Mistakes Parents Make
Dr. Joe Temple


We are going to consider now the mistakes made by certain parents or characters whose lives are recorded in the Word of God. First Corinthians, chapter 10, tells us that the things of the Old Testament related to the nation of Israel were written as illustrations or types to be used in application of spiritual truths in our own lives–for us upon whom the ends of the age have come. The Old Testament has been to me a very interesting source of material related to family problems, because I believe on the basis of that verse of Scripture we can find in the Word of God an answer to any problem that we may have, an illustration for any situation. True, the dressing may be different, but the basic principle is there.

I would not suggest to you that the mistakes at which we are going to look are all that are recorded in the Word. They will be all we will have time to consider; they are representative, and they are what the Holy Spirit has brought to mind.

Parental Bickering

Turn in your Bibles, please, to the book of Proverbs, chapter 19, as I suggest that we look at the mistake to which I am going to refer as parental bickering, for want of a better term. You may have another word you want to use for it, or another phrase. It is the mistake that parents make when they bicker with one another in the presence of their children.

I can say before the Lord that my wife and I have never bickered, we have never been contentious, we have never fussed with each other. I don't mean to sound “holier than thou.” I am simply making a statement of fact. But many couples do bicker. So I am going to say that if you do, and do it in the presence of your children, it is one of the greatest mistakes you can make. The reason is suggested–notice the word I am using, “suggested”–in verse 13 of chapter 19 of the book of Proverbs, where we read:

Proverbs 19

13A foolish son is the calamity of his father: and the contentions of a wife are a continual dropping.

A Contentious Wife

The last part of the statement, of course, suggests the idea of bickering. The contentions of a wife are a continual dropping. One translator puts it, “the contentions of a wife are like a continual dropping through a hole in the roof on a rainy day,” and that certainly suggests the insistence of it. The reason we are speaking of parents here, even though the husband is not mentioned, is that this word “contention,” if you will look at it in several other verses, as we do not have time to do, involves the idea of nagging, of brawling, of fussing. With whom does a wife brawl and fuss other than a husband? Who is the object of the nagging, other than a husband? This is the reason for speaking of parents who make the mistake of bickering. You say, “Well, of course I can see that, but how does that affect the children?”

Notice the first statement of this verse, “A foolish son is the calamity of his father.” In the book of Proverbs, which is an extremely earthly book, you may notice how many times the Spirit of God puts such things together. Why would He mention a foolish son and a nagging mother, why would he mention a foolish son and bickering parents, in the same verse if there were not some connection? I think there is a connection. I think that even if we should leave the Word of God out of it, ample evidence indicates that there is a connection.

A Foolish Son

This foolish son is what we would call a “slow learner” today, for the word really means “stupid” or “dull of comprehension.” Many children are a disappointment to their parents–that is what the word “calamity” means–because some people put so much stress on grades that the greatest calamity they could face is not to have their child in the upper fifty. Slow learners quite often are not slow learners because they are ignorant; they are slow learners because the tranquillity of the home has been so disrupted by bickering parents that they go to school full of tensions and anxieties that make it impossible for them to be other than slow learners. So I would suggest that parents, before they decide that the trouble lies altogether with the child, should examine their own relationships. If relationships between parents are not right, if there is bickering or lack of respect, there is inevitably a juvenile problem.

An Illustration From David's Life

Let me give you another illustration which I will elaborate on a bit later. Turn, please, to the second book of Samuel, and notice in chapter 6 an incident from the life of David. David, remember, was a man after God's own heart; that is the Scriptural evaluation of him. He was what we might call a spiritual giant. The Bible is honest enough to tell the bad things about him as well as the good. You may know someone who is in the church, a spiritual leader. You may look up to him. He may teach a Bible class. He may be a great blessing to you spiritually. But his own home may be a shambles. That is the reason the Scriptures say that a man who takes a place of leadership in the church needs to be a man who has his home under control (I Timothy 3:4), and this is not always true.

