Genesis 1:28God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it.”
•• Children are the natural result of marriage, which God blesses.
•• In the very beginning, in the Garden of Eden, God created marriage, blessed it, and encouraged the bearing and raising of children. The role of the parent is a sacred trust from God.
Psalm 127:3-5a Sons are a heritage from the LORD, children a reward from him.  Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are sons born in one’s youth. [5a] Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them.
•• Regard your children for what they are — that is, God-given blessings!
•• “...a heritage...reward...blessed is the man” — God blessed my wife and me with four children and, at the time of this writing, five grandchildren with another on the way [2015 update: 8 grandchildren]. Our four children are married adults now, and they have proven to be a blessing and a continual source of joy.
Let’s look together at what I call the “three keys” to raising kids into responsible adults who will effectively serve God, their families, and their society.
These 3 keys are TRAINING, LOVE, and DISCIPLINE.
(1) TRAIN your children —
Proverbs 20:11 Even a child is known by his actions, by whether his conduct is pure and right.
•• A child’s conduct is important to God and should, therefore, be of great importance to parents.
•• “A child is known by his actions...” — Believe me, your children’s conduct is obvious to onlookers. It is actually a part of your total testimony.
• Once in Florida, my wife and I and another Christian couple took our total of seven young children to a local restaurant. We had to split up into seating at two adjacent tables. We put the five older children (none of them older than about age 10) by themselves at the second table. The manager hovered nervously nearby for a short time, until he noticed — I think to his great surprise! — that all the kids were quiet, polite, and well-behaved. I share this story to illustrate the fact that it is entirely possible to follow biblical principles and raise children who can act responsibly in public at an early age, with a minimum of supervision.
Proverbs 22:6 Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.
•• This is the Bible’s promise, period. Treasure this principle, apply it, hold onto it.
• Training a child involves repetition, reinforcement, encouragement, sometimes over and over. But in the end, it is worth it!
•• The training your child most needs is in two areas: (1) in character, and (2) in the things of the Lord.
•• It has been said that until approximately age 8 (and that will vary with the child), the training of children is comprised mostly of input from us. After that, children can begin increasingly to make sound moral judgments from that godly input you have been giving them over their earlier years.
Deuteronomy 6:6-7 These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts.  Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.
•• The home is the primary training environment. The church is only a helper to you in the accomplishing of your primary responsibility.
•• We parents are entrusted with taking our children from 0% to 100% responsibility for their lives.
•• Home is the ideal place for children to:
• learn to get along with others
• learn work skills, social skills, manners, good attitudes, and much, much more.
•• Home is where parents model being a Christian and, in turn, present to their children the knowledge and practical opportunities to develop that in their own lives.
Ephesians 6:4Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.
•• Parents — including Dads! — it is your responsibility to ensure that your children know and serve the Lord.
• Bible reading (more on that below) ... prayer at meals, at bedtimes, for needs ... relating the Lord to their everyday lives and activities.
•• A lady in our church, who raised three godly daughters to adulthood, shared this wisdom with me. She said be sure to expose children continually to the presence of the Lord. We can do that in a variety of ways, including:
• Be part of a good, Bible-believing, worshiping church, and teach your children to love being “in church”.
• Spend devotional time with them personally. Pray with them, read the Bible with them.
• Let your home be filled with Christian music. Sing to the Lord with your children. Teach them worship songs.
•• Don’t “exasperate” your children. Home is not a Marine boot camp! Rigid, harsh parenting will often lead to rebellion rather than the desired results.
•• But do present to them, day after day, in a positive and encouraging way, the “training and instruction of the Lord”.
•• (1) Character training — Address conduct and attitudes that are inappropriate, and instruct them in God’s approach to each character issue. You don’t necessarily need set times of character teaching. It works just fine to seize upon “learning moments” in the midst of their everyday lives.
•• (2) Bible training! You must...must...must read the Bible to your children ... and discuss it with them.
• With my firstborn child, every day I would read Scriptures from an age-appropriate Bible to him. As he matured, I transitioned from a very basic children’s Bible to editions appropriate for his age and current understanding. We enjoyed this time together, and over his young years we went through many Bibles together. Today he is a successful businessman, family man, and a lay pastor in a large church in his city.
