Home motherhood/family/parenting 5 Questions to Ask Yourself to Make Sure You Are Parenting in Love

5 Questions to Ask Yourself to Make Sure You Are Parenting in Love

by Kelly Crawford

Often when someone commits abuse under the guise of Christianity, there are those ready to race, with a knee-jerk reaction, to erect a “new and improved” interpretation of the original doctrine.  I’ve seen that happen with the topic of parenting often resulting in two dangerous ditches.

As we protect ourselves against the subtle pop-psychology that would invade our Christian parenting, let us examine ourselves as well, and seek to guard against any other ditches, parenting in love, and looking to Scripture to help us raise children who truly love and seek the Lord.

Here are 5 questions to ask yourself to make sure you are parenting in love.

  • Am I using shame or anger to get my child to do what I want them to do?
  • Do I withhold love or affection from my child or spouse in an attempt to change their behavior?
  • Do I expect perfection from my child, other family members, or myself?
  • Is my child able to fail without fearing the loss of my love or affection?
  • Do my children feel free to let me know if I have hurt their feelings or to respectfully disagree with a family decision (recognizing the authority of the father)?

Although all parents struggle, homeschooling parents, particularly, fall under a peculiar pressure placed on them by family, friends, and society. Braving a “new” and often misunderstood approach to education and the lifestyle differences that often accompany it, they are painfully aware of those who are watching and waiting for their failure. This awareness can easily cause parents to get side-tracked, though their intentions are deeply sincere. This pressure has unfortunately caused some parents to place unfair expectations on their children, and lose sight of the heart of parenting–training their children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. Though Christians should beware of the destruction that comes from living in fear of man, our humanness wants to “succeed” and doesn’t want to be proven wrong.

So how do we train our children in obedience and instruct them in the Lord with all the practical behaviors that entails, without succumbing to “outward appearances”? It must begin with our solid understanding of our duty as parents.

Understanding our Duty

Ultimately, we must not allow our parenting to be ruled by fear or expectations. As with all other areas of life, our motivating principle must be “Christ above all”–to see our children walk in truth and become sincere followers of Christ. We must understand that our outward behavior should be a natural reflection of our inward condition. Our outward behavior doesn’t effect spirituality, rather, the opposite is true. As we walk in obedience and thankfulness to a God who has chosen us out of darkness, apart from anything we have done, the result is a natural desire to obey and please the One we now call “Lord”, and a sweet aroma that exudes from our deep love for Him.

This must under-gird our parenting approach. Because child-training involves obvious outward behavior, it’s easy for any parent to focus on that end. And I believe we do have a duty to “train the flesh”, even before children are old enough to understand the heart behind behavior.

For example, it would be foolish to wait until a child understands “why” to begin teaching him self-control. By then, he would likely be a self-consuming, miserable wretch.  We potty train them, teach them not to throw things, and many other such behaviors before they are able to connect it to reasons.  This is our job.


Get my ebook, Getting Your Children to Obey for a simple, practical guide to early child training.






But as we train them, we also need to impress on our children their need for a Savior, their inability to earn salvation, and their obligation to obey the Word. All these things simultaneously wrapped in tenderness and loving authority is what proper parenting looks like.

Using guilt tactics or shame to try to influence our children’s behavior not only hurts them, but it gives them a distorted picture of our Heavenly Father, ultimately having the potential to do serious damage to their spiritual lives. Part of our responsibility as we parent is to represent our Heavenly Parent and demonstrate how He loves us. Granted, parents can NOT do this perfectly. We fail often and it needs to be recognized that mistakes made in parenting do not equal abuse.

There is a fine line here: the Bible commands us to teach our children to obey us and to honor our authority. It further instructs us to implement discipline to enforce that obedience. We must teach our children the difference in right and wrong, and what God has to say about the consequences of sin. Many have described this paradigm as a destructive method of “shaming”, though it is a clearly biblical concept. The Gospel has become so distorted in some Christian circles that any mention of sin and consequence is deemed spiritually abusive and unhealthy.

We must keep our thinking clear, teaching our children discernment between what the Bible says and the often incorrect philosophies of a “new Christianity.”

