Christian Gentle Parenting: Is Gentle Parenting Biblical?
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What is Gentle Parenting?
Gentle Parenting is a long term approach to discipline, where the goal is to cultivate a heartfelt willingness in the child to do what’s good. Gentle Parenting guides and models good behaviour to children and gives them room to make mistakes and learn and grow.
Gentle Parenting can create children who don’t want to sin against God
As Christian parents we can think and ponder a lot not just about how to raise well behaved children, but how to raise children that will choose to follow God later in their lifetime. Gentle Parenting fits really well into that because so much of it is about guiding our children to want to make the right decisions. When children are motivated to do the right thing by the fear of punishments this can leave a lot missing when the possibility of a punishment is lifted. You want children who choose to do the right thing – even when you’re not watching – and to choose to do so because they truly believe in their heart that it’s what is right, not just because they are afraid of the consequences.
Gentle Parenting does not endorse spanking
Yup, it’s true, and when you look closely at what the Bible says about spanking it is not difficult to come to the conclusion that spanking is not commanded by parents at all. You might be familiar with some of the “rod” verses in the Bible, but even in those instances the word for “child” there is the Hebrew word na’ar which means, “young man.”
Does the Bible say anything about spanking very young children? No it does not.
I have two articles you can read to learn more about it, the first is quotes and links to other articles supporting the same point, and the second article is a breakdown of the rod verses with Hebrew translations.
Shouldn’t we discipline our children the way God disciplines us?
There are a lot of different arguments out there for why spanking works, and maybe it does, but I would argue that Gentle Parenting works better and is more similar to how God disciplines His children.
Now I know what you might be thinking, doesn’t God discipline us by coming down hard on us? With punishment, fury and fire?
Well…that might be the picture of discipline we see from God in the Old Testament of the Bible, but what do you see in the New Testament?
In the New Testament God’s parenting could be described in words such as…
And even in the Old Testament, God was very patient with His children. The Israelites sinned against God again and again, but He did not smite them (as He could have) but He bore with them.
In the New Testament though is where we see Jesus Christ coming and dying for our sins and taking the punishment we deserve. When we think of what God has done for us as His children, do we think of the punishment or the love He poured out for us?
Personally, I think of the love.
Now sin is sin, and deserves punishment, but our God is defined as the God of love, not the God who punishes. Even if you look at some of the names of God commonly used in the Bible you will see there is more emphasis on His awesomeness than there is on the punishment He delivers.
God dealt with our sin head on by sending His son (Himself) Jesus Christ to die on the cross for our sins and be raised 3 days later. Now here in the day to day, we are left with the choice to accept this gentle and loving way that God is dealing with our sin or to turn from it. We are left with the choice, and we can choose to follow God and choose to try not to sin, but in the end it’s really about our heart.
For me, that’s what I want for my child, and all the children I work with as a missionary in Africa.
Christian Gentle Parenting models God’s love
Gentle Parenting gives children the opportunity to learn to do what’s right in the parent-child realm, but it’s also a wonderful picture for them of how God deals with His children.
When we are patient with our children (the way God is patient with us) and when we give them second chances (the way God gives us second chances), and when we continue to love them even when they do wrong (just as God does not forsake us), and when we forgive their mistakes (as God forgives us), and when we don’t get upset if they don’t get it right the first time (just as God does) then we are teaching them what a healthy relationship with God can be like as well.
The way children perceive God plays a big role in what their relationship with Him will look like. A relationship based on love and trust is very different from a relationship based on fear and shame.
Christian Gentle Parenting keeps kids in church
A lot of people were raised in the church, but when they got older they left.
Why is that?
We can all come to our own conclusions, and everyone’s story is different, but being raised without any true heart for God can definitely be part of it. Children who only know the facts about God, or who are only afraid of punishment, have a harder time developing a heart based relationship with Him, which is the kind of relationship that can last a lifetime, opposed to a fear based one.
Christian Gentle Parenting deals with a child’s sin the right way
Through positive discipline and patient guidance a child’s sin is dealt with. As Christians, we know that the only way to truly wipe away sin is by the salvation that comes through Jesus Christ. No spanking, time out or other similar method can erase a child’s sin.
