Tag: parenting

13 Quotes on Parenting

Dr. Michael Goheen served as the Jake and Betsy Tuls Professor of Missiology, Calvin Theological Seminary, Grand Rapids; a Senior Fellow of the Newbigin House of Studies, San Francisco; and is currently focused on his work as Director of Theological Education and Scholar-in-residence at Missional Training Center—Phoenix. He is also known for his writings on biblical theology and mission.

His book The Drama of Scripture is, in my opinion, the best single volume book summarizing the big story of Scripture. 

With all his great academic credentials, I’ve been pleased to get to know him also as “Mike.” He and Marnie are humble in presence and earnest in faith. They just love the Lord. It shows. When Mike and his wife Marnie spoke at our parenting seminar, they shared from their mundane and funny experiences, as well as insightful reflections on raising four children. We also had several couples from our church with grown children sit on a panel. The evening was littered with wisdom. I’ve collected a few of the quotes for you.

Family Life

We always played hard with our kids after dinner for half an hour. They still remember it.

Your best disciples should be in the home.

Give your kids lots of unstructured time. Play is a gift to kids; it sparks the imagination.

Our kids don’t need to try everything. Our kids are too busy.

Don’t rob your children of play by forcing them into sport.

Missional Community is a family gathering so bring your family to the gathering.


It’s important to make the distinction between rebellion & childishness.

I want to befriend my children before discipling them.

There’s a cruelty to not helping our kids obey.

Discipline is a fence, keeps our kids from the thorns & cliffs. If stay this side you’ll be more fully human.

End discipline on a positive note, talk about things they enjoy or play with them.


Our children said it made them feel special to be part of Gods big story, to have a calling in his world.

The big picture of our relationship to God as Father helps our children makes sense of discipline.

What 40 Years of Marriage Can Do for Kids

We piled into the small suv with my brother, Luke, and sister-in-law, Miranda. The “in-law” part feels artificial when you really are family. We pointed the car east, to Aggieland, for a rendezvous with my other brother and sister-in-law, Ben and Megan, and my parents. The Saturday afternoon laid open before us, like an unfurling map, winding our way through conversation, high and low, blind to our surroundings. A few conversational lulls afforded my the opportunity to rehearse my speech. I really wanted these words to count, to land in the heart.

We all converged, from the east and the west, at Madden’s casual gourmet. Open wooden rafters, well-worn wood plank floors, and twenty foot ceilings. Ben, Megan, Mom, and Dad were already there, at the table, waiting for us. After a barrage of hugs and smiles we all sat down to celebrate my parent’s 40th wedding anniversary. Conversation zipped along the runway and we were off, traveling the airways of children, parenting, theology, church, and marriage.

We paused in the gaiety to reflect on the grace flowing from my parents’ four decade commitment. Parental marriages carry incalculable influence. I knew it was photoimpossible to estimate the impact of their mutual, spilling over love, but I had to get some of it out. Growing up, you have no idea how much your parent’s relationship affects you. You take it for granted. Occasionally you will compare or contrast it to others, but very often it is simply the water you swim in. You take in the good and the bad and just keep swimming. Upon reflection, I knew there were things I needed to surface with them.

First, thank you for your fidelity and friendship for forty years. We have watched your marital love and commitment strengthen, through thick and thin, and we have benefited. I have carried the example right into my own marriage. My wife is my best friend. My parents love life. They enjoy European culture, love struggling souls through deep brokenness, and give from a place of generous, mutual love. This love has been tested. We watched them fight as we grew. It wasn’t a plastic marriage with flaws hidden, it was real, deep, and always moving towards the Redeemer. Many people can’t look to their parents as an example of fidelity and friendship, but I can, and I am grateful.

Second, thank you for loving the church as a family when the church was hard to love. Growing up we had some weird and good church experiences, but one thing that is fixed in my memory is that church went beyond the walls, walked beyond the Sunday service, and ate leisurely together. Looking back, I realize that I have a foundation for church as a family from my parents pursuit of people outside of programs, events, groups, and services. They loved their friends. We would drive out into the country and enjoy home-cooking, run the rural fields, go fishing, all on a Sunday afternoon, with the church, with people who were utterly changed by Jesus. My parents could have understandably turned their backs on “the church”; they were hurt, snubbed, misunderstood, but deep down they knew that is all part of being an imperfect family, and that the galvanizing element isn’t mutual love but a singular love, the outpouring of the life and grace of Christ.

