reason our children can’t look forward to bonuses as we do at work.

Fourth, meet the material needs of your children. The apostle Paul wrote, “But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever” (1 Timothy 5:8).

In providing for our families, we must distinguish between needs and wants. This will take considerable listening to one another and praying together. The promise is there: “And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19). When unemployment is a problem or money is tight, we need to realize God is the ultimate Source. What a time to teach the family to pray! Let your children see your complete dependence on Him in the area of finances, as well as other areas in your life.

My mother once said to me, “I’m sorry I couldn’t give you the things other parents gave to their children.” And I answered, “Mom, you have nothing to regret. You gave me something that’s not for sale in any store, has never been manufactured, and cannot be purchased anywhere. You taught me to trust God as my faithful Father.” I wanted her to know she passed on to me things that money can’t buy.

Fifth, pass along your faith. Your primary responsibility as a parent is to pass along your faith and corresponding values to your children. Everything mentioned thus far is part of that.

Our ability to influence our children is tied into their respect for us. It is human nature to resist being influenced by those we don’t respect. Loving them, accepting them, providing for them, and setting limitations for them are all part of establishing ourselves as respectable leaders.

Our children will never adopt our faith and values because we tell them to. We must live out our values in such a consistent and sacrificial manner that there is no doubt in their minds our faith is genuinely a part of our very being.

Sixth, teach them to be wise. Soon your children will leave the comfort and security of your home. In light of this eventuality, they need to understand how to make wise decisions.

The principle of wisdom is, in one sense, beyond good and evil. That is, it goes beyond what the Scriptures define as right and wrong. Wisdom also takes into account people’s past experiences, their weaknesses, and their strengths. The commands of Scripture have universal application, but wisdom’s prescriptions are more tailor-made, more individualized. What may be wise for one person may be unwise for another.

Learning to live wisely is a vital part of an upbringing because many of the issues facing our children are not clearly addressed in the Bible. I believe many issues must be handled within the context of wisdom.

A high percentage of the “rebellious” children I have counseled came out of homes where the principle of wisdom was ignored, where everything was treated as a moral issue, clearly wrong or clearly right.

Children who are taught to be wise do not approach movies, music, friends, etc. from the perspective of what is wrong with these activities. They approach these questions from the perspective of what is the best thing to do.


Being effective parents is a time-consuming, difficult and wonderful job. It is surely one of the highest callings in life, and we need God’s wisdom in dealing with these gifts from Him.

See these precious children as gifts. Spend time with them. Listen to them. Love and accept them unconditionally. Set limits. Provide materially for them. And, do everything you can to bring them to Christ, teaching them to live wisely before Him.

-Adapted from How to Keep Your Kids on Your Team, by Charles Stanley. 1986.