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A Balanced Parenting Style

By Dr. Don and Debbi Dunlap
Pastoral Counselor
Permissive parenting and authoritarian parenting are both unbiblical child discipline methods.

Family Counseling Ministries -

Permissive parenting rejects the biblical principle of authority, while authoritarian parenting communicates the false message that a parent’s authority a child’s life is absolute and without error. In the 17th part of a 20-article series, Dr. Dunlap explains that parents should acknowledge the fact that because they are sinners they cannot make perfectly informed disciplinary decisions in every situation that arises. God is our only ultimate and absolute authority.

Throughout my years of counseling, I have observed that parents generally tend to be either authoritarian or permissive in their approach to child rearing. The challenge for Christian parents is to seek to avoid both of these extremes.


Our goal must be to discover and implement biblically balanced disciplinary methods as we seek to raise our children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.


Authoritarian parenting and permissive parenting are both unscriptural child-rearing methods.

Permissive parenting is an outright rejection of the scriptural principle of authority and its God-given safeguards. A permissive parent generally indulges the child’s whims, allows the child to whine when he or she doesn’t get his or her way, and looks the other way when the child throws temper tantrums.

A permissive parent usually fears the prospect of challenging a child’s will. In short, the child sets his or her own boundaries and knows that he or she is in control.

Authoritarian parenting, on the other hand, communicates the false message that a parent’s authority in his or her child’s life is absolute and without error.

Authoritarian parents seldom allow their child to make any decisions and they tend to over-discipline every infraction that the child commits.

As parents, we must acknowledge the fact that because we are sinners we are unable to make perfectly informed disciplinary decisions in every situation that arises. God is the only ultimate, absolute authority.

A parent should seek to train a child’s will, not break it.

Love should always be the motivating factor in parental discipline. The goal of biblical child-discipline is not to break a child’s spirit, but to subject the child’s will to his or her parent’s authority and to train the child to obey willingly and cheerfully. A parent must be careful not to over-correct a child harshly when he or she is disobedient. Parents ought to use the minimum amount of correction necessary to bring the child’s will into submission.

There is a distinct difference between willful, rebellious behavior and immature foolishness.


Parents should understand the difference between rebellious behavior and foolish immaturity. It is a good idea for parents to examine their hearts to determine whether they over-correct their child because they have a desire to protect their image as “perfect” parents.


A parent must be sensitive to his or her child’s emotions. Although crying is a healthy way for a repentant child to cleanse his or her conscience, a parent ought not assume that discipline is ineffective if the child does not cry. Tears are not always an expression of repentance. The child may by crying from anger or frustration, in which case the parent should continue to deal with the child until he or she demonstrates a repentant attitude.

We will examine some practical applications of these principles in the next several articles.



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