The shape of the Bible’s narrative is the shape of the father’s job; the history of salvation is the natural history of the soul. The Word of God is descriptive meta-psychology as well as prescriptive Sacred Text. The soul is not a tabula rasa born into a random vortex of spinning particles. The individual recapitulates the race. We are Adam.
Each child will therefore recapitulate the stages of the race: Creation, Paradise, The Law of Creation, Temptation by the Image, Fall into the World, Privacy, Alienation, and Exile. The Propositional Law, the Good News, Charmed by Jesus, the Descent of the Spirit– and others I’m sure I haven’t thought of. There is a Plot.
This is the plot of every child’s life no matter whether he is born into a religious family or not. This plot has a descriptive, empirical validity for universal humanity. (One assumes the secular mind will rebel at this notion, of course. But the secular mind has no better alternative, and not for lack of trying. There are countless schemas in print for developmental child psychology. They are studied by academics and ignored by parents.)
The earthly father can therefore, on any given day, locate his child in this Plot and thus understand his job for that day. The tasks of fatherhood follow a clear pattern. They are not random.
This plot, like in any narrative, is cumulative. You cannot enter a play in act 2 and understand why the characters are doing what they are doing (well, no good play, that is.) So also, the child who misses the lesson of act 1 in his version of the Biblical Plot will suffer unnecessarily in act 2, because he will be missing the ground for act 2.
This is not to say that children are all the same. They are very different, but they are not SO different that they do not follow the Biblical Plot in their own idiosyncratic way. The father will adjust his tactics to the individual child, but the strategic outline is what it is.
The father is also not simply imposing a recipe on his child. The child is the one following the Plot, not the father. The father needs to listen and watch his child with the eyes and ears of agape to percieve each day where the child is in the Plot. The father is more like a gardener than a general, more like a director than a writer.