Biblical Parenting – How to Train the Conduct of Your Children
by Dr. George R. Sledd
It’s no easy task today to raise children biblically, especially in the twenty-first century, however with some patience and reliance on God and his Word, it can be done.
In this short lesson, we’re going to look at ways to train and improve the conduct of children, including a look at Godly character traits that we can cultivate in children.
At the end there will be questions for reflection that will further aid you in applying the suggestions outlined throughout this lesson.“Parents have a responsibility to raise children who conduct themselves in ways that honor God.”
First though, what is conduct? It is the manner in which a person lives out their character. What then is character? Character involves a person’s convictions. What kind of convictions do you want your children to have? Hopefully you desire that they hold to convictions that are biblical and grounded in God’s Word.
Ultimately, a child’s conduct will affect the quality and even the longevity of their life, and the importance of a child’s conduct cannot be understated. Now, let’s dive deeper into the subject and learn how we can raise children who exemplify conduct that is acceptable to our Savior, Jesus Christ.
Teach Your Children about Right and Wrong
Parents have a responsibility to raise children who conduct themselves in ways that honor God, and this begins by teaching children the difference between right and wrong.
1) Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right.
2) Honour thy father and mother; which is the first commandment with promise;
3) That it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth.Ephesians 6:1-3 (KJV)
The word “well” here suggests being well off or prosperous. Here is a definite promise from God to children. When parents are respected and obeyed, life turns out better in most cases, prosperity is also achieved. Why is that?
Parents have already walked the road of life to some extent. They have already learned the consequences of disobedience. They have learned to some degree what works to make life a success. They have hopefully learned how to make wise decisions in the course of life. This is something they pass down to their children.“Children need to be instructed in the difference between right and wrong, honesty and dishonesty, truth and lies. They need core convictions.”
God established the principle of authority in the universe. He gave us laws that govern our relationship with him as well as those that allow good relationships to be maintained between people in society.
If we had no laws or enforcement of law just imagine the chaos that would exist in society. Every man would be a law unto himself.
Children need to be instructed in the difference between right and wrong, honesty and dishonesty, truth and lies. They need core convictions.
God has given mankind the gift of conscience. Your conscience is like a creative alarm system that sounds out when you have done wrong.
People can stifle this conscience through the continual commission of evil. So it is important to instill in the mind of a child the all-important question they should always ask themselves: “Is this the right thing to do?”
‘’Is this the right place to go?” or “Is this the right kind of person to associate myself with?”
A Child’s Conduct is a Matter of His or Her Heart
Good conduct is really an outflow of a person’s inner character. Jesus Christ taught us that character is a condition of the heart. Outward behavior is a reflection of a person’s inward condition.
21) Let them not depart from thine eyes; keep them in the midst of thine heart.
22) For they are life unto those that find them, and health to all their flesh.
23) Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.Proverbs 4:20-23 (KJV)
Parents need to be just as concerned about the attitude of their child’s heart as they are with their child’s outward actions.
Every parent with two or more children will face the classic issue of “who gets to play with certain toys.” It is inevitable that if one child starts playing with the toy, the other child will immediately want to play with that same toy. Why does that happen?
That is a child’s sinful human nature that looks at all objects in his domain as his or her own objects.
“I’m not going to share my stuff with anyone. All of my stuff is mine and not yours.”“Parents need to be just as concerned about the attitude of their child’s heart as they are with their child’s outward actions.”
Granted, he may not have played with that toy for months but when a neighbor child takes up the toy, the owner child will immediately run to grab it out of his hand.
“It’s mine and you cannot touch it.” That is a good example of the need to train the attitude of the child. The child needs to learn that the whole world does not revolve around him.
He needs to learn that someone else gave him his toys and that he can learn to share his things in a loving manner.
A person needs personal convictions of righteousness. A person like that will live by principles rather then by pragmatic fleshly desires.
I remember reading about a Contemporary Christian music artist who walked out of the Grammy awards. She had been nominated for a Grammy for one of her songs. She with her husband witnessed many lewd and ungodly sexual gestures at the Grammy awards. After enduring much of this ungodly sinful behavior, they got up and walked out.
Later in a press conference she did not condemn anyone but she said that it made her realize even more that she had been called to use her singing gift to glorify Jesus Christ.“A child has to learn that he or she must have a reference point outside of their own human desire.”
Now how did that beautiful lady learn those principles? It was through her commitment to Jesus Christ and I would venture to say that is was also from the righteous principles she had been taught by other Godly teachers.
A child has to learn that he or she must have a reference point outside of their own human desire.
“Training a child’s will is bringing such influences to bear upon the child that he is ready to choose or decide in favor of the right course of action. Children need to learn how to do things which they do not want to do when those things ought to be done. Older people have to do a great many things from a sense of duty. Unless children are trained to recognize duty as more binding than inclination, they will suffer all their lives through from their lack of discipline in this direction.”¹
The child learns that behavior definitely has moral implications and outcomes. There will come a time when a parent will not be able to always be with a child, especially later on when they go to high school and college.
