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3 Basics of Parenting in the Preschool Years

Written by Greg Palys on

You’ve just brought home your first baby. Congratulations!

Unfortunately, as you’ll quickly find, this little nugget doesn’t come with a manual.

Yet God’s Word is completely up to the task. While the Bible doesn’t offer a how-to chart with detailed instructions for every stage of your child’s life, you can be confident that it does provide the principles you need to navigate these stages well (2 Pet. 1:3). Additionally, many parents have gone before you and have seen the fruit of applying the Bible in specific ways.

So, building on the wisdom of the Bible and the generations before us, here are some principles to guide the first five years of your child’s life.

Build a Foundation

Ask this question often of your preschooler: What do I want to see him or her doing when he or she is 15, 25, and 95? The preschool years afford a unique opportunity to begin forming the foundation on which your child will build their whole life. Remember: You will never have more influence than you do right now.

Take full advantage of this time to construct a foundation centered on God’s Word and God’s purposes. You have been given this child for one reason: to steward this gift, by God’s grace, in order that he or she might glorify God (Rom. 11:36). Whether or not your child ultimately does this rests on God’s good providence. But we obey with great hope because God often delights to save children raised by Christians (1 Cor. 7:14; 2 Tim. 1:5).

At the risk of being overly simplistic, we can begin building this foundation in two major ways.

Create Patterns of Loving, Biblical Discipline 

Discipline is a blessing to our children (Prov. 29:15). It helps them to avoid destruction (Prov. 22:15) and reminds them that they are beloved sons and daughters (Heb. 12:5-11). God expects us to discipline our children and expects them to reap the rewards! Yet many of us neglect to discipline our children. Some do so by conviction. But the rest of us fail to do so for a season, evening, or moment when our comfort outweighs our conviction.

Whatever the reason, we cannot reject giving our children the blessing of discipline. What is discipline? Teaching them how to live under godly authority, expecting that they live under it, and correcting and teaching when they don’t—all done in love and with love. Though this will include a punitive, corrective aspect (Prov. 13:24), discipline refers more broadly to the whole process by which we form our children. Every intentional step we take to form their character and prepare their heart for the gospel is discipline.

What do we hope for when we discipline? Ultimately, a person more responsive to submit to God’s ultimate authority. We are born rebels (Gen. 8:21; Ps. 51:5). Rebellion is our core sin issue (Gen. 3:6). Yet when a child is trained to submit to your very-present authority, they build the muscles that will help them submit to other earthly authorities (teachers, police officers) and hopefully, by God’s grace, to God’s good authority (Matt. 11:28-30; James 4:7).

Give Them Biblical Truth as Raw Materials

Do you remember what happens to the foolish man who builds his house on the sand (Matt. 7:26-27)? In the children’s song, when the rains come down and the floods come up, his house goes “splat.” On the other hand, Scripture says that the wise man’s house will stand. Why? Because he built on the rock by hearing and doing Christ’s words (Matt. 5:24-25).

In the preschool years, you get to gather the raw materials that form the foundation you hope your child will build his or her life on. This should include teaching basic truths about God (“God is big,” “The Bible is true”), familiarizing your child with the stories of the Bible, and rehearsing the gospel (God is holy, I am not, Jesus saves, Christ is my life). You can begin to help your child memorize Scripture (which is easier when set to music!) and may find catechism to be a helpful way to impart theological truth. You can accomplish some of these things through a more formal, daily time (what some call “Family Worship”), but often you should seek to bring up as you go through your days (Deut. 6:4-9).

Whatever you do and whenever you do it, invest deeply in these first five years in the hard work of foundation building. Give your child the gift of discipline and the right raw materials to work with. All the while and for the rest of your life, pray that God would bless these efforts so that your child will build higher and higher (2 Pet. 1:5-7).

Greg Palys

Greg serves at College Park as the Assistant Pastor of Children’s Ministries. He is passionate about equipping families to instill the goodness and truth of God’s Word in the next generation. Greg received his MDiv from Faith Bible Seminary and his ThM from the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is also a certified biblical counselor. Greg enjoys spending time with his wife Sarah and their children Ruth, Ezekiel, James, Eden, and Luke.

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