Biblical Foundation on Parenting
Dr. James George Venmoney
The institutions like family, community and society plays a significant role in fostering the holistic development among children. Their approach influences them positively/negatively at different levels, in diverse ways. Family is the prime centre for learning where a child is formed or deformed depending on the nature of parental relationship and their approach. As the human personality is developed through the web of relationships, the role of ‘significant others’ are a major factor to be studied. Therefore, the biblical foundation of parenting is an important aspect to be discussed, which provides a solid parameter to be a ‘good enough parent.’
God revealed Himself as father (parent), and it is portrayed in different parts of the Bible (Deut 1:31; 32:6; 2 Sam 7:1-17). God has been portrayed as the father to the fatherless in Psalms (Ps 68:5). Isaiah prophesies about Jesus to be the everlasting father (Is 9:6). In the Lord’s Prayer, God is presented as the ‘Father in heaven.’ Parenthood (fatherhood and motherhood) is reflected in God in many ways, which also includes love and discipline. The virtue of love of divine, not only reveals the creative, sustaining, guiding, providing, and nurturing dimension of God, but also demands the parents to facilitate the same virtues to their children. When these divine qualities are reflected in parents, they are becoming co-creators with God in building up their children. Thus, they become the architects of the next generation.
Disciplining is another virtue of God, used for the correction of His people. God’s discipline is manifested out of his love towards the people, primarily intended for their change and correction. According to the epistle of Hebrews, “the Lord disciplines those He loves and punishes everyone He accepts as a son.” God allows certain disciplinary processes for the betterment of His people. Similarly, parents are responsible to maintain the disciplinary actions and loving corrections for their children as well. With regard to this, Solomon writes, “He who spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is careful to discipline him.” (Prov. 13:24). Through the right discipline, parents mould the children in accordance with the divine pattern and God’s standard. It has been said that discipline is for the children, whereas punishment is to the children. Authoritarian and exasperation approaches are examples of wrong parenting which ultimately contributes for unhealthy development in children. However, Biblical vision does not advocate exasperation and annoyance while dealing the children. Remember the exhortation to the parents: “fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord” (Eph 6:4).
Further analysis of the parenting, structure of Judeo-Christian faith communities focuses that the child rearing must be framed and focused in relationship to God. As human beings are the co-creators with God, parents have the responsibility to rear their children on behalf of God. It indicates that parents are accountable in shaping the child in accordance with the plan and purpose of God. Parents must identify the uniqueness of the child as well as the unique purpose of God about the child. Father and mother should join together in accomplishing this unique role.
The Jewish family provided space for the nurturing of their children. The responsibility of religious education in family was laid on father, who was the head of the family. From birth to till the age of six they practiced home based education. In this regard Akheto Sema writes, “from the earliest nomadic times, the Hebrew family or home was the centre of learning, with the parents being the first teachers to the children. Some of the contents of teaching in the home included the ‘shema’(Deut 6:4-9), explanation of Jewish festivals, ceremonies, teaching on good moral behaviour, respect for the parents, the fear of God and some general disciplines.”
Thus, the family significantly contributed to the child in order to grow in the fullness of God. Jesus and Paul taught that children are to be recognized and respected. Parents are the divine instruments and “families are one of God’s communities where the story of God’s truth and love creates the knowledge, the experience and the life of faith.” A model family could be formed through the steadfast vigilance and quality of parenting. However, this biblical principle is often challenged and the post modern culture resembles neither child-friendly nor parent-friendly.
Parents, the primary care givers have the responsibility to facilitate the abundance of life in children through a nurturing relationship for the fullness of humanhood. The parent-child relationship is covenantal, and at first, with the birth of a child, parents enter into a covenant relationship with the baby, the community of faith and society. Second, through the constant nurture, education, empowerment and formation of the child, focusing on their specific characteristics and needs, parents foster their covenantal relationship. Thus children are instructed to have a right relationship with the Supreme Being, and the people around them.
Family, the basic component of the society has its roots in the created order. The family primarily plays an integral role in the socialization process of the child and it continues as the socializing agency in further stages of life. Depending on the parental nurturing, children can be a constructive community contributor or a destructive social liability. William B. Kennedy writes that, “a Hebrew child grew up absorbing the meaning of life in his/her society. Family ritual, interpretation and discussion helped him/her unconsciously and consciously to sense the religious reference for life and the particular Exodus orientation for their unique way of life.”
The significant contributions of parents in the life of many biblical characters are highlighted in the Bible. Let me consider Moses and Samuel, as the two examples which disclose the vibrant and healthy family environment in shaping their formation particularly their spirituality. Ichabod and Amram identified the uniqueness of Moses at the time of his birth and risked their life for Moses even in a hostile environment. In the context of this political, social and religious oppression of Pharaoh, Moses’ parents were searching alternatives and risking their life for the sake of their offspring. It can be further assumed that Amram could use the given opportunity not only for feeding but also for teaching about Moses true identity, God of Hebrew, and the people of God. Parents should prepare the children to connect with the Supreme Being who is the source of all blessing.
Samuel was the other Old Testament hero who was nurtured by his mother. She could transmit her quality of life, aspiration for God and the condition of the spiritual decline of the nation. Hannah stands as an epic character in the history of Israel through her revolutionary response, which is offering her son, Samuel. Her life reveals that each generation sets the goal for the next generation. Here, her approach was an ideal Christian parenting. For Hannah it was not my family and me alone, but the whole society who were in crucial situation, need of a redeemer.
To conclude, Bible provides a greater responsibility to parents for building their children in accordance with God’s expectation. Parents are the co-creators with God. Therefore begetting and upbringing children are their primary response to the divine call. The biblical vision provides a true guideline for effective parenting.