Nature Verses Nurture in Christian Child Training

Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. 'Honor your father and mother,' which is the first commandment with promise: 'that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth.' And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord.” Ephesians 6:1-4

As my children have been out interacting in public because of the activities they participate in and because of the things I have been called to do which they have been asked to support, I have received some interesting insight into their social development. For each child, I believe, the foundation on which they base their interactions with the world has to do with two things: nature and nurture.

The nature, or in Christian terms, the gifts and talents given a child, is the base from which each child begins life and perceives the world within the context of their own God given boundaries. I did not realize this fact when I had just one child, but now being the parent of three very different children, I have realized how important it is to take into account the basic nature of each of your children before making any judgments or strategies towards training that child in godly character. You see, just as I understand that I have certain traits in my own personal character that both secure my footing in Christ and contrastingly cause my footing to slip up, so do my children. For one child the gift of determination is paired with a judgmental attitude, for another the gift of wit is paired with self-doubt, and for another the gift of forgiveness is paired with naivety. To not consider that the gifted areas are truly gifts and not the efforts of a particular child's excellent ability to control him or herself would be an oversight on my part. Instead I need to be thankful that God has given each of these gifts to my children as part of His unique plan for them but also that their gifting is meant to be the base from which their short-comings are to be tempered, and that is where unique training begins in the unique hearts of each of my children.

The nurtured part of a child is that part which training hopefully not only brings that particular child in line with the scriptures, but also which allows the child to be taught  to use the gifts God has given them to battle against the biggest holes in their armor. The problem with training children though is the fact that in order for children to heed your training they must honor you and your place of authority in their lives, and this goes back to the differing natural gifts within children. One thing I always tell people is: If my daughter had been born first I would have looked upon other parents as complete failures. My daughter has such an easy-going way of looking at life, of taking instruction, and in wanting to please my husband and me, and therefore she does not do many things which lead me to discipline her for wrong actions or attitudes. But thankfully my two boys were born first and I they drug me through the trenches of child training and in, what I thought at times when they were little, was much more painful for me than it was for them.

In looking at Ephesians 6: 1-4 in light of what I have felt compelled to write I can see why the wording is set as it is: First, children need to be brought into a place where their hearts truly desire to honor the instruction of their parents. Then, within the context of a willing heart, parents are able to train and admonish their children in godly instruction. Forcing a child to honor you or to do what you say by the commands you give them only last so long. It is the heart of the child that steers his/her training in the long run and which can either bring about refinement of godly character or can stir up and provoke a self-serving heart within a child.

In watching my children and knowing how far they each have come from where they started, I am encouraged as to how God will use each of them and continue to refine them over the years He has planned out ahead for each of them. Are they perfect? Certainly not. But then again neither am I. One thing though I praise the Lord about is that each of them have a heart which desires to honor my husband and me and be humble when we or another godly person in their life instructs them. My oldest is even now at a place where he desires to seek the Lord on his own to make sure that outward godly instruction is truly from the Lord and are not just mere teachings of man.

If you want to look at it in another way think of this analogy: A heart is like a piece of unrefined metal. If the metal stays on the cold ground then the work needed to shape it and refine it is extensive and it never turns out a finished work which could be fittingly called the work of a craftsman. On the other hand, if a piece of metal goes into the heat then the work needed to shape it and refine it is much easier and the process results in a beautiful work of art within the hand of a master craftsman. Accordingly, the first and most important work of a parent in training a child and creating the framework from which the nurturing of a child brings about godly character is to move a child into a place where they are willing to submit to the heat that God needs to apply to their life (first through us their parents leading them there and showing them through our own obedience, but then over time solely within their own relationship with the Lord) and be willing to be changed and crafted within it.

Take heart dear parents.  The calling of the Lord to instruct your children is within His will and He will never abandon you in this pursuit if you have a heart that is willing to follow His lead as you then lead your children closer to Him.


  1. Very timely for me. My problem is having a child, whom all the others learn from, who doesn't honor and respect. And it's nothing I can teach her or bring out in her. It is a work that only God can do in her. My part is patience and prayer - and I'm good at neither one. Thanks for your ever encouraging words. Blessings.

  2. Sounds like you are being refined and crafted into something even better alongside your child. Glad I could be of encouragement. You and your child are in my prayers. - Peggy


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