Biblical Parenting Books

There is a plethora of resources available to Christian parents today, which is both a blessing and a problem.  How do you know which are the most biblical and which may steer you in the wrong direction?  After all, you want to be right on track with what the Bible says about parenting!  You don’t want to realize that you missed the target when your children are leaving the house, but you want to “…bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” (Eph. 6:4)  I encourage you to make it your goal to read at least one of these books this fall!  Here are my current Top 10 Biblical Parenting Books…

Shepherding a Child’s Heart by Tedd Tripp has become a classic biblical parenting book.  If you are only going to read one parenting book this year, or if you have never read this, I can’t urge you more strongly to start with this one.  There is also an excellent Study Guide available that really expands upon the book in a simple manner, written by Tedd Tripp 10 years after the original publication, and will help you to practically work through some of the topics in your own family.

“Don’t Make Me Count to Three!” by Ginger Plowman is my wife’s favorite parenting book.  It takes the biblical principles in Shepherding a Child’s Heart and makes them extremely tangible.  My favorite quote is from the Foreword, “I’ve heard many ‘experts’ proclaim that the Bible has very little to say about raising children.  Perhaps they have spent too much time earning their degrees and too little time learning the Scriptures.  God’s Word has plenty to say to parents if we diligently read it, apply it, and reap its fruits.” (pp. 16-17)

If you are looking for a “theology” of Christian parenting, this is your book: What the Bible Says About Parenting.  John MacArthur faithfully and clearly explains the Scriptures that God has given us regarding parenting.  Don’t let “theology of Christian parenting” turn you away though–in my opinion, this is one of John MacArthur’s best books.  He is practical and passionate when he talks about the family and raising children God’s way, and it shows in his own family.

Your Family God’s Way by Wayne Mack.  If you are having communication struggles within your family, whether in your marriage, with your children, or teens, this is the book for you.  The subtitle, “Developing & Sustaining Relationships in the Home” belies that it deals with more, but the way that Wayne Mack practically explains the biblical principles of communication is worth this book’s weight in gold.

If you are struggling with being pessimistic about your family or your role as a parent, Disciplines of a Godly Family by Kent and Barbara Hughes is biblically joyful and positive.  It is chock full of ideas for enjoying your family, learning and growing together, and living for the Lord.  It is not as much of a parenting manual as some of the other books, but I highly recommend it if you need to move beyond a foundation, or if you need hope or ideas.

See my earlier blog post regarding The Duties of Parents by J.C. Ryle.  It is available in a free download as a PDF here!  It is an excellent booklet and is only 38 pages.  The only caution I give is that Ryle sees Proverbs 22:6 as an absolute promise from God rather than as a divinely inspired proverb that explains how things generally work.  If it were a promise, however, there would be no faithful parents with unfaithful children.  It is well worth reading though and it will be helpful with your parenting.

The title of Gospel-Powered Parenting: How the Gospel Shapes and Transforms Parenting by William Farley intrigued me enough to get it on my bookshelf.  I am confident commending it heartily as my Pastor, Mike Pohlman, recommends it.  See his blog post here.  Farley says in his Introduction, “In my experience, the most effective parents have a clear grasp of the cross and its implications for daily life.”

The Faithful Parent: A Biblical Guide to Raising a Family by Martha Peace and Stuart Scott is written by the same author  that I have trusted enough (Scott) to read The Exemplary Husband three times!  In an interview about this book Scott remarked that it is written from a “different yet biblical perspective: God’s and the parent’s faithfulness rather than the ‘product’ or the outcome.”

In Age of Opportunity: A Biblical Guide to Parenting Teens, Paul David Tripp hopefully titles the first chapter, “Age of Opportunity or Season for Survival?”  Certainly it is the former.  Ken Sande explains that this book “…provides a superb road map for raising teenage children…[and] experiencing with them the challenges, victories, and joys of our journey to maturity in Christ.”

Growing Up Christian by Karl Graustein is not a parenting book.  It is actually written to teens who have grown up in the church and subtitled, “Have you taken ownership of your relationship with God?”  It is well written and a book that would be perfect for a parent of a teenager to read simultaneously with their teen and discuss over coffee or a meal together.  It would be a great way to shepherd your child’s [teen’s] heart!

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The Blessing of Being a Parent

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Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one’s youth. Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them!” Psalm 127:3-5a.

Note: Our 3rd blessing, Ezra Counts (see picture above), was born yesterday!

As congratulations have come pouring in on the birth of our son, one word I have often enjoyed hearing is “blessing.” If one word could be used to describe God’s attitude toward children, it is “blessing.” Think of the attitude of the psalmnist in Psalm 127. Heritage. Fruit. Reward. Blessing.

Contrast this with the often heard world’s view of children: Expensive. Brats. Time-consuming. Unwanted.