Third, thank you for praying this for each of your children for years and years: 

I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth. (3 John 4)

Man, did I test that prayer request. We all did in our own ways–struggles with greed, skepticism, and sex. The deceitful siren call wooed us more than once, and I walked pretty far from the truth, from enjoying the love and grace of my Savior more than any other love or grace in this world. But they prayed me through. My parents plead with God that their son would leave the pig sty and come home, and they were there, every single time, running to meet me in the street, arms wide open. I dirtied their clothes in my embrace, and they didn’t even care. They were just happy their lost son had come home, that God the Father had answered their prayer, their son, now a very imperfect but committed disciple, is walking the truth, the truth of the gospel of God’s marvelous grace.

Thank you Mom and Dad, for praying us all into the truth, into Christ. We love you. We carry an intuitive inheritance of marital friendship, fidelity, and more than I realized, a model for loving the church as a family. There are more riches here than we will ever know. We stand on a heap of refined gold, may we follow your generous gift, may each of our children walk in the truth, may the graces cascade even more, from the Father, Son, and Spirit, through our marriages, onto our children, through the church, and out into the world.

Picking a Parenting Model (Pt 3)

In Part 1, we considered 6 ways parenting methods fail and 3 reasons why. In Part 2, we considered the shortcomings of child-centered parenting and the promise of discipline and instruction. In our final Part 3, we will examine heart-focused parenting.

Should Parents Discipline Their Children?

Proverbs is a record of fatherly counsel, and therefore, a great book of the Bible for parents to become familiar with. The Proverbs use the word “discipline” includes physical correction: “Folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline drives it far from him” (Prov 22:15). If we eliminate discipline, we “spare the rod, spoil the child” (13:24; 23:13), which doesn’t mean you have to use a literal rod to spank your kids! However, it does mean that you will love them enough to discipline them.

Spanking is out of vogue, but often it works. There was a series of studies conducted by Dr. Kenneth Dodge among Caucasian kids to see if spanking produced positive results. They showed that the more a child is spanked, the more aggressive he becomes. However, when they ran the same study among African-American kids, the spanked black kids were less aggressive and better behaved. Why the difference? Black kids responded better than white kids because they were raised in a culture of consistent spanking. For white kids, it was reserved for the last straw, when parents were angry. White kids were responding to the anger of their parents, not to the corporal punishment. This clarifies an important principle in discipline. However you discipline your children, be consistent.

However you discipline your children, try to be consistent.

When it comes to discipline, some parents act more like buddies than disciplinarians. Instead of asserting God-given authority to foster respectful obedience, buddy parents inquire: “Timmy, how did it make you feel to smash that computer?” Or they may plead with their children: “Johnny, Johnny, please don’t do that.” Buddy parents implore instead of discipline.

Fatherly Discipline

Fathers, don’t cop out and put it all on mom. You are charged with bringing order and discipline at home. My son knows that dad isn’t a push over, and mom can depend on me to back her up. The other day she had to tell him that he would have to deal with me when I got home. As soon as I got home he ran up to me with joy, Daaady!” And then he said: “Daddy, I was bad.”

He doesn’t cower in my presence because I take my responsibility to discipline him seriously. He runs to me with joy because he knows I love him enough to discipline him. In fact, I often tell him: “Son, because I love you, you cannot have your own way. You must be punished.” We try to get teach as we discipline.

Insisting on discipline tells our children something about Jesus, namely that he isn’t just a cuddly savior but also a strong king. He is worthy of respect and obedience. Occasionally, when our children talk back or argue we will ask them: “Who is in charge?” To which they have learned to respond: “You are, and God put you in charge.” Our authority is from God, and we tell them something about his authority in how we discipline or fail to discipline them. Of course, if all dads do is discipline, and not instruct, they will become imbalanced disciplinarians.

Insisting on discipline tells our children something about Jesus, namely that he isn’t just a cuddly savior but also a strong king.

Instructing the Heart

Interestingly, disciplinary instruction can be instructive for the heart. In Proverbs, discipline also refers to moral training. We can train them to exchange folly for obedience. Parents should care about their children’s hearts enough to both correct and instruct them.

