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Parental Mythbusting

Friday, October 22, 2010 | Comments (7)

Myths—they intrigue, entertain, and sometimes even humor us. From health and history to sports and science, myths and misconceptions seem to find their way into every realm of human thought and activity—including parenting.

As Christians, we probably dismiss most of the parenting myths we encounter without a second thought, right? After all, we’re Christians, those who look to and depend upon God’s Word to determine our reality, not worldly platitudes or cultural traditions. If you’re among those who think only naïve and untaught Christians fall for unbiblical substitutes when it comes to parenting, maybe you’d better take a look at our list.

Here are ten of the most common myths confronting Christian parents these days. Mom and dad, as you endeavor to raise your children to the glory of God, take note of them:


Myth # 1: “Children must be the first priority in our family.”

Heard that one? According to this myth, the child-centered family is the successful family, so the more attention you give your children, the better they’ll turn out. Basically, you’ve got to prioritize your children over your spouse. No matter how pious they make it sound, it’s not pious at all. The Bible says your spouse is your priority, second only to God. Husbands, you understand this…God commands you to love you wife as your own body (Eph. 5:28). Why? Because you’re in a “one flesh” relationship with that woman (Gen. 2:24; Eph. 5:31). There is no such relationship between parent and child; it’s a different level of intimacy. To elevate the relationship with your children above the more intimate relationship you have with your spouse isn’t positive in any sense. It’s a subtle but dangerous myth that always weakens and sometimes wrecks a home. Beware.

Myth # 2: “I should rely mainly upon the church—particularly the children’s ministry, to teach the Bible to my children.”

Most of us would probably deny believing this myth, but how we live tells all. Evaluate your habits at home, parents. Where does the majority of your children’s spiritual instruction take place—church or home? Who provides that instruction—an Awana leader or you? We’re not belittling the role of your local church’s teaching ministries. We are pointing out that Sunday school and youth group should supplement your teaching at home, not replace it. Both the Old and New Testaments assign parents, not pastors, the responsibility of teaching their children (See Deut. 6:4-9; Eph. 6:4; Col. 3:21).

Myth # 3: “The behavior of my children is a sure measure of successful parenting.”

That statement would cease to be a myth with a slight adjustment: Your response to the behavior of your children is a sure measure of successful parenting. See the difference? Your child’s behavior is mostly out of your control; your response is not. None of us, especially after the early years, can control our child’s behavior. But you can and must control your response to their behavior. God’s simple instruction to parents is found in Ephesians 6:4, “Bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” Your success as a parent relates to how faithfully you carry out that charge, not how well your children receive discipline and instruction.

Myth # 4: “Quality time with my children is more important than quantity time.”

Some parents use this myth to ease their guilt for spending too little time with their kids. That’s not the biblical model. When God instructed parents to impart His Law to their children, notice how much time is involved: “These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up” (Deut. 6:6, 7). We’re mistaken to think we can somehow schedule those teachable moments into a few scattered, “quality” interactions between dinner and dessert. Faithfulness to the parenting task requires more time than that. As you make yourself available, you’ll begin to see how many unplanned opportunities arise out of those times of sitting, walking, lying down, and rising up.

Myth # 5: “My children belong to me.”

Behind this myth is the false notion that, “My children are my property, and it’s my right to raise them as seems best to me.” Psalm 127:3 says, “Behold, children are a gift from the Lord.” Even life itself is a gift, isn’t it? But it still belongs to God. Parenting is a stewardship, and we are stewards of all God’s gifts, including our children. We provide care, impart instruction, and teach them to fear God, and one day we’ll give an account to Him for how we carry out our charge. Children belong to God.

Myth # 6: “My wife should take responsibility for training our children since I work.”

Husbands, don’t turn God’s calling for your wife (Titus 2:4-5, to love you and your children, and keep the home) into a fatal parenting myth. God’s instruction to your wife doesn’t excuse you from parental responsibility. Scripture presents parenting as a joint-effort, and it also issues several commands directly to you fathers—it’s your responsibility to train your children (Eph 6:4, Col. 3:21). It’s true, your wife will spend more time at home with the kids while you work, but that doesn’t eliminate or diminish your responsibility to join her—in fact to lead her—in the parenting task.

Myth # 7: “My children won’t be able to understand spiritual truths until they are much older.

Biblical history, human history, and common experience demonstrate how young children can comprehend spiritual truth. Remember the prophet Samuel, or the young king Josiah? Samuel’s close relationship to the Lord began at a very young age (1 Sam. 2:26), and king Josiah instigated spiritual revival in Judah when he was only a teenager (2 Kings 22:1; 2 Chronicles 34:33). In 1735, during the American Great Awakening, God saved Phebe Bartlet, a young girl in Jonathan Edward’s congregation, when she was only 4 years old. Parents and pastor alike thoroughly examined her comprehension of gospel truth and found clear evidence that she was born again. Time proved the genuineness of her profession. One of her favorite activities was attending church to hear the preaching of her pastor, Jonathan Edwards (not a theological lightweight). Don’t fool yourself parent—and certainly don’t try and fool your children. They are sharper than you think.

Myth # 8: “If I spank my children, it will exasperate and provoke them.”

Sadly, this myth is alive and well in many Christian homes. It intimidates parents and spoils children. Contrary to our anti-spanking culture, Proverbs 13:24 says, “He who withholds his rod hates his son, but he who loves him disciplines him diligently.” Truth is, if you want to provoke and spoil your children, just continue to shelter them from the painful consequences of disobedience (Prov. 29:15). No kid loves a spanking, and we don’t like discipline either, do we? But the writer of Hebrews tells us that discipline yields peaceful, productive fruit (Heb. 12:5-11). (Here are a few other Scriptures to counter this insidious myth—Prov. 19:18; 22:15; 23:13; 29:17).

Myth # 9: “Spanking my children is the key to successful biblical parenting.”

For some of you, spanking your child seems quicker, easier, and more effective than the relentless dawn-to-dusk instruction called for in Deuteronomy 6:4-9 (see Myth #4). Ephesians 6 also calls for “discipline,” but Paul clearly has more in mind than spanking. The positive command, “Bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (v. 4), refers to the systematic training and instruction of children. Literally, the word “instruction” could be translated “putting in mind.” As a parent, you want to impart the knowledge of God regularly and lovingly to your child under the guidance of Scripture. That is the key to successful parenting. Spanking is just one part of that larger task.

Myth # 10: “If I teach my kids properly, God promises they’ll eventually turn out well.”

No doubt you’ve heard this myth. It’s a popular interpretation, and application, of Proverb 22:6—“Train up a child in the way he should go, and even when he is old he will not depart from it.” How many times have you seen a parent cling to that verse in desperation as they watch defiant children forsake all they were taught? Some children sit under loving, prayerful instruction from their parents, only to later shame them with a scandalous lifestyle. It’s heartbreaking, isn’t it. But Solomon’s proverb is not meant to be a gilt-edged guarantee your child will eventually trust Christ and live righteously. Solomon is simply saying early training usually secures lifelong habits. It’s a charge to give great care and consistency to how and what you teach your children. God promises to bless us for parental faithfulness, but that doesn’t necessarily mean our children will be saved. They have their own relationship with God to work out.

Parents, we’d like to hear from you. Have you detected some of those myths? Have you managed to dodge them, or have you tripped over a few? What other myths would you like to add? Let us know in the discussion thread below.


Tommy Clayton
Content Developer


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#1  Posted by Dan Wilson  |  Saturday, October 23, 2010at 5:29 PM

What about the myth of using reverse philosophy? Like mimic the kid's behavior to approve or disapprove the kid's action or clothing. It might

make the kid go mad? Just a thought.

#7 is very common around me. I sadly see some parents don't teach God's

Word to their young kids. Only tell them of Santa Claus, Easter Bunny,

and let them watch TV cartoons which don't make any sense. We need to be careful and teach God's Word as a fact, a real story and encourage them to enjoy God's Word.

God bless.

#2  Posted by Beth Varley  |  Sunday, October 24, 2010at 6:35 PM

I would like to comment on myth #2. I admit I was guilty then God opened a door and pushed me through it. My son,along with the other kids, did not like to go on Wednesday nights. As I investigated it I found that they were bored. If there was a lesson it was so downgraded to the point of almost wrong. I think for several reasons: 1. adults know so little bible they don't know what or how to teach 2. for some reason they think the kids are too young 3rd-6th grade to hear the truths of the bible. I think this is very wrong. The first grade reader for the pilgrims taught the children to spell and know the meaning of "fornication"! If you wait to teach these kids what is sin and what is not after the world has already taught them their version, then we are behind the 8 ball. My challenge is to get involved--TEACH!!! I have been taking adult topical bible studies and retyping them so the kids can understand. I just cannot find a good study for kids this age. I take teachings off this website and make Q&A for the kids. I took the Genesis 1,2 Precept course I took and adapted it for the kids. I purchased some videos from Answers in Genesis and showed them the difference between evolution and creation. We had a little mini apologetic class. They loved it! Guess what, so have I and trust me I usually don't care for other peoples children. God has just shown me that if we wait until the kids grow up to teach them...well that is why 80% of kids raised in church fall out by college. The bottom line is there are and always will be kids who don't hear any bible teaching except at church so with that in mind, teach them like their eternity depended on it because it just might. Otherwise, please don't be a teacher. The bible says we will be held to a higher standard. Thank You

#3  Posted by Tommy Clayton  |  Monday, October 25, 2010at 9:17 AM

Beth:

I think you hit the nail on the head when you said: (1) Adults know so little Bible they don’t know what or how to teach, and (2) Parents think third grade is too young to comprehend biblical truth. (See myth # 7). The world understands what many parents don’t: Young minds are sponges, and quickly soak up whatever “truth” is set before them. The world’s philosophy (1 John 5:19 tells us who energizes that philosophy) says, “the younger… the better.” When parents think they can adequately impart the Word of God to their children with a meager 2 hours at church twice per week—and as you mentioned, sometimes the teaching is bad—their kids are easy pickins for the world, their flesh and the devil.

May God have mercy on our children, our churches, and our homes. It’s exciting to hear your story about how the resources at GTY have helped inform and enrich your ministry to young children. Thanks for sharing, Beth. May God continue to bless your efforts.

#5  Posted by Johan Schmidt  |  Wednesday, October 27, 2010at 2:44 AM

WONDERFUL article! I can only add that kids learn more from watching than hearing - our obedience to God and a repentant life MUST backup whatever we teach our kids.

#6  Posted by Andrea Ferro  |  Wednesday, October 27, 2010at 5:20 AM

I wanted to comment on the adults knowing so little of the Bible. I have seen the error of my ways! being a weak christian for so long, I didn't know how to teach my children. Thankfully God has blessed my family and shown me that He is my only solution to life! I take raising my children in the Lord very seriously, especialy as I see christians becoming more and more lukewarm and liberal all around me. Our christian friends from our previous church think we're nuts because of our great devotion to our Lord! They are so worldly, they hardly read their Bibles and don't behave much different then anyone else. How do christians raise children right in that kind of christian envoronment? I started praying for discernment a couple of years ago, (as I learn from John Macarthur), and my eyes were opened to so many things. My christian walk is steadily becoming stronger and my children are benefitting. All the glory and honor goes to Jesus!

#7  Posted by Beth Varley  |  Wednesday, October 27, 2010at 10:34 AM

I just wanted to write and say thank you everyone for the wonderful comments I have recieved. Sometimes you think your all alone out here. One writer said God convicted him of his lukewarmness and now all his friends think he is a loon. Well I live in the bible belt and believe it or not there are way more professors than posssessors. I was pretty much an atheist until I got saved at age 40 [10 years ago]and I have never looked back! But the disappointment for me has been that I thought everyone would want to learn all they could and God would be everything all the time, but most only want the absolute bare minimum! I am pretty much looked at as the weirdo and just tolerated because I dont't join womens bunco groups or sign up for frivolous studies that have very little teaching, but instead go to a laymans bible college. Ive been told I'm too heavenly minded, too black and white, too serious--but how can I do anything else, I know how close to hell I came! I had children later in life and my daughter was 6 when I was saved and she only was saved this summer [16 years]and neither my husband or myself came from Christian homes--we have been disowned. I want to help raise children that know God, love God and are not ashamed of God and most importantly what real salvation is!! I don't want them to waste as much life as I did. Plus one thing I LOVE is kids are pretty black and white, they haven't created all that gray yet. This keeps you on your toes and you better be prepared to explain A LOT! I found GTY about 1 year ago and have made a real dent in listening to all the teachings, my husband and I listen every night. GTY has enriched our understanding and our walk more than I can say. Thank You and God bless.

#8  Posted by Tommy Clayton  |  Wednesday, October 27, 2010at 10:50 AM

Thanks Andrea:

Stories like yours (and others) on this blog are simply a reminder of both the power and mercy of Christ. His mercy to show us areas of weakness in our parenting—His power to overcome them through His Word and Spirit. We’re grateful to God you’ve found the resources at GTY to be such a helpful tool in your call to parent. May the LORD bless your efforts and multiply the fruit in your children.