How to disciple your children

By Mandi Hart
Published on: July 26, 2021
Praying girl

Parenting is a journey. It’s not a project and raising children is a long-term commitment, not a one-time event.

Parenting takes time

Have you thought about your son or daughter’s journey into adulthood? Who do you dream of them becoming? What kind of man or woman? When we disciple our children, we think about these things, and we pray about them. In my book, Parenting with Courage, I wrote: “If parenting were an adventure sport, it would be the most courageous sport in the world. It involves venturing into the unknown, full of unexpected twists and turns, and is completely unpredictable. It is also thrilling and rewarding. Parenting is, by far, my boldest adventure.”

Life-on-life

Being a mom or dad is not something you do so much as who you are. You are shaping a life and leaving a legacy. To me, parenting is synonymous with discipleship. Discipleship is a relationship that you walk with someone. It’s a road to travel together, and it takes time. So what does a parenting discipleship journey look like?

If we look at the life of Jesus, we see He walked, talked, and lived with His disciples. He saw the good, the bad, and the ugly. He encouraged, rebuked, taught, loved, and had some fun with his friends. That’s what parenting is like, life-on-life. Now I know that this seems obvious, but I’m emphasizing it to make my point. As you raise your children, you do life with them. They see you at your best and your worst. They learn what life looks like through your lens, and you disciple them. If we don’t teach our children to follow Christ, the world will teach them not to.

Every interaction with your child is an opportunity for discipleship.

“God has entrusted us with his most precious treasure – people. He asks us to shepherd and mold them into strong disciples, with brave faith and good character.”
John Ortberg.

A disciple is simply a ‘learner.’ Your children learn from you, and as you instruct them in the ways of growing up, they continue to absorb more of who you are than rather what you are. So be the kind of adult you want your children to grow up into being.

A deeper perspective

To mould our children’s character means that we disciple and we discipline. These two concepts are linked. Let me explain: Our English word disciple comes from the Latin word discipulus. The Latin word, disciplina, is also derived from discipulus. Disciplina means teaching and instruction – this is where we get our word, discipline from. Therefore, discipline is linked to discipleship. God’s wisdom is such that parents lovingly disciple their children with instruction and teaching, For a deeper insight, I encourage you to read Hebrews 12:1-11.

How do you disciple your children?

Here are a few tools for discipling your children. This is for you and me. As parents, we are our children’s primary instructors in following Jesus. We model a lifestyle of love and obedience to His commands and how to cultivate a relationship with God. Schools and churches are poor substitutes for parents who are mandated by the Lord to teach their children His ways.

Our mandate is clear in Deuteronomy 6:5-7 NLT: “And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength. And you must commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these commands that I am giving you today. Repeat them again and again to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up.”

This is our charge.
This is our call.

“Train up a child in the way he should go – but be sure you go that way yourself,” wrote Charles Spurgeon.

We show our love to the Lord by discipling our children and teaching them to love Him and obey His voice. It means that we parent intentionally. We prayerfully consider all the aspects of our children’s lives, from schooling to friends, to physical development, to purity, to their emotional growth and everything in between.

Parenting is a 24/7 call.

Below are two examples of discipling your children.

The first one is called a Shema statement.

The Shema statement means “Listen up” and is used to show that God is active. He is interested in our lives. He speaks to us. This is a simple way to remind us that God is everywhere and is in everything. And it helps create a Biblical worldview. An example of a Shema statement is: “Isn’t today lovely? God has created the mountains and the trees, and they are wonderful.”

A second way is to have regular family devotions with your children.

Teach them how to hear God’s voice and when they do, write it down and help them act on it. When our children are young, we externally model our values. During their teen years, they will begin to accept and adopt the values for themselves or reject them. During their formative years, you can teach them to love God’s word, to hear and obey His voice, and to cultivate a thankful heart. A grateful heart opens the door to praise and worship.

During family devotions be sure to:

  • Teach them how to be thankful.
  • Show them how to give and receive forgiveness.
  • When you read a passage, ask them this question: What does this tell me about God, and what does tell me about humans?
  • Help them to hear God’s voice and listen to Him and to obey.
  • Ask them regularly: “what is God speaking to you about?”
  • Pray with them
  • Make sure the devotions are fun and relevant to their particular age.

Discipleship is love

Love’s face has many forms. For our children, it is safety, a smile, a tender hug, discipline, teaching, time spent with them, and it is pointing them to Jesus. What greater gift could we give them than a love for God and opening the way for them to encounter the One who gave Himself for them? Love your children well and into the Kingdom of heaven.

The happiest of children are those whose mothers and fathers succeed in winning their tender hearts and affection. They will come to understand the love and mystery of God. To disciple your children is truly a long obedience in the same direction. And the direction is into knowing they are loved by God and love Him in return.

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