Now David, if you read only the Scriptures related to his testimony, would, I say, be considered a spiritual giant, yet David's home was a shambles. Although this is not the only reason, I think this is one of the reasons: His wife publicly made fun of him. This may not be a matter of arguments and brawlings, but it certainly is related to the matter of parental bickering and disagreement.

David and Michal's Fight

You remember the story. The Ark of God was brought home again and David, filled with the Spirit, rejoiced at what God had done. He shed his kingly robes and put on the simple linen garment of the priests as an indication of his consecration before the Lord, and then he danced a holy dance as was done in those days in appreciation of God's answer to prayer. His wife did not go to the meeting. She stayed home. She found some reason not to go to church. But she looked out the window and saw David expressing his gratitude to the Lord, and when he came home, she greeted him with the words which are found in verse 20–and I am sure the children were about:

II Samuel 6

20Then David returned to bless his household. And Michal the daughter of Saul came out to meet David, and said, How glorious was the king of Israel to day, who uncovered himself to day in the eyes of the handmaids of his servants, as one of the vain fellows shamelessly uncovereth himself!

This King James translation may leave you with the impression that he was dancing naked, but he was not. He had laid aside his kingly robe and had put on just this simple linen garment, and he was expressing gratitude out of his heart to the Lord for His goodness. What did his wife do when he came home to share the blessing? “Weren't you a spectacle! What a fool you made of yourself today, dancing like an idiot before all these people!” The Bible does not give all the details. You should read your Bible with a holy imagination. I am sure she dressed him down to size, and I am sure all the children heard. David, someone might say, filled with the Spirit, made no response. I say David answered cowardly in verse 21:

II Samuel 6

21It was before the LORD, which chose me before thy father, and before all his house, to appoint me ruler over the people of the LORD, over Israel; therefore will I play before the LORD.

“What I was doing,” he said, “I was doing unto God.” But I do detect a little bit of bickering in this verse when he said, “Don't forget that God took the throne away from your old man and gave it to me.” That is what he said, and the children heard it. There is nothing that will bring difficulties into the home quite so much as parental bickering. It is a mistake that many folk make.

Showing Partiality

Will you turn back, please, to the book of Genesis, chapter 25, as I suggest to you that another mistake which is made by Bible parents is that of showing partiality in relation to children, the mistake of showing favoritism. In an early home in the Old Testament, the home of Isaac and Rebekah, this partiality was evident. It nearly wrecked the home, and it certainly left on the lives of the boys involved an indelible mark from which they never escaped. Will you notice in verse 28:

Genesis 25

28And Isaac loved Esau, because he did eat of his venison; but Rebekah loved Jacob.

Now, these boys were twins. If you read the story, you find that this partiality, this favoritism, continued throughout their lives. If you read the story of what happened in the womb of the mother, and what God revealed concerning it, you might say that they were predestinated to this kind of life. But I wonder whether oftentimes we do not confuse predestination with foreknowledge.

I wonder whether what is being suggested in this chapter is not simply that God was saying, “I know what you are going to do, Jacob, and I know what you are going to do, Rebekah; for that reason the elder will serve the younger.” I am not so sure that before anyone is born God lays down certain rules which are irrevocable. I wonder whether, because God knows what is going to happen, because He knows the people involved, He can give you a picture of what is going to happen. This much we know: The favoritism shown by the father and by the mother did result in the very thing that God said would happen.

Examples of Partiality

Did you notice in verse 28 what is implied? Rebekah loved Jacob. Isaac loved Esau, right? And why? Because Esau appealed to him. You have two children in your family. One of them pleases you more than the other. Maybe one of them is easier to manage than the other. Maybe one of them likes the same things you like; the other one doesn't. Be careful. Before you know what is happening, you will be showing a favoritism to the child that appeals to you. You will be, perhaps unconsciously, definitely avoiding the child that doesn't appeal to you. You will be showing favoritism, and the child will recognize it. A girl may wonder whether Daddy doesn't like her. A boy may wonder whether Mother doesn't like him. It may develop even into that.

Through the years I have had both mothers and fathers come to me and say, after telling me something about a child, “I don't want to confess it; I don't want to acknowledge it; I am ashamed of it; but I almost hate my child.” If you have never had any experience with a thing like this, you may not believe it possible; but it is, because of this matter of favoritism. When such mistakes are made, marks are left that sometimes in later years, because there is no other source to whom to turn, have to be removed with the help of a psychiatrist.

Be sure that you don't show favoritism among your children. Be sure that you don't spend your time bragging on one in the presence of another. Be sure that you emphasize to each one of your children that God has given him his own personality, and that you are as proud and interested in the exciting things related to that personality as you are in the personality of the other child.

A Personal Illustration

I have referred to the fact that I have two boys. Tim, as I have said, is twenty-five years of age, now pastoring a church. Philip is sixteen years of age, still at home. I don't know how many times Philip has said things which have led me to believe that he thinks I want him to be like Tim. Because the Lord by His grace has given me some perception, I am always very careful to emphasize that I don't want Philip to be like Tim. Any number of times, Philip has said to me, “Dad, when Tim was my age, he so and so”–not with the idea of getting permission to do it, but by way of measuring up to Tim. I don't know how many times I have said, “Philip, I don't want you to measure up to Tim. You are different from Tim. Tim thrilled my heart when he was your age, but I don't know but that I am getting a better thrill out of you.” Let each child have his own personality.

My daughter, Joy, sings beautifully. She is beautiful. She has a degree in speech therapy, and she is doing a tremendous work. My daughter, Faith, who is next to her, is of a different personality. She is like her Daddy. She couldn't carry a tune in a washtub. She is pretty in her own way–as pretty as Joy, I think. She is a redhead and Joy is brunette. She feels that Joy “does so much more than I do” and “is more talented than me.” Always I have said, “Faith, Joy has talent in music, but you have an unusual talent in art.” “But what can I do with art for the Lord?” She wrote the other day that she had a conference with the head of the Art Department, and he said that one of the greatest needs in this present hour is for dedicated Christian artists to serve in the field of Christian literature–a greater field in this era than it has ever been before. She said, “Daddy, I am so thrilled, because my talent can be used like Joy's talent.”

You see, what very possibly happened in this is that because Joy was older and growing faster, our attention was focused on her, and unconsciously we left Faith with the impression that she does not have quite the ability that Joy has, although she does in a different way. There has to be a constant effort put forth on the part of the parents not to show favoritism.

Before you decide that your children don't love the Lord, that they lack spirituality, check some of these practical things. They may love Him, but you may be suppressing their very manifestation of that love. We could say much more, but our time is slipping away and I want to share these other mistakes with you so that you can think about them for yourself.

Parental Division

I would suggest another mistake that is often made. In chapter 27 of the book of Genesis, verses 6-17, is found the mistake of parental division. Designate it however you will. It is the mistake parents make when they do not stand together and the children know they do not stand together, and when a parent will even go so far as to enter into a partnership with a child to deceive the other parent.

The story is here. Jacob was about to die. He wanted to bless Esau–this does not mean that he was going to die in the next 24 hours–and he said, “Esau, why don't you go hunting again for me today and bring me some venison; then I will bless you.” Rebekah overheard him, and she said, “Jacob, Esau is going to get what belongs to you if you are not careful.” Maybe Jacob was a little sissy, he was a mama's boy, and he would rather stay in the house and do things than to go out and do them, and that sort of thing. Rebekah had developed his personality, though. Remember that; don't blame him for it.

Deception of Mother and Son

He said, “What can I do about it? I have never shot a deer in my life.” She said, “Well, that's all right. You get two young goats. I know how to season goat meat. I will fix it, son. Your daddy is blind and deaf and practically dumb. You know that. So all we need to do is to season the goat meat right.” He said, “Yea, but remember Dad can't see and he always feels of us when we come in to see which one of us it is. You know that Esau has never shaved, and on top that that he is covered with hair from the top of his head to the sole of his feet, and I don't shave but once a month. What am I going to do? Dad will know the difference.” See? He will know the difference.