That child will face some situations and temptations. Now what if they have not been taught some principles of moral integrity and character? They will probably give in to actions that will hurt or potentially destroy them.
Jesus Christ spoke about this in his teachings concerning how outward actions are a result of an inward condition.
20) And he said, That which cometh out of the man, that defileth the man.
21) For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders,
22) Thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness:
23) All these evil things come from within, and defile the man.Mark 7:20-23 (KJV)
So there is an attitude in the heart behind a person’s behavior. Siblings in the home will often engage in arguments and conflict over a number of things. In infants it could be who gets to play with a certain toy. It could be a fuss over clothing or something else.
Children are innately self-centered in these things. The problem is a selfish heart. They need to be taught the conduct of caring and sharing with their brothers and sisters. That kind of conduct will make them considerate and caring adults.
Another form of conduct is the ingraining of good habits in children. You can get right down to the basics of taking a bath, brushing teeth every night before bedtime, taking good care of possessions, hanging up clothes, putting away toys and other good habits.
These seemingly small habits have an impact to ingrain good habits for the rest of a child’s life.
When a little child understands such standards, they should be made responsible to maintain good habits and suppress bad habits.
Respect for Authority
Another order of conduct is training a child to respect and submit to authority. In the beginning, the parents are the chief authority figures for children. Then they will submit to teachers in school, pastors in churches, and other adult figures.
I was impressed greatly by a family from Southern Georgia who visited my church some time ago. They had a ten year old son who addressed me with “yes sir,” and “no sir.”“You will never learn how to use authority in the right way until you have learned how to submit to authority. Everyone is accountable to someone.”
This boy’s dad taught him that. That is a respect for authority that generally leads to success in life. You will never learn how to be a great leader until you become a great follower.
You will never learn how to use authority in the right way until you have learned how to submit to authority. Everyone is accountable to someone.
Even the richest businessman in the world is still accountable to his customers. Even the President of the United States is accountable to the nation that elected him to his office.
It is of greatest importance that a child learns to respect his father and mother. The child must learn to honor his parents.
Another form of conduct is integrity. I have tried to teach and live out before my children the principle that a man’s word is his bond. A man should always keep his promises and commitments he makes to other people.
That has to be done regardless of personal cost. My son in law does mission work in the mountains of Eastern Kentucky. He lives a few miles from some Amish developments.
The Amish have maintained a primitive way of life. Jayson has hired some Amish men to do some construction projects like carpentry and other things.“A child should be taught the conduct that you honor your word under all circumstances.”
He told me that when an Amish man gives you an estimate of the cost of a job, that man will do that job for the exact amount he quoted no matter if something happens where he has to take a loss on the job.
That is their standard of integrity, and it’s a good standard to learn.
So a child should be taught the conduct that you honor your word under all circumstances. If you say you are going to be in a certain place at a certain time, you ought to honor that commitment because you are showing respect for another person’s time.
Accountability and Self-Control
A child has to learn accountability for his actions. One test of a person’s quality of character is what that person will do when he knows no one else will know.
Another form of conduct is that of self-control. The Bible calls this “temperance” and it is a fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23).
Little children can be taught how to control themselves especially in public places like church, grocery stores, and restaurants. They can be taught not to interrupt adults in conversation. They can be taught self-control over noise they make.
Children love to make a lot of noise. As I am writing this chapter, I am in the Orlando Public Library. I hear a child screaming right now. I just saw two other small children chasing each other down the corridors of bookshelves.“One test of a person’s quality of character is what that person will do when he knows no one else will know.”
I’m thinking: where are their parents? They need to learn the proper conduct in a public place where others need some privacy and quiet.
The Bible tells us that children are to obey their parents in all things (Col. 3:20). Should that also include their attitude? Yes. They need to learn the proper conduct of self-control in the presence of other children and adults.
Good conduct is also learned through failure. When a child fails as a matter of personal misbehavior, it is a teaching moment for the parent to instruct the child in a better way of conduct.
Good conduct is assuming personal accountability for ones actions. Children need to pay more careful attention to the instruction you give them.
If parents just let things go and tolerate disobedience and immorality in their homes, they will have to sleep in the bed they make. You may have to live a long time with bad stuff for what you tolerate in your home.“I have found one trait in all successful and wealthy people. It is the trait of generosity.”
You have heard the expression from many frustrated parents: “What I say to you goes in one ear and out the other.”
It is important in matters of morality that the child grasps and listens to what you are saying.
For example, a small child can laugh or make fun of a handicapped person. They may not do that in a deliberate hateful manner. Yet they need to be taught that some people have afflictions that are not to be made light of. That is part of acceptable conduct.
The Laws of Generosity and Sowing and Reaping
Conduct is learned when children understand the law of consequences. This principle of conduct is taught in the scriptures. This law is inherent in the matter of giving or the conduct of generosity.
