Interview with Dr Phillip A Towndrow
I’m not a very good Christian–I don’t read the Bible often although I do pray every day. I’m also not a very good parent–I lose my temper at my two children and I allow them to spend too much time on their mobile phones. How can I be a better Christian parent? I worry that my life testimony may actually turn them away from God!
As sinners, we have our numerous failings and these shortcomings always separate us from God. Our sinful ways can also cut us off within our families if we are not extremely careful. And so the question is: How can we get closer to God and learn His ways in all things so that we can have positive relationships with our children even though we are not perfect ourselves? In a crucial and indispensable sense, Christian parenting begins with knowing God’s divine purposes for marriage and families, and then following these directions through to completion. Open the Bible to the first book–Genesis–and read Chapters 1 to 3. What do you learn about God’s creation? What did God instruct Adam and Eve to do before the fall? My view is that parents who are active and intentional as Christians, take up the responsibilities of raising children in several distinct ways from what the world knows and expects. First, it takes patience and discipline (see #3 below) to aspire to love our children in the same way God loves us. Second, it takes courage and wisdom (beyond our frail human capabilities and inclinations) to admit that we are wrong and to steer a path towards what is godly (see #2 below). Third, and perhaps most importantly, it’s important to know that our children look to us as parents for affirmation, guidance and knowledge about morals, education and life in society. What it takes the most is a heart that yearns to learn (especially from children) and do God’s will. My advice is for parents to turn to God first and our children will follow no matter what besets them.
Is there any difference between being a good parent and a godly parent? It seems to me that both of them should be synonymous?
While it is certainly true that godly parents are good, unfortunately, not all good parents are godly. Therefore, goodness and godliness do not share the same meaning in practice. For example, a ‘good’ parent may be skilled, knowledgeable, show approval and have high standards etc., but still not know (or worse, fail to explain to children) why a certain type of behaviour is good or bad. This is because, we tend to view the world in relative and non-judgemental terms. People might say, “I do what I think is best and I don’t care what others say or do”. Such an attitude would be functional and effective when things are going well but it wouldn’t be so apt in times of testing and trouble. The simple reason is that we have little or no surety that what we say and believe is true and right. There is no external and constant standard to compare with. Fortunately, and by God’s grace and mercy, Christian parents know differently. Because God is righteous and true, His Word is unfailing, eternal and fundamentally good. Not just good for now, but always good for all people at all times and in all circumstances. This is because this goodness is based on God’s unconditional love for us and we strive to share it with others. Good non-Christians may attempt the same but there will be something fundamentally missing–the sure knowledge of salvation that only comes from Jesus Christ.
What does it mean to discipline my child in a godly manner?
For many, the word ‘discipline’ brings to mind training to follow rules, restrictions and punishments. We might also think that a lack of sternness and strictness from parents and guardians leads inevitably to unruly and disrespectful children. And so, we act promptly to stamp out or correct questionable behaviour at every opportunity. Let’s admit that while it’s not easy for loving parents to discipline their children, it is necessary and godly to do so because God expects us to guide our children in morals so as to avoid (and hopefully prevent) long-term problems. Godly parents–instructed by His word–should know their children well and use every opportunity to be a blessing to them. Godly discipline/reproof, therefore, while painful at the time, is not hurtful over the long haul. It’s therefore important not to confuse punishment with discipline and to always strive to regulate and direct through Bible-based values and virtues. For example, a central part of growing in the Spirit is nurturing self-control. This is the only true and sure way to resist temptation and trouble before it arrives. It’s worth knowing that there is a vital connection between the discipline of parenting and the practice of discipline within families. What does this mean? It’s said that children know when their parents act out of love and when they do not. And so, parents need to learn to be disciplined in God’s ways first otherwise they will have little or no basis for disciplining in God’s name and for His purposes afterwards.
Dr Phillip A Towndrow is a teacher, teacher-educator and educational researcher. Over the past 25 years, he has worked in a variety of institutions including private academies and universities in Europe, the Middle East and South East Asia. Phillip serves as a lay leader in a Singapore church and aims—whenever and wherever possible—to teach and learn in ways that glorify God and extend his Kingdom.
Phillip has taught a number of Christian Education courses, and regularly conducts workshops, seminars and talks on language teaching, parenting and values.
Phillip’s new book, Walking with God as a Christian Parent, will be released in June 2016. Click below to learn more:
Click below to order his previous book, Walking with God as a Christian Educator: