the Bible’s pattern for discipling our children


“Eyes, Grandma, eyes?” she questioned, motioning back and forth between the eyeliner in my hand and her eyelid. “Eyes, Grandma!  Eyes, Jenny!” This time she insisted, so I carefully touched the top of her eye, pretending to make a line. She was so pleased.

“Cheek, Grandma cheek?” she then asked, gently patting her perfect little face. “Cheek, Jenny?” I lightly dusted the powder with the brush, making a soft pink circle.

“Lips, Grandma, lips!” Smoothing her finger across her lower lip, she stood perfectly still as I ever-so-lightly dotted her mouth with the shiny pink gloss.

“All done!” she exclaimed as she reached out her two-year-old arms for me to set her down from the counter. “Hug, Grandma, hug!!” she hollered, squeezing me tightly before darting out the bathroom door, tossing her purse over her shoulder in an eerily familiar fashion.

Children are the great imitators; it is part of God’s plan for teaching and training; it is His divine method for discipling little ones for His own glory! This is what humbles us and calls us to continual circumspection as we raise children.

The Apostle Paul, himself, boldly declared this reality to the church in his letters to the Thessalonians. “We came in order to offer ourselves as a model for you to imitate,”(2 Thess. 2:9) he said, placing into our hands several truths that demonstrate what it looks like to practice model-worthy discipleship:

We are to have pure hearts as we disciple our children.

“For the appeal we make does not spring from error or impure motives, nor are we trying to trick you. On the contrary, we speak as those approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel. We are not trying to please people but God, who tests our hearts.  You know we never used flattery, nor did we put on a mask to cover up greed—God is our witness. We were not looking for praise from people, not from you or anyone else.”

Homeschooling has become almost trendy in both the secular and Christian worlds and some people dabble in it, perhaps thinking it will give them a more righteous standing before the Lord or that they will be more accepted within their peer groups. Paul assured the Thessalonians that he and Timothy had not chosen to disciple them because it would make them look good or that it would please anyone else but God. He made sure they knew that it was not for personal gain and reminded them that it is the Lord God who sees and knows and thoroughly examines motives of the heart!

Why are you homeschooling? What are the motives of your heart? Is it out of a sincere love for your children and do they know that?


Having pure hearts leads to a blameless life.

“Surely you remember, brothers and sisters, our toil and hardship; we worked night and day in order not to be a burden to anyone while we preached the gospel of God to you.  You are witnesses, and so is God, of how holy, righteous and blameless we were among you who believed. “

Paul’s goal for those he mentored would be that they walk in a manner worthy of the God who calls us into His own kingdom and glory.  Paul wanted the spiritual best for these dear spiritual children and we want the same for ours. We must purpose to walk in an upright manner ourselves and disciple our children through exhorting, encouraging, and imploring them to walk worthy, too! It means that we set aside our own agendas and preferences, our own pride, our own sense of importance for the very sake of the Gospel. It means we confess our sins and seek forgiveness when we sin, especially when it’s against our children.

Do your children see in you someone who is willing to sacrifice for them,  someone wanting to live an upright life?? Have you learned to repent to them of wrongful attitudes and actions as their example? If they sin, do they know they will be shown grace by you?


Grace rather than law should be our priority.

As apostles of Christ we could have asserted our authority. Instead, we were like young children among you. Just as a nursing mother cares for her children, so we cared for you. Because we loved you so much, we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well.”

Paul told the Thessalonians that he could have chosen to exert authority over them. Instead he chose two examples that showed no agenda for power and control. First he says they were like children, hearkening back to the command Jesus gave that we are to be as little children in order to enter His kingdom. Then he says they were as gentle and tender, as a nursing mother. What an amazing word picture he painted! There is such perfect rest and peace in those precious moments of nursing a baby, a tenderness and compassion that Paul, even as a man, knew is at the heart of the discipling process. We need to ask ourselves if we consider parenting from an adversarial perspective or with a kind, “coming alongside our children” approach. That attitude makes all the difference in the world!

Are you as gentle with each of them as you are with a nursing baby? Is your home filled with grace rather than law?


Being a Christian often means suffering and mistreatment.

You know, brothers and sisters, that our visit to you was not without results. We had previously suffered and been treated outrageously in Philippi, as you know, but with the help of our God we dared to tell you his gospel in the face of strong opposition.”

Paul assured those he was discipling that being a Christian is not easy; he was transparent with them, candidly talking of his own experiences in prison. He wanted to assure them that he knew life was difficult and that boldness is required, even in the midst of daily life as believers. Our children need to hear the stories of our own struggles and sometimes all we can offer them is the truth that life is hard but that God is always good!

Do your children know that being a Christian means that there will be difficult times? Do they see in you a real, transparent, and living faith in God’s sovereignty?


Those we disciple must know how much we love them.

“Because we loved you so much.”

There is one important truth that we often miss as we set out to disciple our children. Popular homeschooling teachers often talk about “having the hearts of our children” before we can train them. The truth that we should be most concerned about is whether or not our children have our hearts! There are so many, many things that often hold us, that divide our affections.  I love how Ephesians 5:1 so clearly shows the order in which these things properly happen.  “Therefore, be imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us.” It is the assurance that we are beloved children, that we were bought with a great price, that enables us to imitate God!  It is this same truth our children must embrace before they can be discipled, that they are loved, truly loved, by both God and us!

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  1. Anthea says

    Hello Karen

    If the rest of your ‘writing project’ is like this, I shall be excited and keen to get a copy.

    For new readers of the thatmom blog, there are some great podcasts by Karen where Bible passages are explored for the lessons we can glean as we home educate our children. I would urge you all to have a listen to them.

  2. says

    Good stuff here. Wish I had more younger children to homeschool. I think I’d do better another time around. But thankful that God’s grace extends to us as moms, too, when we’ve done less than a stellar job with our homeschooling/parenting efforts.

  3. Susan T says

    Seconding what Susie said…

    Susie says:
    June 3, 2013 at 11:46 am
    Good stuff here. Wish I had more younger children to homeschool. I think I’d do better another time around. But thankful that God’s grace extends to us as moms, too, when we’ve done less than a stellar job with our homeschooling/parenting efforts.

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