Discipline alone does not change the heart. We must also instruct the heart. Proverbs tells us that folly is bound up in the heart and that it is exceedingly wicked. It also tells us that all the issues of life flow from the heart. The good and the bad flow from the heart, which is the seat of our precious children’s decision-making, the place of our child’s longing. Over and over again, the Bible places an emphasis on the heart, not the rear, as the central place for parenting.

The Greek word for “instruct” is frequently used to refer to contemporary biblical counseling. Parents are called to counsel their children, to counsel their hearts. We must do the hard work of peeling back the layers on their behavior to get to their motivations. This will require questions not just accusations, inquiry not just reprimand. Johnny, why are pestering your sister so much today?” Sometimes misbehavior is the result of a lack of attention or mistreatment at school. We should try to avoid jumping to disciplinary action right away when we are unsure of our child’s motivation.

This can be hard to do with young children but it is possible. One way we do it with our kids is to introduce heart terminology early on. If Owen is persistently whiny and complaining, I will ask him: “Owen are you having a whiny heart?” When I do this, I am showing him that I don’t want him merely to perform well, but to desire well. Depending on his issue, we may inquire if he has a “demanding” or “selfish” heart. You get the idea.

Gospel-centered Parenting

However, using heart language, alone, is not enough to instruct the heart. I typically follow up by asking: “Owen, do you need to ask Jesus to give you a happy/content/generous heart?” I may refer to a Bible verse that we have memorized together to help shape the beliefs of his heart around the gospel. This teaches him that he needs grace, that he needs God to change his heart to give him a desire to be content. It teaches him that what matters most is not external performance, but internal change, not self-discipline or morality, but attention to Jesus, who alone can change his heart’s desires.

What I want for Owen, is nothing less than what I want for myself—to be so drawn to the beauty, love, and grace of Jesus Christ that he can’t help but be a content, considerate, and generous child. I want him to trust Jesus more than me, to confess his need for a Savior and turn to Jesus as Lord. I want him to be so delighted in Christ that he lives differently, to see and savor the beauty and excellency of Christ. I want his heart to long for Jesus more than anything else.

Consistent discipline can tell them that Jesus is King, and loving instruction can tell them that Jesus is a gentle Savior.

A person who owns a BMW isn’t interested in a Geo Metro. Their attention is captivated by the BMW. Our task as parents is to draw our children’s attention to the superior worth and excellency of Jesus, who is much better than a BMW! To lead them, instruct them, teach them the gospel. Paul exhorts mothers and fathers: bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” The phrase “of the Lord” is used by Paul to refer to Jesus throughout Ephesians. We nurture our children, not through self-esteem, but through the discipline and instruction of the Lord. Consistent discipline can tell them that Jesus is King, and loving instruction can tell them that Jesus is a gentle Savior. In the end, our children need much more that methods or parents, they need the Lord Jesus Christ. He is a better authority and offers a better, perfect, unwavering love that can truly change their hearts.

Only Lord Jesus is strong enough and sacrificial enough to change our children.

Only Lord Jesus is strong enough and sacrificial enough to change our children. The gospel brings the strength of Jesus and the sacrifice together. It calls us to show our children the strength of Lord Jesus—discipline—and the sacrifice of Jesus—heart instruction. As parents we can avoid the way of the drunkard (wavering between disciplinarian and buddy) and walk in line with the gospel, when we make our parenting not methods-centered or child-centered but Jesus-centered. May God grant us the grace to love them well, instruct their hearts, and show them Jesus. And when we fail as parents, he remains the same sacrificial, forgiving, loving Savior for us. He is strong for our parenting successes and sufficient for our parenting failures.

Picking a Parenting Model (Pt 2)

In Part 1, we considered 6 ways parenting methods fail and 3 reasons why. In Part 2, we will consider the shortcomings of child-centered parenting and the promise of discipline and instruction.

The Failure of Child-centered Parenting

Parenting isn’t a one size fits all. What works with one doesn’t always work with another. Customize. Focus on his or her particular needs. In the book Nurture Shock, the authors trace the history of the self-esteem movement. The self-esteem movement came along and told us that the “single most important thing in a child’s development was positive self-esteem.” A mass of research, books, and seminars were spawned.