Relationship is Key

The most important thing parents can do to ensure a healthy balance as they instruct their children is to nurture their relationships with them. A child recognizes sincerity and love; he knows when a parent’s motives are right versus when a parent is only seeking outward behavior to satisfy his own needs.  He can easily honor and respect his parents, consequently learning to honor and respect the Lord through their example, when he senses that His parents are operating from a genuine love for his soul.

The following is a partial list of questions we need to be constantly asking ourselves:

  • Is my number one goal as a parent to point them to Christ?
  • Am I more concerned with the motives behind my children’s behavior than I am with the behavior itself?
  • Do I regularly praise the character of my children?
  • When my children sin, do I make it clear to them that their main offense is disobedience to God and not just something that “irritates” me? (i.e. Do I discipline them calmly, with love, or does my anger reveal that I’m merely frustrated and take their offense personally?)
  • When my children sin, do I offer them the promise of God’s forgiveness and model it myself? Do I allow them to make restoration and then drop the offense into “the sea of forgetfulness”?
  • Do I model repentance by asking my children for forgiveness when I have sinned?

Additionally, to strengthen the fellowship between you and your children, here are a few suggestions:

  • Communicate friendship to your children. It can be as small a gesture as a genuine smile, a random hug, or a friendly conversation; but, let them know that you really enjoy them and love being with them.
  • Take one of the children with you on errands and make the most of your individual time with them.
  • Touch them a lot…physical affection can’t be given too much.
  • Ask them questions about the activities that interest them. Listen and show genuine attention.

We are parents. We are sinful people. We fail and we must ask for repentance. We should be diligent to stay on our knees before our Heavenly Parent and ask for His grace and mercy, seeking to be faithful to the task of parenting to which we are called. Satan is always seeking to destroy, even through the misuse of our authority and through the misinterpretation of that authority by our children.

May we love them, discipline them, nurture them, and spur them on to a closer and deeper relationship with the Lord Jesus.

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I Live in an Antbed November 29, 2010 - 12:06 am

Excellent points!

Jennifer November 29, 2010 - 1:32 am

“Am I using shame or anger to get my child to do what I want them to do?
Do I withhold love or affection from my child or spouse in an attempt to change their behavior?
Do I expect perfection from my child, other family members, or myself?
Is my child able to fail without fearing the loss of my love or affection?
Do my children feel free to let me know if I have hurt their feelings or to respectfully disagree with a family decision (recognizing the authority of the father)?”

Kelly, I’ve JUST been reading about these exact things and the importance of what you describe. Thank you, way to go!!

Joy November 29, 2010 - 6:57 am

Hi Kelly,

Excellent points! But how do we do this with a two year old? I get really frustrated with my son and I feel like I’m losing the battle. Any advice?


Word Warrior November 29, 2010 - 10:00 am


Consistency and firm patience is key. Ideally, a child already has the basic concept and habit of obedience by the age of two, though there will still be testing of authority. But if not, make sure he knows his boundaries, what is acceptable behavior and what is not. We must be discerning with little ones to determine what is disobedience/defiance, versus just forgetting or childishness.

Draw the lines, state the consequences for disobedience, and then patiently and firmly prove your loyalty to those conditions. But ALWAYS bathe your interactions with affection and sincerity. Our children should see that we long to see them develop an attitude of honor because the Lord requires it.

Regina Murphy November 29, 2010 - 7:27 am

Thank you for this post. I needed this affirmation and conviction today. Sometimes I get so bogged down with the demands of being a wife and mother I lose sight of the joy in it all. I become so focused on the outward displays that I lose the heart, where it all comes from. Thanks for being willing to share the truth.

Liz November 29, 2010 - 7:31 am

This was great today.

the cottage child November 29, 2010 - 10:11 am

We’re (I’m) struggling with the concept of “interruption” just now – balancing the discipline of good manners, consideration, and patience with expressing (often important) information and feelings.

