A Christian Discussion Around Daycare and Child Care – Part 1
By Levi Minderhoud & Anna Nienhuis
The recent 2021 Federal Budget featured a massive commitment – $30 billion dollars over five years, not including matching investments by provinces – to subsidize child care. As ARPA Canada has not addressed child care policy in depth since our coverage of the all-day kindergarten debate over a decade ago, two staff members teamed up to provide a series of three blogs to discuss this topic.
Through this three-part child care series, we hope to present some ideas and questions that will get Christians thinking about child care within the framework of biblical norms, with an emphasis on parental responsibility and the gift of children, while also considering the realities of increasing single-parent homes, a declining workforce, and what child care really means.
This first part of the series presents a biblical perspective on child care. The second part sketches out how most Canadians and governments view child care. The third part will point out how government proposals to subsidize daycare generally run contrary to biblical principles, but that there are many actions that the civil government, churches, and parents can take to provide better care for children.
A Biblical Perspective on Parental Responsibility and the Children God Entrusts to Our Care
As Reformed Christians, we believe that the Bible teaches that parents have the primary responsibility for the care of the children that God has entrusted to them. This parental task includes first and foremost a responsibility for teaching one’s children about the Triune God, discipling them as servants of King Jesus, and helping them find their place in His kingdom. We articulate this in The Moral Case For Educational Diversity: Parental Responsibility In Education section in our Educational Diversity policy report (lightly edited to fit into the child care context):
“The responsibility and the right of parents to raise their children springs from the natural, unique relationship between parents and their children. Over the first few months and years of their lives, most children are raised almost exclusively by their parents. Over time, parents may gradually delegate some of their responsibility to professional caregivers and teachers. However, their right and responsibility are never forfeited but only delegated, as Canada’s Supreme Court affirms. Ultimately, parental responsibilities towards their children are non-transferable. Just as citizens have a personal responsibility to engage in the democratic process – no other person can vote on their behalf – so too parents have a personal responsibility to choose and direct how to best care for their children.
“The primary responsibility of parents for their children’s care, nurture, discipline and instruction is a Christian principle, and many other religious and non-religious people hold the same view. Throughout the Bible, God commands parents to teach their children the law of God, their shared history, and their religious practices. The wisdom of the Book of Proverbs is imparted as from parents to children: ‘Hear, my son, your father’s instruction, and forsake not your mother’s teaching.’”
Scripture suggests that parents personally have a duty to care for their children. This is especially true in the infant and toddler years, when children are most vulnerable and most in need of the sustenance and comfort a mother provides. It is also vitally important that both parents be intentional and present for significant periods of time each day for the moral formation of their children as they age.
Deuteronomy 6:7 also says that the people of God “shall teach [God’s laws] diligently to your children and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.” All of these teaching opportunities require presence, intention, and togetherness, supporting the idea of parents as present in the education of their children.
Although the Bible teaches that parents bear the primary responsibility to raise their children, it does not indicate that parents are required to do it alone. All parents need assistance in this task. In fact, in the Reformed tradition, we make commitments at the baptism of our children to “instruct them in these things or have them instructed in them [i.e. by others]” (Form for the Baptism of Infants, Book of Praise p. 598). We acknowledge, basically from day one, that there may be others involved in the raising and teaching of our children.
Although parents have a God-given responsibility to care for their children, this is not their exclusive calling. God calls able-bodied adults to work to earn a livelihood. God created men and women to work in the Garden of Eden. After the Fall, God cursed the ground (humanity’s source of livelihood) because of man’s sin, and He made the process of childbirth (humanity’s source of continued life) painful as a penalty for woman’s sin. These two curses, as well as the duties of men and women outlined through Paul’s letters, emphasize the man’s (non-exclusive) responsibility to earn a livelihood and the women’s (non-exclusive) responsibility to raise children, both of which will be challenging in a broken world. There is, of course, overlap in these roles: both men and women are designed for God-glorifying partnership in all things, so fathers are also supposed to be involved in the care of their children (e.g. Proverbs 3:12, Ephesians 6:4), and women can also earn money outside the home (Proverbs 31, Acts 16:14).
As Nancy Pearcey explains in her book Total Truth, this partnership of husband and wife in both economic activity and in child-rearing would be much more obvious in the Christian home before the Industrial Revolution. It is important to not allow our cultural moment to distort what Scripture teaches about the partnership of fathers and mothers in raising their children.
In addition to parental responsibility, Scripture is replete with references that describe children as a blessing. Psalm 127:3-5 is perhaps the most well-known passage: “Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one’s youth. Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them! He shall not be put to shame when he speaks with his enemies in the gate.” Jesus Himself made time for the children during his brief stay on earth, naming them as heirs of God’s grace when he said, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 19:14).
Children, particularly the children entrusted to us by God, should never be seen or treated as a distraction from career goals or bucket lists, nor as objects or pets to be acquired but not nurtured in a holistic way – spiritually, emotionally, physically. The truth that children are exclusively spoken of as a blessing in Scripture should inform all our discussions on parenting and child care.
Check back tomorrow for the second post in this series. In the meantime, are there other biblical principles or passages that should shape our understanding of child care that we missed? Let us know!
Levi Minderhoud is the BC Manager for ARPA Canada. Anna Nienhuis is a Research and Communications assistant for ARPA Canada.