Parenting With A Purpose: Relationship Spoke

BIBLICAL BASIS – What does God say about this topic?

Luke 1:16-17, “And many of the children of Israel shall he turn to the Lord their God. And he shall go before him in the spirit and power of Elias, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”

John 10: 1-5, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that entereth not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbeth up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber. But he that entereth in by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the porter openeth; and the sheep hear his voice: and he calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out. And when he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice. And a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him: for they know not the voice of strangers.”

What purpose does this concept have in the parenting wheel?

Parenting must be built on the foundation of relationship. Without a relationship built on biblical principles and motivated by biblical goals, parents will not be able to positively impact their children spiritually despite having good motives, intentions, and instructions. The relationship you have with your child will impact how he views all of his future relationships including his relationship with God and His creation.

APPLICATION – The act of putting something to a special use or purpose.

What does this concept look like in “real life” mode?

Building Trust: Healthy relationships are built through experiences. Consider John 10:3-4, where the sheep follow the Shepherd because they know His voice. This would lead us to believe the sheep had heard the Shepherd’s voice before and had experiences that led them to trust that He had their best interests in mind. How parents interact with their children will affect the relationship with them and whether or not they believe the parents to be trustworthy. Knowing this, parents can use interactions, whether positive or negative, as opportunities to build their relationship with the children. While positive times together are certainly more pleasant, a parent who offers an apology and asks for forgiveness after negative interaction provides a powerful model of humility, repentance, and confession. This also demonstrates that parents are often learning just as much as their children through this process!

Knowing Your Child: A core aspect of relationships is knowing and being known by someone. This takes time, effort, sacrifice, and shared experiences. Consider how this applies to the parent-child relationship. How well would your child say that you know what is truly going on in his life?

Showing Interest and Being Engaged: Luke 1:17 tells us that one of the roles of John the Baptist was to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children. In essence, it shows the Lord’s desire for parents to be concerned about and care for their children. By getting into their children’s world, parents will be better in tune with their children’s desires and needs. This requires listening and focused attention to things that parents may not find interesting.

Letting Your Purpose be Known: Parents need to explicitly share and teach their children which goals, purposes and priorities guide the parents’ lives. For example, in 2 Corinthians 4:2 Paul expresses his purpose for writing to the Corinthians so there is no confusion as to his reason for the letter. Parents who are willing to be open and honest with their children will allow greater freedom for their children to be open and honest with them. Children need to see their parents’ hearts through both word and action, which ought to mirror that of Paul’s in 2 Corinthians 2.

Acknowledging God as Creator: Your child has been uniquely fashioned by God (Psalm 139). However, your child’s talents and gifts are also coupled with natural weaknesses. One of a parent’s most important parenting tasks is encouraging each child to draw on his strengths while identifying and working to either overcome or accept his weaknesses depending on what they are. By helping a child understand and accept both his God-given talents and his natural weaknesses, the child will be freer to develop a healthy sense of who God created him to be.

Being Created for Relationships: Remember, child will have relationships with someone or something. Therefore, healthy relationships at home can have a profound effect on a child’s life. God designed parents to have a special role in shaping their child’s ability to relate to others.

Shaping Your Child’s View of God: The parent-child bond provides the foundation for a child’s concept of God. This very humbling and weighty responsibility is also a wonderful privilege. Just think, parents get to help their child grow in understanding and relating to God! The primary goal in the parent-child relationship is to lead him to an “Abba Father” relationship with God as shown in Galatians 4:6-7, “And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father. Wherefore thou art no more a servant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ.” By building a healthy relationship with a child, parents begin to develop in him a healthy view of God and the world around him.

Recognizing that Growth Takes Time, Persistence, and Patience: Maturing and growing takes time for all of us. Parents must understand that children do not mature overnight; many lessons will need to be taught repeatedly. It can be very frustrating for parents to have to deal with certain problems (e.g., sharing, minding, etc.) over and over. However, when considering that children learn through repetition, we find that this is one of the main functions of parenting. Having unrealistic expectations of a child’s development will lead to a great deal of frustration that can negatively impact the parent-child relationship.

Building Connected Relationships: Parents can begin building relationships by turning their heart first to the Lord, then to their spouse, and finally to their children. Relationships with children will be hindered if relationships with God and spouse aren’t growing. To teach biblical principles to children but not follow them in the marital relationship is in effect the double-mindedness James warns against in James 1:8.

Establishing Marital Harmony as the Basis of Parenting: God uses the marital relationship between a man and a woman as a picture of the church’s relationship with Christ (2 Corinthians 11:2). Parents who live out scriptural principles in their marriage are helping their children develop a healthier understanding of their relationship with their Creator. Children thrive on safety and security. When there is strife in the marital relationship, safety and security are compromised. Parents need to make their marriage a priority. It is not an overstatement to say that one of the best things that parents can do for their children is to have a strong marriage.