We need to have our minds renewed by God’s Word in every area of life. The tricky part usually comes years later. It’s pretty normal to be joyful when a new baby is born. But Moms, don’t forget God’s blessing on you when that child is having terrible two tantrums. Dads, don’t forget God’s blessing on you when you have to talk to your teen about dating or driving privileges. It’s a blessing from our good and gracious God to be given children. They are a stewardship from Him. May we take up that stewardship joyfully for the next eighteen plus years.

“The Duties of Parents” by J.C. Ryle and Free Download

All Christian parents need biblical, helpful reminders of what their responsibilities are to their children.  I have been so encouraged and challenged by The Duties of Parents by J.C. Ryle that I am quoting Ryle’s first 3 points below.  If I hear they are helpful, I may quote more portions in the future.  Here’s the great news: the entire 38 page booklet is available in a free PDF or Kindle dowload here (if you would rather have the published booklet for less than $5, click here).

1) First, then, if you would train your children rightly, train them in the way they should go, and not in the way that they would.

Remember children are born with a decided bias towards evil, and therefore if you let them choose for themselves, they are certain to choose wrong.

The mother cannot tell what her tender infant may grow up to be–tall or short, weak or strong, wise or foolish: he may be any of these things or not–it is all uncertain.  But one thing the mother can say with certainty: he will have a corrupt and sinful heart.  It is natural to us to do wrong.  “Foolishness,” says Solomon, “is bound in the heart of a child” (Prov. 22:15).  “A child left to himself bringeth his mother to shame” (Prov. 24:15).  Our hearts are like the earth on which we tread; let it alone, and it is sure to bear weeds…

If you cannot make up your mind to this first principle of Christian training, it is useless for you to read any further.  Self-will is almost the first thing that appears in a child’s mind; and it must be your first step to resist it.

2) Train up your child with all tenderness, affection, and patience.

I do not mean that you are to spoil him, but I do mean that you should let him see that you love him.

Love should be the silver thread that runs through all your conduct.  Kindness, gentleness, long-suffering, forbearance, patience, sympathy, a willingness to enter into childish troubles, a readiness to take part in childish joys–these are the cords by which a child may be led most easily–these are the clues you must follow if you would find the way to his heart.

Few are to be found, even among grown-up people, who are not more easy to draw than to drive.  There is that in all our minds which rises in arms against compulsion; we set up our backs and stiffen our necks at the very idea of a forced obedience.  We are like young horses in the hand of a breaker: handle them kindly, and make much of them, and by and by you may guide them with thread; use them roughly and violently, and it will be many a month before you get the mastery of them at all…

3)  Train your children with an abiding persuasion on your mind that much depends on you.

…this is one of God’s merciful arrangements.  He gives your children a mind that will receive impressions like moist clay.  He gives them a disposition at the starting-point of life to believe what you tell them, and to take for granted what you advise them, and to trust your word rather than a stranger’s.  He gives you, in short, a golden opportunity of doing them good…

Beware of that miserable delusion into which some have fallen–that parents can do nothing for their children, that you must leave them alone, wait for grace, and sit still.  These persons have wishes for their children in Balaam’s fashion–they would like them to die the death of the righteous man, but they do nothing to make them live his life.  They desire much, and have nothing.  And the devil rejoices to see such reasoning, just as he always does over anything which seems to excuse indolence, or to encourage neglect of means.

I know that you cannot convert your child.  I know well that they who are born again are born, not of the will of man, but of God.  But I know also that God says expressly, “Train up a child in the way he should go,” and that he never laid a command on man which He would not give man grace to perform.  And I know, too, that our duty is not to stand still and dispute, but to go forward and obey.  It is just in the going forward that God will meet us.  The path of obedience is the way in which He gives the blessing…

A Reminder as School Begins…The Husband and Father’s Responsibilities: A Quote from Jonathan Edwards

As school is now in full swing, I want to share this Jonathan Edwards quote that is a timely thought on a husband’s and father’s responsibilities (moms, don’t miss the second part of the quote regarding raising your children!).

…the person in your house that claims your first and nearest attention, is, undoubtedly, your wife; seeing you are to love her, even as Christ hath loved the Church. . . . Next to your wife are your children; immortal spirits whom God hath, for a time, entrusted to your care, that you may train them up in all holiness, and fit them for the enjoyment of God in eternity. This is a glorious and important trust; seeing one soul is of more value than all the world beside. Every child, therefore, you are to watch over with the utmost care, that, when you are called to give an account of each to the Father of spirits, you may give your accounts with joy and not with grief.
Jonathan Edwards

[HT: Family Ministry Today]

I recently met a man at a car wash who saw my young children in my car and told me, “Love your wife.  Don’t forget to love your wife.  It is best for your children, best for her, and best for you.”  This was a 2-minute interaction that we had, but with tears in his eyes he shared that he lost his influence with his children as well as most of his monthly paycheck because he did not love his wife.  Both Jonathan Edwards (knowingly) and the man at the car wash (unknowingly) are echoing the theme of Ephesians 5:25 & 6:4.

“Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her … Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.”