What did she do? “I will fix it, Son; don't worry. We will fool the old man,” she said. “When you bring in the goat I will fix it, and I can put the skin on your hands, and don't let him touch anything but your hands; then you imitate Esau's voice.” I have often wondered whether he had to come down from a high treble to a deep voice to imitate Esau. I try to keep my imagination sanctified when I read the Word, but sometimes it is difficult.

Anyway, Rebekah helped Jacob deceive his father. And do you know what happened? Jacob had the seeds of deceit planted in him to the extent that he reared his own children in an atmosphere of deceit later on. Do not, no matter what the situation is, enter into a partnership with your children to deceive your husband or vice versa, no matter what the situation is.

An Incident From Tim's Life

If you haven't learned this, you will learn it: Children contrive to use one parent against the other. They are born with that inclination. We had to deal with that problem with every one of our children, and the worst punishment we have ever inflicted upon our children was for that very thing. We had to do it only once, and that settled it.

This is the way they worked me: I would be standing at the door greeting people as they left the church, and I would be trying to listen to someone talk in one ear and someone talk in the other ear, and to shake hands with someone over here. You ought to try that sometime; it is really interesting. One of the children would slip up alongside me and wait until there was a lull, and then say, “Dad, may I do so and so?” I would say, “I think it is all right.” So off he would go. Then when we would get home, my wife would say, “Where's Tim?” “I don't know. He said he was going with so and so.” “Oh, he did, did he? Well, he asked me if he might go, and I said no.” So you see what happened?

He came home and I said, “Tim, have a good time, etc., etc.?” “Oh, yes sir. Yes, sir.” Mother walked in–we had this arranged, you see; we work together–and said, “Tim are we talking about the same thing? Didn't I tell you you couldn't go?” “Oh, yes, ma'am, but Dad said I could.” That is when we lowered the boom. We have wanted it understood that if one parent says something; that is the way it is. It is never reversed, unless there is some circumstance that one parent or the other doesn't know.

An Incident From the Twins' Life

I have mentioned my twins. I can't tell them apart unless I have time to look at them and study them. I even baptized them under the wrong names. I came into our home one evening about 10:15 after a Bible class, and when I walked into the family room there was one of the twins sitting doing her homework and watching television. Guard your television sets, Friends; be sure you know what they are watching. But you may as well adjust to the fact–it took me a long time to realize it could be done–that kids can do homework and watch television at the same time. I don't know how they manage, but they do. They have a way of keeping one eye on this and one eye on that. I would get all unbalanced if I tried it, but they have a way of doing it. You may as well get adjusted to it.

I didn't think anything about her being there with the television set on, and we greeted each other and I went on to another part of the house. Everyone was getting ready for bed. She–I thought–came in and said, “I am going to have to stay up and get my homework done. I am not through.” I said, “Oh, no, you are not. That just proves my point that you can't get as much done watching television as if you didn't watch television, so just go to bed.” She said, “Yes, sir,” and went out, and I was feeling really good; I had exercised my parental obligation. Pretty soon my wife came in and said, “Honey, you have made a mistake.” I said, “Now, Honey, I know I haven't made a mistake. There is no sense in watching television all evening and then staying up until twelve o'clock getting homework. There is no point.” Finally when I calmed down enough, she said, “What I want to say is, you saw Joanna in the room with the television. Susanna has been in her room all evening long. She hasn't even been out. She has been working all evening long, and she still isn't through.” I said, “Where is she?” She said, “She is in her room crying, because she doesn't understand why, when she has done what she thought she should, you have told her she has wasted the evening.” So what did I do? Well, let me tell you something; I didn't say, “Well, tell her to quit crying and go to bed and go to sleep.” You know what I did? I went down to her room and sat down on the bed and said, “Susanna, Daddy made a mistake. You know what a hard time I have telling you apart.” That always amuses them, you see. I said, “I thought you were Joanna. Joanna has been watching television. You haven't. If you still have some homework to do, you stay up as long as you need to stay up.” Then we kissed each other and talked and laughed about some other things and went on our way.

Admitting Mistakes

You get my point: One parent should not reverse another parent; they should stand together. But recognize the fact that you can make mistakes, and recognize the fact that either mother or father may be able to recognize things related to the situation that need to be called to the other's attention. If that has happened, be big enough, humble enough–whatever the word is–to straighten it out. Don't ever be too proud to tell your children you are wrong if you are wrong.

Now, wait a minute. Don't decide that you are wrong because they have told you that you are wrong. Don't decide you are wrong because some other parent has told you that you are wrong. But if you know you have made a mistake, such as the one which I recounted, don't ever be afraid to say you are wrong. Your children will respect you.


Another mistake is the mistake of prejudice in relation to your own children. Will you turn with me, please, to the first book of Samuel and notice in chapter 2 the story of Eli. When I speak of prejudice in relation to your own children, I refer to the prejudice that people have when they feel that their children hear no evil, see no evil, and certainly do no evil. “Everyone else's brat is going to Hell, but not mine.” “Maybe your kid would do that, but don't you tell me my kid would do it; I know better.” That is prejudice.

Don't make the mistake of being so prejudiced in relation to your own children that you cannot see the evil in which they are involved. Don't make the mistake of saying, “Why, my child is safe. I led her to the Lord. I know she is saved.” That hasn't anything to do with whether she sins or not. That hasn't anything to do with whether she would fall prey to temptation or not. Listen to this story about Eli:

I Samuel 2

12Now the sons of Eli were the sons of Belial; they knew not the LORD.
13And the priest's custom with the people was, that, when any man offered sacrifice, the priest's servant came, while the flesh was in seething, with a fleshhook of three teeth in his hand;
14And he struck it into the pan, or kettle, or caldron, or pot; all that the fleshhook brought up the priest took for himself. So they did in Shiloh unto all the Israelites that came thither.

This was God's arrangement for the priests to have what they needed to eat. Sacrifice was brought, and they were given the liberty of taking a piece out of the pot; that was what they were to feed upon. In verse 15:

I Samuel 2

15Also before they burnt the fat, the priest's servant came, and said to the man that sacrificed, Give flesh to roast for the priest; for he will not have sodden flesh of thee, but raw.
16And if any man said unto him, Let them not fail to burn the fat presently, and then take as much as thy soul desireth; then he would answer him, Nay; but thou shall give it me now: and if not, I will take it by force.
17Wherefore, the sin of the young men was very great before the LORD: for men abhorred the offering of the LORD.

The Sins of Eli's Sons

What does this mean? These sons of Eli–a priest, mind you–instead of following the command of God in relation to the sacrifice, when the sacrifice was being offered, said, “Look, now don't put that in the pot. I don't want it all soggy and wet. Give it to me now.” The man said, “But, oh, God forbids that.” “Well, you either give it to me or I will take it,” and they took by force what should have been dedicated to the Lord. This was a horrible sin in the sight of God.

Look down at verse 22. Eli, remember, was the high priest, the chief priest. Eli was very old. He heard all that his sons did unto all Israel. Not only did they do what I have just referred to, but they lay with the women that assembled at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation. They committed adultery with women who came to worship. Eli heard these things. He was the high priest, and it was his responsibility and his authority to remove those boys from office, even to sentence them to death. But they were his boys, and he was prejudiced, and he couldn't believe what his own eyes saw. So we read in verse 23 that he said:

I Samuel 2

23Why do ye such things? for I hear of your evil dealings by all this people.

Eli's Blindness In Regard to His Sons

What a mild rebuke for such a horrible sin! “Why do you do these things?”, he asked. How did God feel about it? Look at verse 29. God sent Eli a message, a part of which is contained here:

II Samuel 2

29Wherefore kick ye at my sacrifice and at mine offering, which I have commanded in my habitation; and [notice; this is the phrase we want] and honorest thy sons above me, to make yourselves fat with the chiefest of all the offerings of Israel my people?

