As I think about passing on some parenting insights for families there are so many topics that run through my mind that it is hard to know where to start. My desire would be to begin with the most significant and foundational matters that affect all the other areas of parenting. In that light I believe that one of the core foundation blocks in biblical parenting is parental authority. When loving parental authority is present in a home, both children and parents enjoy the blessing of peace and harmony. But when that exercise of loving authority is missing the home can be filled with strife and chaos.
A foundational loss in families develops as parents respond in unhealthy ways when their children have temper tantrums, run away from them, disobey their commands, talk back to them, whine, etc. Frequently moms and dads bribe their children into good behavior in order to alleviate an immediate crisis. These practices have become so common today that it seems no one even sees it as unhealthy parenting. Or the other extreme is where parents snatch up a child and start ‘whupping’ them in public. I am concerned that many of today’s parents have bought into the idea that this is normal parenting. Compounding the problem is that it is common for parents to believe that the bad behavior and attitudes being expressed by their children is simply to be accepted as a natural and normal dynamic of childhood. So they choose just to ‘grin and bear it’ or even consider it amusing until it goes away.
The concerns, the problems, the solutions, the doctrines, etc, of parenting are discussed and dissected and printed in volumes of books and articles that line the shelves of bookstores and pastor’s libraries. While my pastor’s heart may want to elaborate on the deep and long-term aspects of parental authority, I have decided that what is best for this setting are just a few words of encouragement for the here and now of parenting.
Be in Charge:
Remember this! The God who made us, the one who loves us and who constantly is looking to accomplish what is best for us…He is in Charge of us! And His immense Love for us insists that He always exercises that rightful place in our lives. And so we as parents would be more than wise to follow the perfect example of the Father in Heaven and apply it to our parenting. I know this is hard in the middle of parenting moments because many of the times our children want to be in charge, and it is just easier to give in. That is why it is important to start, create, and maintain parental authority in the home.
Restaurant dining was not too common for our family in young years, but when we did go we were able to notice and appreciate the advantages of maintaining authority in the home on a regular basis. A meal was usually selected by Amy or me for each of them, and we enjoyed a really special time together as a family. In particular we enjoyed a peace filled event that seemed to be in contrast to the turmoil and frustration that some of those around us were dealing with as their children complained and demanded to get their own way.
When children are allowed to push back against the word of mom or dad on a regular basis the home and family suffer. While it is natural to want to give our children choices (and they certainly want to make them for us), parental authority has less and less traction when children are given these liberties at young ages. It is so often just the regular activities and function of life that makes the difference. Mom knows the very best time for bath, and she knows that play clothes are the best option for helping daddy dig holes for the house rather than the fancy princess dress. She is in charge. Even if several choices are offered to a child it under the authority and guidance of parents.
It seems so obvious to say this but in all honesty this is really the heart of the matter. Being in charge of our children is not a matter of convenience to us as parents. It is about wanting the absolute best for our sons and daughters for all the days of their lives. Not just how pleasant I can make the situation for me or child in that moment. We may need to look deep within our hearts and say “Lord, I need your love for my child just now. I want to utilize this moment as an opportunity for me to develop character qualities and values that will benefit my child for a life-time. Help me point them to you as the perfect heavenly Father/parent who will in love discipline those He loves most. May my child learn what it is to live under your loving authority all of their days.”
It is almost certain that establishing authority will require disciple that is not easy for parents. Especially an affective spanking. We must be fully convinced that love and discipline are in harmony and it seems can’t be separated in this world we live in. And hopefully a majority of our parenting is spent nurturing and caring. Behind every word or action we take as parents we need to remember and rehearse and then express love in that moment. But when it comes to moments when love requires confrontation with our children we need the love God gives to us. I admit that this is so much easier when the pattern is begun young (infants) and then followed through consistently. But the real concern is not when we start but how well we are honestly loving the children the Lord put in our care. Remembering that God will supply His grace to follow His example no matter where we may be in the parenting journey. As our children live under such loving authority they will gradually become their own person.
Keep the Flame:
This thought may seem so unique to the other two but I believe that it fits right in. On a really practical level, if a dad and mom are so exasperated with the work of parenting because of the constant battle for who is in charge in the home, then there is much less time, energy, or emotional capacity for husband and wife to give to each other. Being intentional in romance and intimacy is certainly another subject matter but it is important to see the value to both the marriage and the family. When a husband and wife (especially) are refreshed and replenished in their love for each other then there is a greater source of emotional and spiritual strength they have to love their children with loving authority. It is wise and wonderful for every marriage, to which God has blessed with children, to faithfully and lovingly exercise parental authority.