Marriage and Family: The Terrible Twos … and Threes … and Fours … and …

An Introduction to Perplexity

It is God’s intention for a married couple to seek to have children. Thus, since you are following God’s Word, it should be smooth sailing. All should go well. Sorry, but the reality is that you will find yourself very much “at sea” when it comes to raising your family. Perhaps if you have 12, as Jacob did, you might have some idea by number 12 what to do; child-rearing is difficult but rewarding. You do not get an instruction manual when they come; there is no toll-free help line for instructions. But you do have the Word of God to guide. What follows in this article are scriptural principles which have relevance throughout the rearing of your family; some are more important in early years while others apply to later years.

The Importance of Unity

As has been noted previously and frequently, the Spirit of God addresses fathers when He speaks of child-rearing (Eph 6:4; Col 3:21). This indicates the fact that a father, as head in the home, has responsibility for how children are raised and for the tenor of the home. To balance this, that same Spirit depicts women caring for the children in home. Whether we look at Hannah, Jochebed, Mary (Luke 2), or Eunice, the hands-on care of children has been (wisely) entrusted to the mother. An awareness of this highlights the teaching of the wise man, Solomon, on the critical need for unity in the raising of a family. The unity he urges is displayed in several realms:

Unity in Teaching – “My son, hear the instruction of thy father, and forsake not the law of thy mother” (Pro 1:8).[1] Parents must both teach the same values to the family. These are taught both by modeling them and by instruction from the Scriptures.

Unity in Affection – “For I was my father’s son, tender and only beloved in the sight of my mother” (4:3). Favoritism must be avoided. Both parents must display equal love to all the children. Children quickly become adept at playing parents off against each other.

Unity in Goals – “My son, keep thy father’s commandment, and forsake not the law of thy mother” (6:20). Parents may have different career and life goals for children, many times seeking to see their own dreams fulfilled in their offspring. Be united in seeking the Lord’s will for them and not your own!

Unity in Joy – “A wise son maketh a glad father: but a foolish son is the heaviness of his mother” (10:1). Both parents should find pleasure in the accomplishments of the children and should verbalize that joy and appreciation.

Unity in Priority – “Buy the truth, and sell it not …. The father of the righteous shall greatly rejoice; and he that begetteth a wise child shall have joy of him. Thy father and thy mother shall be glad, and she that bare thee shall rejoice. My son, give me thine heart, and let thine eyes observe my ways” (23:23-26). Teach them that it is never wrong to do right, to love truth, and to value righteousness!

The Issues Which Are a Priority

With unity as a “given” in the raising of a family, what priorities should a couple have for the family?

The Development of the Child

“Train up a child” (Pro 22:6) may have more to do with understanding the natural ability with which he or she is endowed and fostering that in the child. Do not relive your life through your children or push them to do what you would have liked to have done.

A person’s view of God determines everything. But it is not knowledge in the abstract. To influence a child’s perception of God and the world is to determine character. Proverbs is interested in wisdom; but that wisdom is a way of skillful living which shapes character. Hannah prepared Samuel for the future and what he would encounter at Shiloh; she knew what was fitting and what was foremost. Moses’ parents hid him from Egypt as long as they could.

Discipline of the Child

“Son rearing” is far more comprehensive than simply what punishment to give. It carries the concept of seeing to the full development of a child: the mental, physical, emotional and spiritual well-being. It embraces preparation for adult life. Joseph the carpenter taught his “Son” carpentry. He brought Him to the Temple at Passover; Sabbaths were spent in synagogue (Pro 29:15). Discipline should mainly be positive, reinforcing what is right. When correction is needed, it should be firm, fair, fitting, and never in frustration or fury (Pro 19:18; 22:15; 23:13,24).


It is a father’s responsibility to teach his children the Word of God. This cannot be left to a Sunday school or a Christian school. This instruction embraces teaching them the wisdom of God (Pro 3:21; 1:7-9), the fear of God, and the basic truth of the Word of God (2Ti 3:14-16).


Children need direction and boundaries. In Psalm 127, the writer likens children to arrows; for an arrow to be effective it must be given direction. Teaching children how to stand against peer pressure, to determine values, and to fill them with vision is vital. Provide them with the tools which they can then use to make wise choices in life.

The Ingredients Which Are a Necessity

A Father Who Guides the Home

It is the responsibility of the father, as head of the home, to guide the family in its character. Convictions from Scripture should determine the character of the home. It should be marked by consistency in its maintaining of spiritual priorities. Such “mundane” things as consistency in attending meetings, entertaining the believers, and interest in the work of God should be obvious to the children as they are being raised. In the believer’s home:

Saints should be respected – Be careful of gossiping about believers in front of the family.

Scriptures must be honored – Have a time when the Word of God is opened with the family each day.

Standards of sanctity upheld

Separation maintained

Service to others displayed

Safe haven for all – A home should be a safe haven for a spouse and for the children.

A Father Who Guards the Home

It is the responsibility of the father to protect the home as to what comes in: the entertainment, reading material, computer access and other forms of media. There should also be a concern for their friends as they grow and begin school. There should be an open-door policy for their friends so that they are able to view a Christian home as it functions.

A Father Who Graces the Home

More important than what a man says is what a man is. A father and his character are what children will remember. Those qualities are displayed from the earliest days of a child’s development. Above all, a father must love his wife. This is the greatest gift, the gift of security, that a father can give to his children.

Consistency between home and hall, the factory and the fellowship, is something children will quickly notice. A father’s kindness, love, interest, and focused time will pay tremendous dividends in the development of a child.

The Implementation Which Is Critical

You must have a good marriage to begin with. You must communicate with each other about child-rearing issues and you must come to an agreement. As a husband, appreciate the character of wisdom God has given your wife, an intuitive and insightful wisdom which is invaluable in child-rearing. Move in the fear of God and with dependence upon Him. Success is not guaranteed, but even Jehovah had children who distressed His heart (Isa 1:2-4).

[1] All Scripture quotations in this article are from the KJV.