Are you ever at a loss for how to discipline? What stance should you take? Too much casual camaraderie with our children can lead to children who are allowed free rein, with little real parental influence, if any. But harsh strictness without grace can alienate our children — from us and from their God — altogether.
What is the proper way to handle this issue that is so critical to godly parenting? Is there a way to point my children to Christ, perhaps even fostering a divine encounter, as I’m disciplining them?
Parents in past generations often ruled with “an iron fist,” employing such expressions as “Because I said so!” and “Children should be seen and not heard.” In an effort to resist some of these authoritarian tendencies, I believe young, well-meaning parents over the past couple of decades have swung the pendulum too far in the other direction, favoring permissiveness rather than authority.
Many times permissive parents are hampered by our own feelings of inadequacy. We might tell ourselves, “Well, I don’t always tell the complete truth, either, so how can I discipline my child for lying?” Or perhaps, “How can I tell my child they can’t have as much as they want, when I overindulge too often myself?” Ouch…that one struck close to home.
We also avoid taking charge because our children fight so hard for the upper hand, and their will turns out to be stronger than our own. We justify our lack of authority with phrases such as, “I’m going to pick my battles.” I believe there is some wisdom in that principle, but we must carefully assess our motive behind that often-used phrase. If we’re letting go of more battles than we’re fighting, it’s possible that we are allowing our children to be in charge.
I believe parents must strive for a balance that can be described as loving authority. We are correct to resist the harsh attitude of many parents of past generations. The truth is, parents are not in charge because we are bigger, smarter, stronger, or better than our children.
We are in charge simply because God said so. That’s it. It’s not about me getting my way with my children, or avoiding embarrassment caused by their (mis)behavior, or controlling them for my own benefit and convenience.
That’s why it’s sinful for me to be angry with my children when they disobey, and I’m inconvenienced, irritated, disrespected, or embarrassed as a result. Because it’s not about me. It’s about Him!
And that’s why I can gently, yet confidently, tell my children as they’re challenging my authority: “I’m in charge.” It’s simply because that’s how God designed it to be.
You see, God is entrusting us with a sacred commission. God wants Christian parents to train His future servants to be submissive to Him!
This is precisely why loving domestic discipline is so important: training our children to submit to our authority is one of God’s primary methods of preparing them to submit to His authority. God expects uncompromising obedience from us; we should expect the same from our children.
Not because we are in any way like God, or because we deserve obedience, or because we always know what’s best. But because it is an act of love for parents to train children to obey the way God will expect them to obey for the rest of their lives.
Obedience to God’s ways yields a harvest of blessing; why would we not want to equip our children to reap that blessing by preparing them to obey Him?
I Samuel 15:22 tells us that in God’s eyes, obedience is better than sacrifice. Acts 13:22 tells us that God chose David as Israel’s king precisely because he knew David would do all that He wanted Him to do.
So many of the Bible’s great heroes exhibited one quality we can all emulate: uncompromising and immediate obedience! These include Abraham, Moses, Deborah, Paul, and of course the ultimate example of a Son obeying His Father, even at great cost to Himself: Jesus Christ.
Let us strive to obey Him, and to lovingly teach our children to do the same.
How do you exercise loving authority at home? Do you agree that obedience to parents is God’s training ground for obedience to Him? Please take a moment and share by leaving a comment below.
Written by Jennifer Clarke