(Reformed Child Rearing)
Professor David Engelsma
If we are willing to discipline, we are ready and eager to forgive, when, by the discipline, the Holy Spirit has worked repentance in the child. We must express forgiveness to the child, "God forgives you; and I forgive you." Then, we must forget about the fault.
Finally, if one of our children, when he grows up, shows himself an ungodly young man, or herself, an ungodly young woman, who despises and rebels against our admonition, we must follow the "way of Deuteronomy 21:18-21" with him, or her: "...Then shall his father and his mother lay hold on him, and bring him out unto the eiders...and they shall say unto the eiders of his city, This our son is stubborn and rebellious, he will not obey our voice; he is a glutton, and a drunkard. And all the men of his city shall stone him with stones, that he die: so shalt thou put evil away from among you; and all Israel shall hear, and fear." The Israelite parent brought his wicked child to the elders, to be stoned to death. Today, in the church, parents are to bring their unruly child to the elders, to be excommunicated out of the church and to be cut off from the fellowship of the saints, if he does not repent. Never are Reformed parents in the position that they wring their hands helplessly; never may they allow the church to be corrupted by unbelieving, lawless young people.
We love our children as covenant children, for God's sake, not at the expense of God's glory. Our friendship with them is in the Lord Jesus, not regardless of Him. Not every one of the children of believers is a covenant child of promise (Rom. 9:8). When one's own child, by unbelief and unrighteousness, denies Christ, the parent faces the choice: my Christ or my child; and he chooses Christ. Then Christ sends the sword into our very family "to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother...and a man's foes shall be they of his own household." Whoever, then, "loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me" (Matt. 10: 34-39). Of course, the resort to church discipline may have as its happy outcome the child's repentance and salvation; and for this the parent never ceases to hope and to pray.
This is Reformed, biblical child-rearing: love them; live with them in friendship; and discipline them, taking the Fatherhood of God as pattern.
If God's Fatherhood of us cost Him His own Son, we cannot expect our child-rearing to be easy, painless, and cheap.
But it is possible. Good rearing and a good family-life are possible, still today. It is required of all parents who name the Name of Christ. The possibility is not ourselves, not at all. The possibility is the blessing of God - sovereign, covenant grace - besought fervently in prayer, for "except the LORD build the house, they labor in vain that build it" (Ps. 127:1).
This is the conclusion of this pamphlet. You can find the entire pamphlet here: