12 Tips from Twelve Stones: Foundations of Biblical Parenting- Part 12

By: Scott O'Malley

July 9th, 2021


If you could only have one Bible verse to capture the essence of your parenting, what would it be? While there are many good answers to this question, I would like to propose to you Proverbs 23:26 which says, “My son, give me your heart, and let your eyes observe my ways.”

“The preface, give me your heart, guides parents in their nurturing task: their target must ever be the deepest core of the child’s inner life” (ESV Study Bible, pg. 1175).

Foundation #12 – The overarching goal of our parenting is to influence our kids for Christ.

As I mentioned in the previous article, as children get older and move into the teen years many parents seek to control their children. One family I worked with had fallen into this familiar pattern: child pushes boundaries, parents restrict, child continues to push boundaries, parents restrict more harshly and severely, child ignores boundaries, and the relationship is basically hostile or non-existent. The parents then take the child to counseling.

“The preface, give me your heart, guides parents in their nurturing task: their target must ever be the deepest core of the child’s inner life” (ESV Study Bible, pg. 1175).

In this situation, the daughter had a boyfriend who was not a good influence on her and the parents were doing everything they could to keep her away from him, but to no avail. The parents had continued to get angrier as she continued to find ways around their rules and restrictions to be with this boyfriend. The parents had gotten so angry and frustrated that they focused all of their energy on controlling their daughter. When they came to Twelve Stones for counseling I tried to give them a vision for influencing their daughter rather than controlling her.

“Attempts to control, although appearing to be right, actually get in the way of what the Lord is seeking to do in your teen’s life. Ezekiel states God’s agenda very clearly, to ‘recapture the hearts of the people of Israel, who have all deserted me for their idols’ (Ezekiel 14:5). God says, ‘This is what I am working on, to recapture the hearts of my people so they will serve me and me alone.’ Can we have a lesser goal as we parent our teenagers” (Paul Tripp, Age of Opportunity pg. 113)?

If we are going to influence our children for Christ, we must be faithful to share the gospel with our kids. I discussed with the parents how important it was for them to repent of their anger towards their child (James 1:19-20; 2 Timothy 2:24-26) and commit to having a relationship with her (see articles #7 and #8 for help here).


If we are going to influence our children for Christ, we must be faithful to share the gospel with our kids.

We then discussed how to ask questions and have gospel centered conversations (see articles #5 and #6 for details). As we continued discussing the importance of influencing and not controlling their daughter, here were some additional recommendations to start the process of rebuilding their relationship:

Be succinct.


The daughter was having a hard time because she was feeling lectured by her parents and eventually checked out. Mom and Dad were encouraged to listen to what they were sharing with their daughter and if they found themselves multiplying words they should stop, think, and share the main point in 1-2 sentences.

Overlook the little things.


At times the daughter did some minor things that annoyed Mom and Dad but did not need to be addressed because the behaviors were not sin. Mom and Dad were instead encouraged to give grace and focus on more serious matters.


...if they found themselves multiplying words they should stop, think, and share the main point in 1-2 sentences.

Appreciate your child and her unique qualities.


In this situation what that meant was welcoming her curiosity. She asked many questions and that often flustered the parents. Mom and Dad were encouraged to welcome her many questions and not to be annoyed. Instead, they were encouraged to make time for those questions but also occasionally remind her when it was not a good time. In other words, don’t allow her to dominate the conversation but welcome her curiosity.

Don’t do things behind her back that violates trust.


In this situation that meant stop reading her text messages without her knowledge or permission. Reading her messages secretly is a form of deception and demonstrates an adversarial posture. I encouraged them to invite her to confide in them, but that would never happen with an adversarial posture.

Mom and Dad were encouraged to welcome her many questions and not to be annoyed.

The parents responded very well and committed to seeking to influence their daughter rather than control her. While it took a number of months, eventually through many gospel-centered conversations, prayer, and a rebuilding of their relationship with their daughter, she broke up with her boyfriend on her own. She came to realize that this young man was not a good influence on her relationship with God and she knew he needed to be cut out of her life. The parents were overjoyed not only that their daughter broke up with this boyfriend, but that she was serious about growing in her relationship with Jesus Christ.


Another by-product of intentionally moving from control to influence was a brand new relationship with their daughter. They were enjoying time together and she was sharing her heart more and more with them. They became a helpful resource in her life rather than being an adversary.


They were enjoying time together and she was sharing her heart more and more with them.

As we conclude this 12 Tips from Twelve Stones series of articles on Foundations for Biblical Parenting, let me close with a few questions to reflect upon:

Questions for Reflection:

1. If my relationship with one of my children is suffering, what are some things I can do this week to seek to rebuild or strengthen that relationship?

2. What are some lesser goals, if any, which I have settled for lately in my parenting that have led me to be controlling instead of being focused on influence?

3. After reviewing the 12 Foundations from our series that are listed below, which one needs the most work? Discuss with your spouse or a trusted friend the action steps needed to help you grow in this particular area that needs improvement. Consider reviewing the appropriate article to provide guidance moving forward. Foundation #1 – Dependence on God. Foundation #2 – The Scriptures thoroughly equip parents. Foundation #3 – Focus on faithfulness. Foundation #4 – Discipline and instruction without exasperation. Foundation #5 – Every child’s greatest need is salvation. Foundation #6 – The heart is the target of our parenting. Foundation #7 – Enter in and pursue connection with your children so they know they belong. Foundation #8 – Faithful biblical parenting takes time.


Foundation #9 – The power of a godly example. Foundation #10 – Dying to self. Foundation #11 – Parents must adapt and resist the temptation to control their older children. Foundation #12 - The overarching goal of our parenting is to influence our kids for Christ.

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