Back in the first century, devout Jews worked hard to learn and follow God’s commands. God provided detailed instructions in the law, but not detailed enough to satisfy the people. To resolve questions, religious authorities compiled lengthy lists of rules extending and clarifying the original laws. Many of those devout people trying so hard to obey God’s commands ended up committing egregious offenses against God by adhering to rules meant to assist them in understanding God’s will.
As humans, we find rules reassuring. In every context of our lives, we tend to add rules. As Christians, we often find it intimidating to rely on the guidance of the Holy Spirit rather than on a list of specific rules, much as the Israelites preferred to have a human king rather than waiting on God to direct them. As parents, we are too quick to accept a list of rules for parenting that have the imprimatur of some respected Christian teacher or that are backed up by scriptural arguments.
God has called us to follow His direction. For this purpose He gives us the scriptures as well as the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Alas, He in no case gives us as full a set of directions in scripture as we desire. This should force us to rely on the guidance of the Holy Spirit as we search ALL the truth that God has revealed to find the best course to take.
All too often when we encounter a situation where scripture does not give us clear, explicit instruction in specifics, instead of seeking guidance prayerfully and educating ourselves about God’s truth as revealed in other sources (always enlightened by the truth we have in scripture), we instead turn to authorities who parse scripture for us to make lists of rules that purport to guide us in God’s ways. These are not, of course, God’s rules–nowhere does He give us these rules explicitly. They may be wise principles, effective in particular situations, but we abuse them when we give them the weight of Divine authority and apply them indiscriminately.
God has not given us step-by-step instruction on how to train our children. He has given us some principles by which to judge and adjust our efforts, and He promises to give us wisdom if we ask for it. The Holy Spirit knows our children, knows what they are thinking and how best to train them. He will guide us if we ask Him fervently and continually.
Certainly we should educate ourselves about what scripture says that has bearing on our task as parents–we must study the scriptures and even other resources that help us understand the principles in scripture. Certainly we should also educate ourselves on the natural law regarding child training–we must study our children but also study what has been learned about effective child training, even from secular sources. Along with this we must also pray and seek the guidance of God, trusting Him to help us find the right methods for each child.