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Proverbs for Parenting

May 7, 2023

Teacher: Daniel Baker
Scripture: Proverbs 22:6; 1:8–9; 3:11–12; 22:15; 29:15

Proverbs for Parenting
Provers 22:6 – Living in the Fear of the Lord: Proverbs – Daniel J. Baker – May 7, 2023


“STAND” for a Reading of Proverbs 1:8–9; 3:11–12; 22:6. “THANKS BE...”

Few things are as shocking as becoming a first-time parent.

  • In the first days, it’s shocking how much it’s an around-the-clock task.
  • You parent at 8am and 8pm...and 3am. .. what?!?!
  • Every so often the role changes, what’s needed changes.
  • And success requires that you keep up with all those changing demands.
  • You battle the temptation to just be friends with your child and not their actual parent.
  • Every season requires perseverance of some kind.
  • And through it all you love them more than anything. It’s as close to unconditional love as there is outside of God’s love for us.
  • There are amazing joys and bitter heartaches wrapped up in these little people entrusted to your care.
  • Almost all parents want more than anything for their children to do well as adults.
  • But finding reliable guidance for how to do it is not easy.
  • And the difficulty is nothing new.

A man once wrote:

It cannot be said that the subject is a new one. The world is old, and we have the experience of nearly six thousand years to help us. We live in days when there is a mighty zeal for education in every quarter. We hear of new schools rising on all sides. We are told of new systems, and new books for the young, of every sort and description. And still for all this, the vast majority of children are manifestly not trained in the way they should go, for when they grow up to man's estate, they do not walk with God.

That sounds as if it could have been written in 2023. It wasn’t. It was written by a man named J.C. Ryle in 1860, over 160 years ago, in The Duties of Parents.

Truly, as parents, we need guidance to do accomplish this task! That’s the subject of our morning in Proverbs: “Proverbs for Parenting.” Part of our series, “Living in the Fear of the Lord.”

In this teaching we need to avoid two temptations. One is to say, “I’ve got this. I read a lot of blogs and watch a lot of YouTube. I got it.” The other is to say, “It’s too difficult. I give up.” We want to say, “I can do this WITH GOD’S HELP.”

Pick out 1 or 2 things to apply.

If you’re not a Christian, I hope you find this teaching helpful. It’s possible you find some of it offensive. But I would ask you to at least consider what I say. Most of what I say has been field tested for 3,000 years—no exaggeration. And maybe think about this: When you look around at the youth of our day and the culture in general, would you say that it has a good handle on parenting and education?

The sermon: (1) The goal of a parent; (2) The teaching of a parent; (3) The discipline of a parent.

Prayer: Our children

I. The Goal of a Parent

We want to think first about THE GOAL of parenting. What are we after? What are we even doing here?

Proverbs 22:6:

Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it. (Prov 22:6)

“Train up” is a tricky word. Seems to mean something like, “set him on the right path even from his earliest days.”

  • Remember, Proverbs has two “ways” open to us. We’re always at a fork in the road and we’re given a choice. We can choose “the way” of wisdom and righteousness and life (Prov 23:19) or “the way” of foolishness and sin and death—the way that “seems right in our own eyes” (Prov 14:12).
  • Putting them on a path to BE SOMETHING, a path TOWARD SOMETHING.
  • According to Proverbs, the goal is for our child to become an ADULT WHO FEARS THE LORD.

In other words, in parenting the goal is not to raise children, it’s to raise godly and wise adults. That’s the path we’re setting them on. That’s the path we’re pushing them toward.

This Proverb 22:6 reminds us that this parenting task starts early, immediately.

It also reminds us of the power of early influences, early lessons, early memories. These have a powerful shaping effect throughout our whole life. What is built in us as “a child” is often there “when he is old.”

Charles Bridges:

Our character largely takes the form of that mould into which our early years were cast....What is early learnt, is most tenaciously retained.
Charles Bridges, Proverbs[1]


  • To the parents: Understand what you’re doing as parents.
  • To the children: Understand what your parents are doing.

II. The Teaching of a Parent

As you look over the two or three dozen Proverbs connected with parenting, two themes stand out. Two things stand out as the primary activities of parenting. You can basically divide them into INSTRUCTION and DISCIPLINE.

Proverbs 1:8–9 and 3:1–2:

Hear, my son, your father’s instruction, and forsake not your mother’s teaching, 9 for they are a graceful garland for your head and pendants for your neck. (Prov 1:8–9)

My son, do not forget my teaching, but let your heart keep my commandments, 2 for length of days and years of life and peace they will add to you. (Prov 3:1–2)

Note the way torah is associated with the mother (1:8) and father (3:1). Torah can mean “the law of Moses” or the Word of God. Here it’s the “teaching” of a father and mother.


The book of Proverbs itself is our guide here. It shows us what we need to KNOW ourselves about living life in the world as God made it.

But it’s all written as if from a parent to a child. Note all those times it says, “My son...” That means the whole book is really what a parent is to teach a child.