• As our family grew, my wife and I had to be more creative in the Bible training. For a number of years, I would read the Bible to several of the children at once. I would stop often and give little verbal “pop quizzes” on what I had just read. The kids enjoyed it, and we kept it light-hearted, with the result being that they paid close attention.
(2) LOVE your children —
Titus 2:3-4 Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good.  Then they can train the younger women to love their husbands and children...
•• Children thrive on love. The story is told of an English hospital in the 19th century. There were young, orphaned children there who received medical attention but little or no emotional support. Many of those ill children would simply languish and die. But a lady janitor who worked the hospital night shift asked for permission to carry a declining child in a sling on her hip while she worked. She would lavish attention and love upon the child while she swept and cleaned. And, lo and behold, some of those children who had been “failing to thrive” and were expected to decline and die, reversed course and responded to her love by rallying back to health. Love is powerful!
•• Tell your children and show them often that you love them.
• Be sure to affirm them. Praise them.
•• Show physical affection. Hug your children, hold them. One study of pregnant 13-year-old girls discovered that a prevailing common trait was that while growing up they had received little or no pure, wholesome physical affection from their fathers. They told the researchers that their craving for this lack of wholesome touches and hugs in the home drove them to seek it elsewhere. And unfortunately they too often found it in illicit sexual encounters.
•• “Give” yourself to your children, even as “...Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (Ephesians 5:25). Love is at its best when it is giving.
• Give your children portions of your time. Give them your full attention when they talk to you.
•• Be involved in their lives and interests ... listen to them ... spend time with them ... include them in housework (you can’t always play with them).
•• But love your spouse first and foremost! My first pastor wisely taught us: “Dads, the best thing you can do for your kids is to love their Mom.”
(3) DISCIPLINE your children —
Proverbs 13:24 He who spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is careful to discipline him.
•• Discipline them diligently, consistently, and early in life.
•• You say, “I love them too much to discipline them.” No! You don’t. The Bible says that you “hate” them if you neglect the discipline they need.
•• Start early. Years ago a family that had raised godly children told me that they taught their children the meaning of the word “no” beginning at 6 months.
• You’re preparing them, in obedience to Titus 2:11-12, to be able to say “no” to sinful inclinations — “...the grace of God ...  teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions...”
•• Notice that love and discipline go hand in hand — “...he who loves him is careful to discipline him.”
• Remember our threefold key: love, training, and discipline. All three are needed, in a good balance.
Proverbs 22:15Folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline will drive it far from him. (KJV: “the rod of correction”)
•• The Hebrew for “rod” is “a stick”. I recommend spanking with a light wooden spoon that will sting, but not do tissue damage.
•• Your children and mine begin life with rebellious hearts.
• The Bible says it takes spanking to correct that! Child rearing that neglects spanking when needed is not effective parenting.
•• Some years ago a pediatrician was talking about child discipline. Here was his astonishing comment: “Yes, the Bible does teach spanking. But the Bible is wrong!” At least he was honest enough to admit what the Bible teaches, even though he went on to disagree with it.
•• Here is our current Oregon state law, as of this writing in 2012 — 161.205 Use of physical force generally. The use of physical force upon another person that would otherwise constitute an offense is justifiable and not criminal under any of the following circumstances:
(1)(a) A parent, guardian or other person entrusted with the care and supervision of a minor or an incompetent person may use reasonable physical force upon such minor or incompetent person when and to the extent the person reasonably believes it necessary to maintain discipline or to promote the welfare of the minor or incompetent person. (underlining and bold type added by me for emphasis) Check your state laws to see how they read.
• “Reasonable physical force” — ask God for wisdom to apply that wisely. In no case should a spanking injure a child or leave lasting marks.
• I am reluctant to commit to writing a “recommended” method for spanking. Inevitably someone might read it wrongly and think that I have justified child abuse. I am adamantly opposed to child abuse — physical, verbal, sexual, or any other kind.
•• Be consistent, make it count, do not injure the child.
•• When to spank (here are some definite “spanking offenses”) —
• open sin, such as lying to you
• bad attitudes
•• Expect children to obey the first time. Does God expect us to obey Him the first time? Yes!
