God created the family. His design was for a man and a woman to marry for life and raise children to know and honor Him (Mark 10:9; Malachi 2:15). Adoption is also God’s idea, and He models this in His adoption of us as His children (Romans 8:15, 23; Ephesians 1:5). Regardless of the means by which they enter a family, children are a gift from God and He cares about how they are raised (Psalm 127:3; Psalm 34:11; Proverbs 23:13–14). When God gives us gifts, He also gives clear instructions about their use.
When God led the Israelites out of bondage, He commanded them to teach their children all He had done for them (Deuteronomy 6:6–7; 11:19). He desired that the generations to come would continue to uphold all His commands. When one generation fails to instill God’s laws in the next, a society quickly declines. Parents have not only a responsibility to their children, but an assignment from God to impart His values and truth into their lives.
Several places in Scripture give specific instructions to parents about how to raise their children. Ephesians 6:4 says, “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” There are several ways parents might provoke their children to anger. Some parents set impossible standards so that a child despairs of ever achieving them. Some parents tease, ridicule, or humiliate their children as a means of punishment, which does nothing but provoke them to anger. Inconsistency can also provoke to anger as a child is never sure about the consequences of his actions. Hypocrisy provokes children to anger when parents require behavior from children that the parents are not choosing for themselves.
To “bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” means that parents should train their children the way God trains us. As a Father, God is “slow to anger” (Numbers 14:18; Psalm 145:8), patient (Psalm 86:15), and forgiving (Daniel 9:9). His discipline is designed to bring us to repentance (Hebrews 12:6–11). His instruction is found in His Word (John 17:17; Psalm 119:97), and He desires that parents fill their homes with His truth (Deuteronomy 6:67).
He also disciplines His children (Proverbs 3:11; Hebrews 12:5) and expects earthly parents to do the same (Proverbs 23:13). Psalm 94:12 says, “Blessed is the one you discipline, LORD, the one you teach from your law.” The word discipline comes from the root word disciple. To discipline someone means to make a disciple of him. God’s discipline is designed to “conform us to the image of Christ” (Romans 8:29). Parents can make disciples of their children by instilling values and life lessons they have learned. As parents practice godly living and make Spirit-controlled decisions (Galatians 5:16, 25), they can encourage their children to follow their example. Proper, consistent discipline brings a “harvest of righteousness” (Hebrews 12:11). Failure to discipline results in dishonor for both parent and child (Proverbs 10:1). Proverbs 15:32 says that the one who ignores discipline “despises himself.” The Lord brought judgment upon Eli the priest because he allowed his sons to dishonor the Lord and “failed to restrain them” (1 Samuel 3:13).
Children are a “heritage from the Lord” (Psalm 127:3). He places them in families and gives parents guidance in how they are to be raised. The goal of good parenting is to produce wise children who know and honor God with their lives. Proverbs 23:24 shows the end result of raising children according to God’s plan: “The father of godly children has cause for joy. What a pleasure to have children who are wise” (NLT).