So, we need to remember the ground we’ve already covered. The foundation to everything said in Proverbs is “the fear of the LORD.” That’s the beginning of wisdom (9:10) and the beginning of knowledge (1:7). There is no true wisdom and no true knowledge without it.

So, in our teaching as parents, this needs to affect what we teach and how we teach it. As we try and explain to our sons and daughters how they should think about a situation or a person, the fear of the Lord is the foundation of the house we’re building.

If sports are part of your household, you’re trying to teach your children to compete well. But this means competing well with the fear of the Lord. That means a “win at all costs” mentality is wrong and needs to be challenged.

Education and reading will be part of what you’re building in your home. But the fear of the Lord has to be the foundation of it. That means the goals you’re pursuing need to be consistent with someone who fears the Lord. When you critique books and historical events, you critique them in a way consistent with the fear of the Lord.

The fear of the Lord helps you know who are the true villains and true heroes in history—and in literature.

Last week Benjamin talked about diligence and two weeks ago John talked about trusting in the Lord with all your heart AND NOT IN YOURSELF. Behaviors like DILIGENCE are part of what is taught. Not trusting in yourself is an attitude we teach as parents. It’s part of the TORAH of our household.

As parents we teach the Bible. We want our children to grow up like Timothy in the Bible:

14 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it 15 and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. (2 Tim 3:14–15)

The Bible doesn’t make someone a Christian. But it “makes you wise for salvation.” It teaches you why you need to be saved, how to be saved, and what will happen if you are saved. The actual salvation is “through faith in Christ Jesus.” But you need to know and understand certain things before “faith” is even possible.

You cannot make your children love the Bible, I allow. None but the Holy Ghost can give us a heart to delight in the Word. But you can make your children acquainted with the Bible; and be sure they cannot be acquainted with that blessed book too soon, or too well. A thorough knowledge of the Bible is the foundation of all clear views of religion. He that is well-grounded in it will not generally be found a waverer, and carried about by every wind of new doctrine. Any system of training which does not make a knowledge of Scripture the first thing is unsafe and unsound.
J.C. Ryle, The Duties of Parents


Let’s go back to our verses in this section. Notice WHO is being commanded. It’s assumed the father and mother are teaching the children. But the commands are given to the children—to “my son.”

What are they commanded to do with the Torah of the parents?

  • “Hear” (1:8)
  • “Forsake not” (1:8)
  • “Do not forget” (3:1)
  • “Keep” (3:1)


And then we need to see that these commands aren’t bare commands. They’re given with promises attached. What will happen to the child who keeps and hears the teaching of his parents?

  • “FOR they are a graceful garland for your head and pendants for your neck” (1:9)
  • “FOR length of days and years of life and peace they will add to you” (3:2)


  • To the parents: Be confident in your role as a TEACHER. Be faithful in your role as a teacher. Read the Bible when and where you can. Explain what YOU have learned about God and following him.
  • To children: Understand the special place of your parents in gaining WISDOM and KNOWLEDGE. Understand the obligation you have to RECEIVE their teaching.

III. The Discipline of a Parent

To start, we’ll look at Proverbs 3:11–12:

My son, do not despise the LORD’S discipline or be weary of his reproof, 12 for the LORD reproves him whom he loves, as a father the son in whom he delights. (Prov 3:11–12)

We start with this verse, because it tells us so clearly that discipline is an expression of love. And that loving discipline is what a good father does.

We know this first from our relationship with God, who is the Perfect Father. The Father’s love for us is perfect, selfless, and always after our good. And the Father’s love includes discipline.

The author of Hebrews says we shouldn’t get discouraged when we’re facing difficulties. These are from the Lord as his loving discipline. It means “God is treating you as sons” (Heb 12:7).

If this is true in our relationship with God the Father, then it should be true in our earthly relationships as well.

One of the things that can short-circuit discipline is a lack of confidence that it’s a good and loving thing. We think of it as mean or unkind or even hurtful.

While it’s part of your parenting, be faithful. The consequences for not doing it are significant.

Remember Adonijah, King David’s 4th son, born to his wife Haggith:

His father had never at any time displeased him by asking, “Why have you done thus and so?” He was also a very handsome man, and he was born next after Absalom. (1 Kgs 1:6)

This failure of David is connected to Adonijah’s conspiracy to seize the throne. He failed and was eventually put to death by Solomon.

To be faithful you’ll need to be confident. You need to be confident God has designed for this to be part of your parenting task. God’s word is clear.

For example, Proverbs 22:15:

Folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline drives it far from him. (Prov 22:15)

“Rod” was a tool from shepherding. If the shepherd’s staff was the long branch with a hook at the top, the rod was shorter, maybe 18” and made of a thick tree branch.

It was a weapon against predators but also a way to keep wayward sheep in line.

Proverbs 22:15 reminds us that using “the rod” is a way to reach the heart of a child.

“The rod” in this sense means some method of spanking or corporal punishment. “Corporal” is not like a “corporal” in the Army. It’s “corporal” from the Latin word meaning “body.” It’s punishment administered to the body of a child.

Spanking is one method of corporal punishment. Or a swat on the leg of a young child.

The trend in our day is to move away from any such methods.

