Unbiblical vs Biblical Parenting


What does the church think of emotional and mental abuse that is used in homes to control children. Is it ever justified? Would a member of the church confront another member if it was found to be happening or does the church let parents decide to treat their children unfairly and crush their spirit, even though the measures they use are extreme in 2011?


Dear Ernestine,

For clarity, let me define what I mean with emotional and mental abuse of children in order to control them into certain behaviors.  There are many ways that parents use this ‘tool.’  I took these examples from Dr. Dobson’s book Parenting Isn’t for Cowards but edited them a bit.

  1. Emotional Blackmail:  Do what I want or I’ll get very angry and would loose control.
  2. Guilt trip: How could you do this to me after all I’ve done for you?
  3. Foreclosure or Bribe: Do what I want and I will give you supper.
  4. Raw Power threat: If you don’t listen to me, I beat you up with a belt.
  5. Humiliation:  Let me see you do that again and I will embarrass you before the whole family.
  6. Self-pity: Don’t upset me; can’t you see how difficult I am having it.
  7. Appeal to the dead: You dear father or mother would have agreed with me when still alive.
  8. Seduction: I make you an offer you can’t refuse.  You do this for me and I take to the zoo.

I am sure we could think of a few more examples. But all these are examples of manipulation through the emotional gate.  The entire purpose is to have power over the others and force them into compliance.

None of these methods are acceptable or justified yet every parent knows that there are times we might have slightly strayed into one of these categories.  But if these are the common methods used in the raising of our children, we are deeply wounding the spirits of our children and raising them to rebellion. God’s will is clear, “Fathers, provoke not your children to anger, lest they be discouraged.”  Children are provoked to anger by injustice, loss of temper, undue severity, cruelty, favoritism, suppression, sarcasm, ridicule and any other misuse or abuse of authority and power.  A parent’s task to rule in God’s name and we must use God’s methods of “parenting” His children.  None of the above methods are used by God and therefore shouldn’t be ever used by us as parents.  Your comment about ‘2011’ seems to suggest that certain methods were acceptable in former years.  That’s not the case.  What is not acceptable today was also not acceptable in 1800 or in 2060!

If you know that a parent is using these methods, you should confront them and point out that it is sin when they parent their children in such ways.  But be sure to be ready to support these parents with help on how then to do it.  It is the poorly equipped parents who resort to these methods to coerce their children into compliance.  We all know if we are parents, how frustrating and taxing it can be to lead your children into the right paths.  If we grew up with poor or bad role models or lack of straightforward education, parents fall into this task completely unprepared.

One of the reasons we should do all we can to stop unbiblical parenting styles is because it damages the children.  They are the victims that are helpless.  Many adults struggle all their life because in their childhood years they have been wounded and neglected by their parents.  This can lead to a host of personal issues later in life such as difficulties making relationships,  various character weaknesses, insecurity, fear, lack of confidence, anger and rebellion.

If your personal contact isn’t making a difference, you should share it with your spiritual leaders and enlist their help.  Hopefully together you make a difference both for the parents and the children.

Pastor Vergunst