•• What about temper tantrums? With our children, that was an automatic spanking offense. Think about it — we’re helping them learn to overcome the carnal nature. Get through to them as children ... can you imagine adults having temper tantrums just because we are tired, irritated, etc.?
•• How much fussing and whining should you tolerate from your children at bedtime? Very little. You are the adult, you are in charge, and you know what’s best for them. Set up a nighttime routine and expect it to be obeyed.
•• Should siblings be allowed to argue or tease? No. Otherwise, you’ll allow those habits to be cemented into their personalities as adults.
Proverbs 29:15, 17 The rod of correction imparts wisdom, but a child left to himself disgraces his mother....  Discipline your son, and he will give you peace; he will bring delight to your soul.
•• You can’t afford not to discipline your children. Do it in combination with much love and godly training ... and they will “bring delight to your soul”.
I have focused above primarily on the spanking aspect of child discipline. There are additional methods of discipline as well, such as “timeouts”, removing privileges, and more. But they should be used in conjunction with spanking-as-needed, not in place of it. Ask God for wisdom to implement a well-balanced approach to discipline. I would be remiss if I failed to emphasize that, at least in your children’s earlier years, your discipline program will be ineffective if it does not include spanking for what I have listed above as spanking offenses.
Some thoughts about AGE LEVELS for discipline —
• BABIES —
•• Teach them “no” with loving firmness (not physical). Some successful parents recommend starting this verbal training at about age 6 months.
•• Don’t overly “baby proof” your home. The home is their training ground. Just remove cherished and dangerous items. Children must learn that there are “NOs” in this world.
• I can go into a home and tell within just a few minutes if it’s the parents or the children who are in charge in that home! Dads and Moms, you are the adults, you are in charge and accountable to God.
• TODDLERS —
•• Lots of consistent training and appropriate discipline are generally needed.
•• Self-test: Does my child obey me the first time I ask? If not, there is work to do.
•• Do it right at this stage and it will be much easier later on. Training and discipline done now will most likely help you to not have difficult teens.
•• Teach them boundaries, and give them much freedom within those boundaries. That teaches independence, but also self-control and respect for authority.
• PRESCHOOL AND ELEMENTARY —
•• Continue the trio of training, love, and discipline.
•• Work hard at this stage on developing right attitudes and good character.
• PRETEENS AND TEENS —
•• Spankings are pretty much over with. Use other forms of discipline (remove privileges, etc.).
## SOME FINAL SUGGESTIONS —
• Public discipline? It is unwise to spank your child in public. Deal with the transgression at home.
• Ask yourself, do you believe it is acceptable for children to be loud, running, jumping, and out of control in the house?
• Again, expect obedience the first time, every time, as God does.
• Don’t let children “play” one parent against the other.
• Don’t conflict openly with your spouse about discipline.
• Don’t provoke your children. Be fair and just.
• Don’t tempt them to lie — “Did you do that?!!” — when you already know that they did it!
• Don’t make idle threats, such as: “One more time and I...”
• Be consistent. A rule is a rule. Enforce it consistently.
• When you spank, make it count. Then pray together, look for repentance, then forgive and drop it.
• Don’t compare children openly — “Why don’t you act like...?”
• Don’t belittle them, because “the glory of children are their fathers” (Proverbs 17:6, KJV).
• Don’t nag. You shouldn’t have to nag a well-trained child.
• Don’t keep putting them off. Put down the paper, or close the laptop, and listen to them.
• Spend quality time with them. But don’t let it put your spouse into a secondary place of priority.
In sum, TRAIN them, LOVE them, and DISCIPLINE them as needed. You will have lifelong delight watching your children live out their lives as productive, godly adults.
Postscript: I have shared this message with the desire of helping you raise godly children. If you raised your children without knowing these biblical truths, or perhaps applied them incompletely, we still serve a loving God who answers prayer. Continue to pray for your children, even long after they have become adults. God loves all your children and desires to reach them and to continue to shape their character at any age. Thank you for all your love, work, and sacrifice in your roles as parents. Continue to seek God on behalf of your children, that they will draw ever closer to God and will fulfill all of God’s purposes in their lives.