In 2018 the American Academy of Pediatrics published a report called, “Effective Discipline to Raise Healthy Children.”[2]

In the opening summary of the article it says, “all forms of corporal punishment and yelling at or shaming children...are minimally effective in the short-term and not effective in the long-term. With new evidence, researchers link corporal punishment to an increased risk of negative behavioral, cognitive, psychosocial, and emotional outcomes for children.”

For the research they surveyed just under 800 pediatricians and only 6% had positive attitudes toward spanking and 2.5% expected it to have a positive effect on a child. Among parents under 36, half never spanked their child.

At one point they give a long list of negative consequences to spanking.

But the problem with such articles is that the analysis doesn’t go deep enough. They’re basically looking at whether a parent spanks or not and then looking at how the children turn out.

It doesn’t factor in whether there’s verbal abuse in the home as well and the attitude of the parent when the discipline is applied. It doesn’t factor in whether the home is a home where love is expressed and encouragement is given and the parents are Christians and the family goes to church regularly and is living by the fear of the Lord.

In the end these studies show I think what is really common sense but always good to remember: a parent can do great harm to a child if they abuse and mistreat them. On that we would heartily agree.

In fact, God threatens terrible things against people who mistreat children.

The words of Jesus in Mark 9:

“Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea.” (Mark 9:42)

Important to note that not all pediatricians would endorse such a study. Likely many chose not to respond to the survey because they did not trust the researchers or that the information would not be used against them.

Let’s go back to Proverbs 22:15 here:

Folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline drives it far from him. (Prov 22:15)

The opening statement here is an important one: Folly is bound up in the heart of a child. “Folly” is not the funny and cute stuff we love to record on our phones. “Folly” is the word Proverbs uses to describe what sinners and fools have that leads to sinful and destructive lives.

So in Proverbs 14:1 a woman of “wisdom” builds her house, but a woman of “folly” tears it down.

In the heart of our children is bad stuff that will hurt them if it grows and isn’t challenged.

  • This is the stuff you don’t have to teach.
  • You don’t have to teach them to be selfish...or to disobey parents...or be mean to siblings...or break things because of a lack of self-control.
  • It’s just in there.

When these behaviors are expressions of sin and rebellion, they’re FOLLY. But FOLLY has a REMEDY: “the rod of discipline.”

Properly applied corporal punishment helps a child know two things essential for them:

  • FIRST, certain behaviors are wrong.
  • SECOND, my parent is an authority in my life I need to respect.
  • The temporary discomfort of the discipline is how these truths get reinforced.

A child needs to know these two things or their life will be a very hard one. If you fail to learn clearly what behaviors are wrong, this doesn’t lead anywhere good. If you fail to grasp the reality of authorities in your life, this doesn’t lead anywhere good.

In other areas of life we accept this as true. Think of sports. Imagine a sport with referees who had no consequences for actions. Who had rules with no unpleasant consequences. Imagine hockey or football where the ref would stop the game when a foul occurred and said, “Hey, what you did there is unacceptable. I am very displeased with you. I want you to think about what you did and how it really hurt that man. In fact, he’s on the way to the hospital right now. Is that really how you want to live your life? I don’t think so. Let’s do better next time, okay? Thanks for listening.” What would sports look like if referees had no authority to impose consequences? A disaster! We’d be back to the gladiators of Ancient Rome. The only reason sports works is because referees have authority to punish wrong behavior with real consequences.

Don’t try to be smarter than God in this. Your children need the rod of discipline to flourish.

Now “the rod” isn’t at all your only means for change. Another is “reproof.”

Proverbs 29:15:

The rod and reproof give wisdom, but a child left to himself brings shame to his mother. (Prov 29:15)

A “reproof” is a verbal rebuke. It’s explaining that a behavior is wrong or unacceptable or unhelpful. Like corporal punishment, a “reproof” is age-appropriate. When they’re one, a sharp, “No!” is sufficient. When they’re 16, you can’t just say, “No!” You’ll need to do more work to reach their heart.


  • To the parents: Be confident in your role as an authority and one entrusted with the discipline of your children. Do a study on “the rod” in Proverbs. What are the promises made about it? What does it reveal about your child’s heart? About your role?
  • To the children: Be receptive to their discipline. Your future depends on it!


The goal is to raise adults who fear the Lord and walk in wisdom.

The teaching is the Word of God and about the ways of God and life in his world.

The discipline is the rod and reproof lovingly and wisely administered so our children become less foolish and more wise.

Parenting is like shepherding, where you’re constantly scanning the horizon. Trying to see out there to where the green grass is. Where the predators are. You’re always looking ahead.

You’re looking ahead to their adult life. What will this look like if it develops into their adulthood?

But we’re looking beyond those days. We’re also parenting with an eye on THAT DAY. That day when our child stands as an individual before the Judge of all judges and faces the One who will determine his eternal destiny.

That means that above all things we want our child to know Jesus and know God as his heavenly Father. We want them to know that

“God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)

Prayer and close with “On that Day”

[1] Charles Bridges, Proverbs, Geneva (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1968), 403.

[2] See

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