What was Eli doing? He was honoring his sons above the Lord. Friend, if you fail to recognize that your children are capable of sin, and refuse to look at the sin they commit and to do something about it, then you are honoring them above the Lord. You are making the mistake of being so prejudiced in favor of your own son or your own daughter, as the case may be, that you cannot do what God wants you to do. Look at chapter 3, verse 13:

I Samuel 3

13For I have told him that I will judge his house for ever for the iniquity which he knoweth; because his sons made themselves vile, and he restrained them not.

The message in this passage is that God told Samuel to tell Eli that his sons did all of this, and that in all of this he restrained them not. That was prejudice. “My sons don't need the restraint that other people's sons need. My sons would do thus and so.”

Someone said to me one day, “Do you believe that your son would do such and such?” I said, “I don't believe he would, but I believe he could.” Therefore I am prepared to deal with it if it happens. I have enough confidence in him, and I trust that he has been well enough trained in the things of the Lord that he would not; but he could.


Permit just a moment's extension of time here for this other mistake–the mistake of permissiveness. In I Kings, chapter 1, verses 5 and 6, is found the story of David's children. I said that David's family was in a shambles. Sometime when you have time, take a Concordance and read the sad story of David's family–the sad mistakes that David made, and the sad things that happened to his children. In this chapter, David was old. His time was running out. His kingdom would soon be given to another. We read in verse 5:

I Kings 1

5Adonijah, the son of Haggith exalted himself, saying, I will be king: and he prepared him chariots and horsemen, and fifty men to run before him.

He was going to take the throne from his father; that is the thought. Here is the comment from the Holy Spirit:

I Kings 1

6And his father had not displeased him at any time in saying, Why hast thou done so? and he also was a very goodly man; and his mother bare him after Absalom.

This is the mistake of permissiveness. I don't know how many times I have had parents say to me, “I would like to ask my son about this thing, but I don't want to upset him. I don't want to irritate him. I don't want to turn him away from me. I don't want to build a barrier between him and me.” Have you ever thought that way? Here was Adonijah, a goodly man, and an attractive man, a handsome man. David loved him, and he said, “I don't want to build a barrier between myself and my boy.” So he never asked him why he did anything.

Someone says, “Do I have a right to ask my daughter why she comes in late at night?” You certainly do, and you had better. “Do I have a right to ask my son why it took him five hours to do what he could have done in two hours?” You had better. You had better not take too much for granted. You may be rearing another Adonijah, if you make that same mistake.


The last thing I would leave with you is what I am going to refer to as the mistake of procrastination. It is described in the second book of Samuel, chapter 13. It is related to David's children. It was a horrible thing. Oh, you think this sort of thing wouldn't happen in a Christian family? Well, it does. Amnon was ill. He was in love with his sister, Tamar; they had the same father, but different mothers. He wanted a little time to make out, and he didn't know how in the world to get it done, so he said to one of his friends, “I sure would like to make out with Tamar. Isn't she pretty?” His friend said, “Well, let me tell you how to do it. Pretend that you are sick. You know how good your dad is to you; he comes to see you.” They lived in a palace, and it took a while to get around. “When he comes to see you, tell him you would like for Tamar to come and make you some nice broth; you would just like to see her working around there. That will please him. He likes Tamar.”

That is exactly what happened. Amnon played like he was sick. Dad came and said, “Son, how are you?” “Oh, Dad, I am dying. I am awful sick.” “What can I do for you?” “Oh, I don't think anything. I will probably be dead tomorrow, but it sure would be nice if Tamar would come over here and put a damp cloth on my forehead and make me some broth; I sure would feel better.” “Well, that's all right son.” What did he do? He sent for Tamar. Tamar came. Amnon propositioned her; he robbed her of her virtue. What did David do about it? Absolutely nothing. Nothing. Oh, I suspect he would have when he had time, but he never had time.

Well, you know the rest of the story. Absalom, whom David loved–loved so much that he never fully got over his death–wound up by killing Amnon. The whole family was wrecked because of the mistake of procrastination.


Listen to me: If something happens in your family that is out of order, you had better deal with it right then. Right then. You had better not say, “Well, maybe if we just kind of ease this thing over, it won't happen again.” It will get worse. More problems are created because of the mistake of procrastination on the part of parents than almost anything else I know of.

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