My own baggage is I remember feeling like I was ALWAYS an interruption to whatever my parents were doing – it was always “wait” or “don’t bug me” or “can’t you see I’m working/cleaning/etc?”. My inclination is to stop whatever I’m doing and tend to the need, real or perceived, and then end up bothered that they keep on interrupting. *sigh* Nothing like teaching small innocent people to get on your nerves – pure parenting genius!

I think the most important instruction you reminded us of is “Is my number one goal as a parent to point them to Christ?”. If not, our own bad behavior is going to end up causing us more frustration than theirs ever will.

Gabe November 29, 2010 - 10:17 am

Thank you for this wonderful post! I needed to hear this, to be reminded and convicted!

Beth November 29, 2010 - 10:58 am

This was wonderful. A good reminder for all parents. Especially me! I really appreciate all your posts. They encourage me all the time!

Pam November 29, 2010 - 12:18 pm

I need this, and will re-visit it to chew on it a bit more. Thanks.

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Taryn November 29, 2010 - 3:29 pm

I hesitate to quote Proverbs 22:6a(KJB) because I’m not including 6b and someone might say that’s taking it out of context- “Train up a child in the way he should go…”. Just listened to Pastor Joey Faust’s sermon over at kingdombaptist.org-The Blasphemy of Bambi, Benji, etc. He mentions what I read in that Daisy’s Swearing Class book at keepersofthefaith.com that gee,etc. are really ways of taking the Lord’s name in vain. I like teaching my grandchildren-“Yes,ma’am”- when we lived in Florida in the eighties my son went to school(before we heard of the concept of homeschooling) and that’s what they taught.

Renee November 29, 2010 - 5:05 pm

What a great post on biblical parenting! I enjoyed it 🙂

Mrs. Santos November 29, 2010 - 9:57 pm

Good reminder about regularly praising the character of our children. So often I am focused on what we need to work on than what they are doing well. Thanks, Kelly.

Hope you are doing well.

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Jessica November 30, 2010 - 6:08 am

I never feel like I”m doing anything right. Guess I have the problem with perfection.

Charity November 30, 2010 - 8:45 am

Thank you for these excellent reminders! I have found that it definitely helps to praise them for good behavior. 🙂

missy November 30, 2010 - 9:39 am

Wonderful post. I always get so much from reading your blog. Do you have any ideas to share about Christmas stress? We are also having #7 a week before Christmas by c section so I really have to get myself together. I get so stressed during the holidays. I am trying to start a few new simple traditions this year. I really want to take the focus off gifts. My children are not greedy and always “wanting” so that is a plus. How does your family handle the gift giving and not let it take control? Missy

Word Warrior November 30, 2010 - 10:38 am


Actually, Charity had asked about a post regarding Christmas and that should be the next one up!

Jennifer Griffin November 30, 2010 - 3:01 pm

I needed this badly today. We have made so many changes in a few short months. From a “relevant” church style to Family Integrated. We’ve added in family worship each day..we had already been homeschooling. I feel overwhelmed today with how far we still have to go. My husband took the week off just so we could work on discipline with our two boys.(4 and 10 yrs old) This is proving to be a hard process each day. I grew up being spanked in anger..frustration by an angry single mom. I never wanted to treat my kids that way but, I see it pop up from time to time in me. Changing all of the things we have been doing to a more biblical model is so tough. Habits are hard to break.

I feel frustrated and angry way to fast with my boys. I keep reading my Bible and praying that God can give me the power and strength to overcome. Any suggestions, books or ideas would be greatly appreciated. Thank you for this post! I will read it again!

Lindsey December 1, 2010 - 9:58 pm

Oh Jennifer,
You’re not the only one struggling, sister!! I tend to be so focused on behavior and what the outside world sees-I live in fear of judgment from others. May God change my heart now before its too late. I don’t want my children to grow up with a mama like me. I want them to grow up with a mama who patiently raises them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. Praying for you and your family.
…Thanks Kelly for such a timely word.

Rhonda November 30, 2010 - 4:33 pm

Great post. I am a pastors wife and I had only Sunday evening overly corrected my 13 year old son for a foolish he made in our Church sound booth. It is so easy to get into the performance trap. I just talked with him and told him I over reacted. Thanks. I love to pop over and read your blog when I get a chance.

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