First, let me say that it is completely normal to hope that our children don't make the same mistakes we did. In an ideal world, they would learn from our stories and make wise decisions. But that's just not reality, and when we use "I don't want you to make the same mistakes I did" as a foundation for how we teach and interact with our children, it robs them of the opportunity to make their own mistakes and to learn and grow from them. 

How about this mindset shift: our children are going to make mistakes. Maybe a lot of them. Maybe big ones. Maybe mistake that have lasting consequences. As we teach and guide our children, let's cultivate a relationship where they feel safe to come to us with their mistakes, and where they know that making mistakes is a normal part of being human. It's how we learn and grow from them that really matters.


When we parent from the place of "I hope my child doesn't make the same mistakes I did" we're parenting from fear, which usually leads to attempts to control our child's behavior. When we switch our mindset to knowing that our child will make mistakes, and having grace in those moments, we empower them to learn through the consequences of their choices and mistakes.

When we focus on our mistakes we're centering our parenting choices on the wrong thing: us. While our children can certainly learn from our mistakes, the way we parent them should be centered on their personality, temperament, abilities, and needs, not our past regrets.

You may not intend to set a standard of perfection, but our kiddos can easily interpret it that way. They hear "I don't want you to make mistakes." or "Mistakes equal regret." or "I don't know how to help you through mistakes." Perfectionism is the worst standard we can have for our children because it is completely unattainable! Rather, we should embrace mistakes as a necessary part of learning, and foster a growth mindset in our children to help them learn and grow from their mistakes.


When we hold in tension high expectations for our children, and deep understanding and compassion for when they don't meet those expectations, we nurture a relationship of trust and connection that prepares them to handle their own mistakes with compassion and confidence.


Navigating and understanding emotions can be difficult. And while many adults struggle to identify, process, and express their feelings in healthy ways, it's even more of a challenge for children. Learning emotional intelligence in childhood will set our kids up for healthy interpersonal relationships, personal achievement and self awareness, and job success. One of the easiest ways to guide our children now, is  to use children books about feelings and emotions. 


In general, we try to present in a positive way what the Bible actually says about parenting and let our followers draw the contrasts to more traditional perspectives. But a blog post “Parents, Require Obedience of Your Children” by John Piper twists Scripture in subtle, but significant ways, and is once again making its rounds within our circle of friends, so we decided a response was in order.

1. Beware making implicit commands from Scripture.

Piper writes, “Requiring obedience of children is implicit in the biblical requirement that children obey their parents.”

This statement boldly presumes to know what God should have said, rather than what God did say. This is the same road the Pharisees trod.

If the Spirit wanted to tell fathers they should require obedience of children, He could have done so. After all, He was already giving commands to fathers in this passage! What the Spirit commands is sufficient, He doesn’t need our human ingenuity to create more commands.

Nor does Piper’s logic hold up in the context of Ephesians 5-6. According to his logic, it makes no sense that God would require wives to submit to their husbands and yet not require that Christian husbands should require submissive obedience from their wives. This is a wide open door for domestic abuse. But what about husbands? By the same logic, Christian wives should require love from their husbands. Unless one fundamentally redefines love, this is absurdity. Yet this is kind of logic that Piper employs to twist Ephesians 6:1 from a command given to children into one given to parents.

2. Obedience is a part of the gospel, but it is the gospel that enables that obedience.

Piper writes, “Parents who do not teach their children to obey God’s appointed authorities prepare them for a life out of step with God’s word — a life out of step with the very gospel they desire to emphasize.”

External compliance and genuine obedience are not the same thing! God is not after external compliance to certain rituals and behaviors. He is after our hearts! He pursues genuine, joyful obedience from us. This requires the power of the Spirit regenerating us to bring us into obedience to Him. No amount of practice complying to our parents’ commands will ever help us joyfully obey God. No one in the entirety of human history has learned to obey God by obeying their parents. No one.

3. It is possible to teach children to have wisdom. This is far better than mere obedience. It’s a little slower and sometimes looks messier in the moment, as the best way to teach wisdom is by allowing a child to make choices, live with the good or bad consequences, and help them connect their experimental lessons to the wisdom of Scripture. This prepares a child for all of life, where they need wisdom (daily), not just unquestioning obedience (almost never).

Many a parent has come to grief by inculcating unquestioning obedience in their child. Later, as parental influence naturally waned in their maturing child, they discovered their child was still very compliant and obedient. Except now they were listening to others who did not have their child’s best interests at heart. Inculcating wisdom is far better than obedience.

4. Consistency is the key, not obedience. A wise parent consistently calls their children to meet age-appropriate expectations. Yet this doesn’t need to devolve into a battle of the wills.