Self-esteem task forces were formed in school districts across the country. Anything that damaged self-esteem was axed. Coaches stopped counting goals and handing out trophies. Teachers threw out their red pens. There was even a school district in Massachusetts that forced kids to play jump rope with an imaginary rope, lest they trip on the rope and suffer embarrassment! Child-centered parenting at its best!

In 2003, Dr. Roy Baumeister, the leading proponent of self-esteem research, was asked to review 15,000 studies on the topic. He discovered that self-esteem did not improve grades, career achievement, reduce drinking or violence. He was quoted as saying this was the “biggest disappointment of his career.” When we place our children in the center of our lives, we set our families up for disappointment.

The Idolatry of Children

For many of you, everything bows to your children, including your marriage. Your kids are your little idols. Everything revolves around them. Your concern for their safety cripples their sense of community. You parent out of fear, instill fear in them as a hyper-protective parent.

Your concern about influences leads you to eliminate social and cultural experiences, which isn’t always bad, but when a parent believes that eliminating certain influences is what makes their child better, they are mistaken. Every child is ultimately shaped, not by influences but by their heart response to their influences and options. My son chooses to use rude language, not because of influences but because his heart is rebelling against what Mom and Dad said. Children change, for good and bad, based on what their heart longs for, believes, desires not their influences.

Or maybe it’s about their schooling. The best education no matter what. You pony up the big bucks. Giving to God goes down because you giving so much to your mini-god, your child. And, oh, they have to have a well-rounded social life, so you run around town taking them to dance and soccer and guitar and so on. You are so busy you don’t have time be the church, to live in community, much less to be a family. You live a child-centered life, not a God-centered life. You’ll do whatever it takes to make them happy, to give them positive self-image.

When we make our children our functional idols, we remove the one thing they need most—God. We practically tell them that they are in charge, they are most important, they are god. If they are god, then they have no need of heart change, instruction, or discipline. They will continue to rebel until it gets out of hand.

Fathers as Parents

So method-centered and child-centered parenting so often neglect what matters most, God. If our children are eternal souls, not little idols, then our parenting has to be affected by eternity. If we are going to pursue their highest good, then we need to take their Creator’s design into account. We need to read and apply the Bible. Where our methods conflict with the Bible, we should jettison the methods.

Now, interestingly, there’s not a lot on methods in the Bible. So there’s flexibility. The reason for this is that the Bible is God-centered, not child-centered. In Ephesians 6, there are instructions for children and parents. We’re focusing on parents. Ephesians 6:4: “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” Notice it begins with “fathers”. Now, this instruction doesn’t remove mothers from parenting, but it places a priority on fathers. If you recall, fathers are designed by God to bring leadership and order into the family (1 Cor 11:3). They are under God’s authority, and are to lead their wives and children according to his instruction.

Here’s a problem: a lot of dads give themselves a get out of parenting pass because they bring home the bacon. Before the Industrial Revolution, both mother and father worked around the house, in the field and in the garden, for instance. They both raised the kids. But after the Industrial Revolution, fathers left home. And slowly they left their fatherly responsibilities behind, until the responsibility was reduced to one— bring home the bacon, provide for the family. This is bad parenting. Making money for your family isn’t even close enough to make you a good parent.

Discipline and Instruction

Here’s a solution: don’t provoke your kids, but bring them up. What does it mean to bring up your kids? Nurture. The word is used a few verses earlier to refer to the way a husband nurtures and cares for his own body. Its intimate, attentive, nurturing. Okay, how? “in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” Here are two biblical methods for parenting—discipline and instruction. These two words appear throughout Scripture to describe the task of parenting (Deuteronomy, Proverbs, Ephesians, Colossians, etc). Discipline and instruction require time, reflection, and attention to our children’s hearts not merely their influences or esteem.

Most parents lean towards discipline or instruction or even vacillate between the two. If we’re not careful, we will parent our kids like a drunk. When a drunk is pulled over and asked to walk the line, he sways back and forth across the line. He is imbalanced. Imbalanced parenting is dangerous. If we swing too far to discipline, we become a disciplinarian. If we swing too far towards instruction become a buddy. Our kids need parents not buddies or disciplinarians. In our next post, we will examine how to avoid the extremes of child-centered parenting and disciplinarian and buddy by focusing in on gospel-centered parenting.