The Bible’s 2000-year-old parenting advice

With 80% of South Africans estimated to be Christians it means that there are many parents who use the Bible as a guide to raise their children. But is the Bible’s parenting advice, penned almost 2000 years ago, still in sync with the parenting needs of the 21st century? This writer set out to compare the Bible’s parenting advice to what some modern experts are advocating.

Treatment of children

Bible: “…You fathers, do not be exasperating your children, so that they do not become downhearted. (Colossians 3:20, 21, New World Translation)

Modern expert: “Criticism and the threat of criticism from parents can make communication feel unsafe. Adolescents will shut up instead of speak up, and what needs declaration will not be said… So my advice: don't criticize your adolescent. Not only will it hurt the young person more than she will ever let you know; it is counterproductive. Misguided parents think that criticism will correct adolescent misbehavior, when in fact the opposite is usually true.” ~ Psychologist Carl Pickhardt in Psychology Today

Bad friends

Bible: Do not be deceived: “Bad company ruins good morals.” (1 Corinthians 15:33, English Standard Version)

Modern expert:  "Parents, educators, and scientists know that one of the most potent predictors of adolescents' engagement in aggression or risky behavior is the extent to which adolescents' friends are engaging in similar behaviors," ~ Geoffrey L. Cohen, Ph.D., associate professor at the University of Colorado at Boulder.

Starting early

Bible: “Chastise your son, while there is still hope of him, and do not let him run to ruin.” (Proverbs 19:18, Moffatt Translation)
Modern experts: “Even though your baby can't grasp discipline, this is a great time to start practising techniques that will work in the months and years to come. When she pulls on a lamp cord or sucks on a stereo knob, firmly tell her "no" and quickly redirect her to a safer activity. With her short attention span, she'll quickly forget about causing trouble.” ~ Sandy Bailey,  certified family life educator

Instilling discipline

He who spares his rod hates his son, but he who loves him disciplines him promptly. (Proverbs 13:24, New King James Version)

Modern expert: 'The claims that are made for not spanking children fail to hold up. I think of spanking as a dangerous-tool, but then there are times when there is a job big enough for a dangerous tool. You don't use it for all your jobs.' ~ Marjorie Gunnoe, professor of Psychology at Calvin College in the U.S. state of Michigan

'The idea smacking and violence are on a continuum is a bizarre and fetished view of what punishment is for most parents… If it's done judiciously by a parent who is normally affectionate and sensitive to their child, our society should not be up in arms about that. Parents should be taught to distinguish this from a punch in the face.' ~ Psychologist Aric Sigman

On deadbeat parents

Bible: “Certainly if anyone does not provide for those who are his own, and especially for those who are members of his household, he has disowned the faith and is worse than a person without faith.” (1 Timothy 5:8, New World Translation)

Modern expert: “Fatherhood advocates insist that the crisis of fatherless children is "the most destructive trend of our generation." Virtually every major social pathology has been linked to fatherlessness: violent crime, drug and alcohol abuse, truancy, teen pregnancy, suicide—all correlate more strongly to fatherlessness than to any other single factor. The majority of prisoners, juvenile detention inmates, high school drop-outs, pregnant teenagers, adolescent murderers, and rapists all come from fatherless homes. The connection is so strong that controlling for fatherlessness erases the relationships between race and crime and between low income and crime.” ~ Stephen Baskerville, Howard University


Looking at these few examples it appears that some of the principles sated by the ancient bible writers are in agreement with what many modern child psychologists advocate for today. In my view, the principles of parenting, nurturing and protecting a child, have not changed through out the ages. The challenge for the modern parents would be to take those principles and tailor make them for the 21st century - a task not to be taken lightly.

Read more by Sipho Yanano

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Disclaimer: The views of columnists published on Parent24 are their own and therefore do not necessarily represent the views of Parent24.

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