Christian Gentle Parenting deals with sin by working on it to help the child do the right thing.
Think in your adult life of any sin you have had to work through. It probably took time and practice to deal with it. Maybe the sin you dealt with for instance was gossiping and now you can happily say you don’t gossip anymore. The way you might have dealt with that sin is by brainstorming how to avoid the temptation in the first place – maybe you stopped hanging out with co-workers after work because you always found yourself talking about other people, or maybe you had a habit or whenever you thought something bad you wanted to say about someone you would think of one good feature they had.
It might have taken you awhile to get through this sin of gossiping. You prayed about it and asked God to help you, and you also actively looked for ways to rid it from your life. It took time, but eventually it all worked out.
That’s what happens with Chrsitian Gentle Parenting.
We address the sin with our child and work it out. We talk to them and come up with ways to solve it. Maybe your child has a problem with lying, you can work together to get to the root of the issue. You take the sin seriously, without burying and paralyzing them with shame over the sin. By doing so, you’re teaching them skills they can use as an adult when dealing with their sin. Teach them to go to God with it, to repent, and to seek ways to stop that sin from repeating.
In the end, children learn that sin is serious, but also how to approach God with it instead of trying to hide it or feel ashamed. Christian Gentle Parenting puts emphasis on God’s forgiveness and love for us. God’s forgiveness is not a free pass to sin, but when we love God so much we don’t want to sin against Him.
The Bible commands us to love
The Bible may not command (or forbid) spanking, but it does command us to love. For me, in my home, that means Gentle Parenting. There is nothing “unbiblical” to this approach to parenting, and although some say they “spank out of love” I find is easier, and more natural, to be patient out of love, to speak to my child with positive language out of love, to encourage her out of love, to consistently redirect her out of love, to set firm boundaries out of love.
To me, Gentle Parenting is all about love. And sometimes love means putting my needs second. Sometimes loving her means wiping up the spill with my hand over her hand, gently teaching her how to clean up our messes. Sometimes I want to pull my hair out and scream, but that gets us no where. Instead, I have learnt to regulate my own emotions so I can model emotional intelligence for her.
The Bible is a book about love – love God, love each other – and even love ourselves. Loving others, as commanded by the Bible, does not exclude children and babies.
And I truly believe that it is by God’s design that we are wired to love babies, especially our own, so fiercely. Mothers hear those middle of the night coos and cries, mothers start producing milk even to hear those cries! The first few days postpartum you might feel doped up on some strong love drugs because that’s how God designed mothers. (Now postpartum depression is another story, and some mothers struggle a lot when it comes to bonding with their babies and feeling that love.)
But even in the dark days, or the tantrum days, we know we’re supposed to love our little ones. For me, loving my child and showing her God’s love, all comes in through Gentle Parenting.
Gentle Parenting is Biblical
So to answer the question, yes, Gentle Parenting is Biblical. It doesn’t mean that Gentle Parenting is the only good way to raise children, or that the Bible tells us to raise children in this way, but if it’s a parenting style you have been interested in but you didn’t know if it would match your faith you can rest assured that it is a Biblical approach to discipline.
We are saved by grace through faith, not works. You might feel frustrated by your child’s bad behaviour, you might be distraught when they lie and deceive, but their heart says say much more than their actions. Their faith is more important than their works.
You can see a lot of success in your home by using Gentle Parenting, and in years from now when your children are grown, you might be very thankful for the impact that Gentle Parenting had on their hearts.
How to start Gentle Parenting
If now you’d like to start Gentle Parenting there are a few things you can do
1. Sign up below either for the 2 week challenge, or for the free Gentle Parenting course
2. Read some of these articles that might help clear somethings up:
Best of luck to you mama!
Jump into Gentle Parenting
Download the 2 week challenge with simple daily tasks to learn how to bring Gentle Parenting into your home for effective discipline.
Make Your Home a Happy Home
The Moving Mama
Lizzy Mash is an experienced early childhood educator now living in Africa as a missionary working with children and families.
She teaches Christian moms how to take a more respectful and Christ-like approach to motherhood by using Gentle Parenting strategies.
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