Piper says, “Little children, under a year old, can be shown effectively what they may not touch, bite, pull, poke, spit out, or shriek about. You are bigger than they are. Use your size to save them for joy, not sentence them to selfishness.”

Yet God never calls us to fight or defeat our children. Instead, He calls us to train them and instruct them (Eph. 6:4). The wise parent consistently lays before his child the path of life (as found in Scripture) and lets them experience the consequences of choosing unwisely. These lessons are far better learned than the ones created through the artifice of obey or be punished.

5. It is easier to require obedience than to understand your child. Lazy or permissive parenting is a bad idea, but that doesn’t make immediately punishing a child for every disobedience a good idea. This is a false dichotomy. We don’t have to choose either of these extremes.

Far harder than letting children have their way or demanding children do everything your way, is trying to understand a child. Their needs and desires, their capabilities and passions may be expressed in immature or inappropriate ways, but those are opportunities to make sure a child is heard, understood, and given the opportunity to learn how to do it better in the future. This bears the fruit of wisdom far better than simply punishing disobedience.

6. There is an alternative to generational cycles of passivity or punishment: Gentle Christian Parenting. It’s rooted in treating our children in the same way God, the ultimate example of fatherhood, treats us. We take seriously that we should bear the fruit of the Spirit at all times, including in how we discipline our children. We note that dozens of times the apostles command Christians to be gentle, compassionate, kind, and respectful. These commands come with no exceptions for children. When Paul writes “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” there is no clause that excludes children. When Peter says “Show proper respect to everyone.” he doesn’t add a disclaimer that excludes children.

7. There is no path from external compliance to joyful obedience apart from the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit.

Piper writes, ”Children need to obey before they can process obedience through faith. When faith comes, the obedience which they have learned from fear and reward and respect will become the natural expression of faith.”

There is a disconnect here between a biblically grounded understanding of salvation and a concept of parenting that is more rooted in tradition than the Bible. Put simply, if there is nothing you can contribute to your salvation, there is also nothing your parenting can contribute to your children’s salvation.

That is not to say that parents should stand by passively and allow sin to ingrain patterns and habits in their children! We should teach them the wisdom of Scripture, help them learn to obey God, and when they sin let them experience the natural consequences of their sin.

But to suggest that forced obedience to parents naturally leads one to joyful obedience to Christ mocks the wholly saving work of Christ and the work of His Spirit in us.

8. Happiness isn’t found in always expecting to get what one wants, but neither is it found in always obeying a sinful and sometimes selfish person. Children flourish in families where they are genuinely respected as humans made in the image of God and where parents and children engage cooperatively to achieve divinely ordained goals. This is how God calls Christians to live, whether in the microcosm of the family or the community of the church.

9. Theological formation occurs first and deepest by parents. What a mother and father show their child about love and authority is what that child will believe about God. Often for the rest of their life. So it is important to represent God well. Yet since God is slow to anger and extraordinarily patient (1 Tim 1:16), why should we represent Him by immediately punishing every disobedience? That’s not how God responds to the disobedience of believers. Instead, God leads us to repentance, not through discipline, but through kindness (Rom 2:4).

Parents, you can do this, and you can do it in a way that bestows dignity and respect to your children as little image-bearers of God.

You can parent through disobedience while bearing the fruits of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control for your children. It requires first realizing that our children are our closest neighbors, and God has called us to love them as we love ourselves. And He’s called us to treat them as we want to be treated.

And you can teach your children that Biblical obedience is rooted in relationship, not rule-following.


In 2016 a study released by child development and family science experts from The University of Texas at Austin revealed that spanking is closely associated with anti-social, aggressive behavior, depression and anxiety, and an increased risk of thirteen detrimental outcomes. News articles linked on social media are rife with emotionally-driven debate.

How should Christian parents respond to studies that say spanking is harmful?

1. Christian parents should not dismiss the evidence on account of their own emotional comfort. Facing articles and reports that feel condemning of your own childhood or your own parenting is emotionally difficult. We must keep in mind that ignoring scientific evidence because it makes us uncomfortable is merely willful ignorance. It is neither intellectually honest nor God-honoring.

2. Christian parents must not perpetuate easily dispelled myths about not spanking. This is, at its core, bearing false witness, which God’s people are commanded not to do. Some myths that are easily refuted:

Myth: Young adults today are so disrespectful because they weren’t spanked/Prisons are filled with adults who weren’t spanked as children.
Fact: In 1999 A study revealed that 94% of parents had utilized spanking by the time their child was preschool age. In 2011 a study corroborated these findings stating that 50% of children had been spanked by the time they were twenty months old. Further, college students who were spanked as children are more likely to engage in illegal behavior.