6) But this I say, He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully.
7) Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver.2 Corinthians 9:6-7 (KJV)
We can teach our children this wonderful law of giving. You will always get far more back than you give. That may not always be monetary things. You reap God’s approval on your life.
I have found one trait in all successful and wealthy people. It is the trait of generosity. Successful people have learned this wonderful and effective way of success in life. It is learning how to give back to others, whether that is money, time, or attention.
The Apostle Paul also spoke of sowing and reaping.
7) Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.
8) For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting.
9) And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.Galatians 6:7-9 (KJV)
This deals more with moral conduct. There are always consequences for our actions whether good or bad. “I cannot emphasize enough that our children need to see us as parents sowing good seed. They need to observe our own conduct as righteous.”
When a farmer sows a particular seed in his field, he will reap what that seed yields whether that is corn or some other commodity. Your harvest will generally always yield much more with one seed.
If you plant a seed of corn, that corn stalk might yield several ears of corn and much more seed. That’s the nature of sowing and reaping.
Children must understand this law. If they sow to their flesh some sin like an addiction or some other iniquity, they are going to reap a harvest in their life. It will not be good!
I cannot emphasize enough that our children need to see us as parents sowing good seed. They need to observe our own conduct as righteous.
Teach Children the Reality and Consequences of Sin
“They must see God’s discipline and your correction as a blessing and protection to keep them from foolishness and destruction. Remember too, they need to understand that their inner man is the motivation for the outer actions. Behavior follows the heart. We can’t sow seeds of sinful thoughts and behavior and reap anything other when what we’ve sown. Sometimes our children sow sin and pray for crop failure! It won’t happen. God has so ordained life that there are outcomes that are inevitable. We must learn to live and train our children to live with a ‘harvest mindset.’ What children plant today will be harvested tomorrow.” ²
The point is well taken. If parents allow their children to dabble with sin and with unhealthy things, they should not be surprised if those same kids reap some awful consequences later on. I have seen it so many times.
We are grateful that God is willing to forgive us of our sins. He can even help alleviate the consequences of our mistakes. Parents should forgive as well.
Jesus gave a story of a prodigal son that took the inheritance of his father and wasted it on sinful living in a far country (Lk. 15:11-32). He was brought to regret his actions and he repented of his sin and decided to come back home to his father.
Of course, the father was there waiting and willing to receive back his long lost son. In fact, there was rejoicing in his return. He was restored to the family.“If parents allow their children to dabble with sin and with unhealthy things, they should not be surprised if those same kids reap some awful consequences later on. I have seen it so many times.”
However, he lost his portion of inheritance. That was his harvest for his failures and sin. I don’t read where he ever got that inheritance back. Yes, he did get a robe and ring but he had to live with the consequences of his actions for the rest of his life.
The father did not bail him out and give him everything back that he had squandered either. There is always the temptation to bail our children out of a mess they have made.
I mean if a teenager wrecks his car as a result of drunkenness that is part of the reaping process. We do no good service to a child by buying him another car.
No, he gets no car unless he pays for it. He would also get dropped from our insurance. Fortunately, I never faced that situation with my children. They did have auto accidents but not as a result of their sin.
I have had children notorious for waiting until the last minute to tell us they needed certain items for school projects. They knew about it for days but waited until the night before to suddenly spring their need upon us.
I did not just run out in the middle of the night to get them their notebook paper. Again, they had to learn the principle of the harvest.
Let’s help our children understand the importance of accountability. They must learn that they will truly reap what they sow in life.
Some parents spoil their children by gratifying their every desire. They feel like they can get their children to love them more if they buy them nice things. I think parents that spoil their children mean well but are they really helping those children?
They are not. How will those children grow to appreciate the things of life you have to work hard for?
In this short lesson, we looked at ways to train and improve the conduct of children. We also looked at some Godly character traits that we can cultivate in children.
Ultimately, parents are responsible to raise children who conduct themselves in ways that honor God.
This means instilling in our children Godly traits like integrity, accountability, respect for authority, good habits, self-control, and an understanding of the principles of sowing and reaping and generosity.“In a world where the reality of right and wrong are continually under attack, we must continue to teach our children that no man is a law unto himself, but that we are all accountable to God.”
The most important thing though when it comes to raising Godly children is to continually reinforce that Godly character starts in the heart. Parent’s cannot neglect the hearts of their children.
In a world where the reality of right and wrong are continually under attack, we must continue to teach our children that no man is a law unto himself, but that we are all accountable to God.
- List some Godly personal convictions you would like to instill in your children.
- Children need to learn manners and respect for others. What kind of manners should they be taught?
- Children need to learn to submit to authority. What are the rules of your house?
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1. H. Clay Trumbull, “Hints on Child Training,” p. 42.
2. Excerpts taken from Instructing a Child’s Heart by Ted and Margie Tripp, Shepherd Press.