Growing in Your Relationship with the Lord Affects Parenting: A healthy relationship with the Lord is essential to a godly marriage and godly parenting. One of the many reasons this is true is the importance of agape love which comes from God. Agape love is a self-sacrificing love that does not depend on the worthiness of the one being loved. This type of love must come from God as He is the source of this type of love. God has agape love for us in that we are unable to merit or earn the love of God; He loves us because He chooses to love us. Romans 5:8, “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” Christ is committed to His people through good and bad times. Parents are called to the same commitment to their children as the Lord has towards parents. Showing children that love for them and commitment to them does not change based on what they do is a great way to model God’s enduring love and commitment to His people. This does not mean that parents need to accept or embrace sin or poor behavior. However, it does mean that by God’s grace, parents need to extend agape love to them.

Parenting Styles

Research done by Diana Baumrind in the 1960’s identified different parenting styles based on two factors:

  • Parental demandingness: having clear expectations for behavior.
  • Parental responsiveness: how loving and warm the relationships are.

These parenting styles can be looked at through the lens of God’s grace and mercy (responsiveness) and His truth and holiness (demandingness). Neither grace nor truth can be compromised, and love must be the vehicle through which grace and truth flow. John 1:14 tells us that Jesus came in grace and truth, “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.” The diagram below shows four parenting styles and how each relates to a parent’s demandingness and responsiveness. As you read on, consider which style you tend toward.





Parental Demanding

















                                   Parental Responsiveness

Explanation of the Four Parenting Styles.1,2

Authoritarian Parenting Style (High Demandingness and Low Responsiveness): these parents have strict rules for their children and expect them to follow the rules without explaining the purpose or reason for the rules. There is little or no responsiveness (warmth) or reaction to the children, and punishment is often used when rules are broken. This type of parent might be compared to a drill sergeant. Authoritarian parenting styles generally lead to children who are obedient and proficient, but they rank lower in happiness, social competence, and self-esteem. They tend to be less emotionally connected to their parents.

Authoritative Parenting Style (High Demandingness and High Responsiveness): these parents establish rules and expectations for children but enforce and establish rules more collaboratively. Discipline is consistently applied but is more restorative than punitive. Authoritative parents tend to be more nurturing and forgiving when children break the rules. Authoritative parenting styles tend to result in children who are happy, capable, responsible, and successful.

Uninvolved Parenting Style (Low Demandingness and Low Responsiveness): these parents have very few, if any, expectations of their children nor do they respond to emotional needs of their children. They may provide for the children’s basic needs but are largely detached from them. These children tend to lack self-control, have low self-esteem, and are less competent than their peers.

Indulgent Parenting Style (Low Demandingness and High Responsiveness): these parents do not put many demands on their children and often do not have high expectations for their children in areas of self-control and self-regulation. These parents may be seen more as a friend of their children rather than a parent. Indulgent parenting often results in children who rank low in happiness and self-regulation. These children are more likely to experience problems with authority and tend to perform poorly in school.

How does this concept benefit children?

Relationships Have a Lasting Impact: Relationships are interconnected; they do not exist in a vacuum. Who parents are and how they interact with their child will shape who he becomes. If a child feels safe and secure in his relationship with his parents, he will recognize and understand what a healthy relationship looks like. Understand that God is at work in both parents’ and your child’s lives. Trials, including trials in relationships, will expose sin, brokenness, and the need for forgiveness. God uses parenting to help mold and shape children. Likewise, God uses children to mold and shape parents. Through the challenges of the parent-child relationship, God can expose the need for what only He can do in their lives. The wise parent understands the dependence and reliance we have on Him.

PERSONAL REFLECTION – How am I doing in this area?

  1. How is your relationship with Christ? Are you growing your attachment with Him?
  2. How is your relationship with your spouse? Is it modeling the type of relationship that reflects God’s design?
  3. Which parenting style do you identify with most and what are the strengths and weaknesses of your parenting style?
  4. How is your relationship with your children? Would they say with confidence that they feel your love? Do they know you have clear expectations and standards for their behavior?
  5. Identity at least two action items as to how you could build a healthier relationship with your child.
  6. Where could you show agape love to your child?


  1. E. E. Maccoby, “The Role of Parents in the Socialization of Children: An Historical Overview,” Developmental Psychology 28 (1992): 1006-1017.
  2. D. Baumrind, (1967). “Child-Care Practices Anteceding Three Patterns of Preschool Behavior,” Genetic Psychology Monographs 75 (1967): 43-88.

For Further Information:

Parenting Podcast Episodes: Child Parent Relationship