Myth: Countries that have banned spanking have higher crime rates. 
Crimes rates, gun ownership rates, and prison populations have all fallen in countries that have banned spanking, and at a sharper rate than in places without such laws.

Myth: The studies are all flawed and do not differentiate between spanking and abuse. Fact: While there are limitations to any meta-analysis, most recent studies do make a clear distinction between “appropriate” spanking (occurring as rarely as twice a month), and abusive physical punishment that leaves bruises.

3. Christian parents must not claim that because they turned out fine all children who were/are spanked will turn out fine. 17 million children in the United States have been diagnosed with a mental disorder (ADHD, depression, anxiety, and/or behavior problems). The association between spanking and mental/behavior issues is more solid than the association between secondhand smoke and lung cancer. We cannot project our own outcomes on those of the upcoming generation.

1. We must remember that God is the Creator of science. He not only created the brain, but He also created us with the ability to learn and evaluate evidence. Advancement in science (especially neurobiology) is a gift from our Creator to help us understand His creation.

2. We must admit that spanking is a cultural tradition, not a Biblical mandate. Nowhere in Scripture are parents commanded to spank their children. (We suggest that even the handful of verses in Proverbs are not speaking of using a rod on children but on young adults.) Modern-day spanking is merely a tradition of men that has been taught by leading Christian parenting gurus for less than 100 years.

3. We must recognize that spanking and discipline are not synonymous. While the evidence is clear that spanking has negative long-term outcomes, we cannot throw out all discipline. Children need teaching, guiding, rebuking, correcting, and discipline. They need the opportunity to experience consequences, and to make things right when it is within their power to do so. The root of discipline is disciple. We must be diligent to disciple our children and not fall into permissive (often equally detrimental) parenting.

4. We must look for alternative ways to discipline (disciple) our children that align with Scripture. This can be tricky, and even frustrating when spanking is all we know. Thankfully there are many Scripturally-sound resources out there! We recommend:



Perhaps you’re familiar with the more common title attributed to this story: The Parable of the Prodigal Son. Ah. Now you’re with me, right? Most modern Bibles highlight this story as if it is primarily about the son. But really, this story highlights the heart of the father.

In the Old Testament God used the Law to reveal the heart and nature of man. In the New Testament Jesus used stories to reveal the heart and nature of God. This story is about a good, good father.

You can read the parable in its entirety in Luke 15:11-32. There are a few points I want to bring to your attention:

  • The younger son’s request for his inheritance was likely a profound dishonor and humiliation for his father. He was, in essence, saying “you’re as good as dead to me.”
  • Squandering an entire inheritance was highly discouraged, and possibly illegal in first century Judaism.
  • At his lowest point, the rebellious son slept among swine.
What we see here are at least two incidents where the son broke the commands of Torah. Besides living among unclean animals, we see a level of dishonor, disrespect, and humiliation that very well could have given the father every right to bring his son to trial as a rebellious son as we see in Deuteronomy 21. Such extreme rebellion against his father could have warranted the death penalty in that ancient Jewish culture.

But instead of taking him to trial, instead of beating him with a rod in hopes of curbing his rebellious spirit, instead of lecturing and trying to control his son, this father gives him the gift of free will. Not only does he allow him to choose his own foolish way in life, but he ignores his own law-given right to protect his own reputation. When he could have taken him to trial for rebellion and dishonor, he gave up his financial security, his place of honor and standing in the community, and his own paternal instinct to protect his son.

The good father didn’t intervene. He didn’t punish. He allowed his son to learn hard life lessons from the natural consequences of his very foolish choices. And Luke 15:20 tells us that when that lesson had been learned the father was overcome with compassion for his son.

The son returned to his father because he knew him to be a good man. And upon his return his father throws a ridiculous celebration – one the son didn’t deserve, and one the older brother couldn’t understand.

  • The good father allowed his son to break the laws of the Torah
  • The good father did not lecture, confront, or punish his son
  • The good father was filled with compassion for his son
  • The good father welcomed and restored him to a place of honor after the son experienced the natural consequences of his foolish choices
This doesn’t mean that we should never step in and protect our children, nor does it mean that there’s no place for instruction, correction, and discipline! Certainly grace-based parenting requires instruction, correction, and discipline. But we can learn a valuable lesson from the parable of the good father: natural consequences have a God-designed way of teaching life lessons that even the Law cannot teach.

“Natural consequences have a God-designed way of teaching life lessons that even the Law cannot teach.”
The father had every right within the context of Mosaic Law to require respect and honor from his son. He had every right to distance himself from his unclean son when he returned.

But he was filled with compassion.

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