blog image: christian parenting or just parenting

We’re playing a lot of Uno in our house at the moment. We’ve never been big on board games or card games, but the 9 year old is having an ‘Uno’ phase. It feels like I’ve spent more time in the past 3 months matching colours and numbers on cards, than in the rest of my life put together. Uno is (for now, at least) part of my parenting. But is it ‘Christian parenting’? Is this game a ‘Christian game’ because I’m a Christian and I’m playing it? In my daily life, am I doing ‘Christian laundry’ and ‘Christian washing up’ and ‘Christian homework supervision?’ Or is this just ordinary, common-or-garden parenting?

What is Christian parenting? Perhaps we think of it as a formula:

Christian parenting = Ordinary parenting + taking the family to church

Or, for the especially keen, Christian parenting = Ordinary parenting + taking the family to church + reading the Bible & praying together at home

No! I am always a Christian, living in relationship with my Heavenly Father, whether I’m reading the Bible or cleaning the bath. And I am always a Christian parent, parenting our children in the context of my relationship with my Heavenly Father, whether I’m talking to them about Jesus or helping them find their missing shoes.

Of course, the ‘explicitly Christian’ moments of family life – bible reading, prayer and talking-about-God together – are vital. But how can we be distinctively Christian in our parenting the rest of the time?

In Episode 12 of the Faith in Parents podcast, Ed Drew discussed this question with Tim Chester (a church leader from North Yorkshire and father of two, now adult, children).

Here are a couple of Tim’s suggestions:

  • Demonstrate good, loving authority to your children Establishing appropriate parental authority is not about getting our children to obey us for our own benefit. Rather, it is about allowing them to experience how good it is to live under loving authority, to help them want to submit to the authority of God.

Satan’s lie, from Eden onwards, is that God’s authority is bad for us, and that we would be better off ignoring him. If we want our children to resist that lie, we will need to teach them (not only in words, but in their actual experience) that submitting to loving authority is good for all of us, and that God’s authority is the best authority of all.

  • Model generous grace We often overlook this because there aren’t any ‘rules’ about showing grace – there can’t be, or it wouldn’t be grace! So, it’s difficult to establish the habits, patterns and routines that would remind us to do it. How could you surprise your children with good, unexpected things? If all the ‘treats’ in your child’s life come as a means of bribery or reward, grace may not be very visible. What could you say “Yes” to, at least occasionally, for no other reason than because our Heavenly Father has chosen to generous lavish good things on us? It doesn’t have to be big or expensive - children often vividly remember surprising little moments of compassion, kindness, joy and laughter.

To hear the full conversation between Ed and Tim, listen to episode 13 of the Faith in Parents podcast.

For more on wisdom on Christian parenting from Tim Chester, read 'Gospel-centred family' by Tim Chester & Ed Moll, published by The Good Book Company. 12 very short, easily readable chapters including practical wisdom for parents, some bible passages to ponder and very helpful reflection questions to help you apply what you read in your own parenting. Why not plan to read this over the summer, along with your spouse, or another Christian parent from your church?

By guest author: Cathy Dalton

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