Raising the Next Generation 3

ChildWe must raise our children according to God’s design for children. Let’s consider 2 more aspects of that design.

Children Are Designed by God to Be Under Parental Authority
Parents are God’s appointed authorities in the lives of their children to do all of this. Parents represent and exercise God’s authority to their children (especially Fathers). The training and instruction is “of the Lord” – His design, His standards, His methods. Parents are responsible to God for raising their children in these ways (Ephesians 6:1-4).

Parenting is a stewardship entrusted to us by our children’s Creator. We must see our authority over them and our training of them as such and proceed confidently in faith. Our own obedience to God is behind our carrying out of His design for our children.

You are not your child’s friend or playmate. You have the role of authority in their lives. This begins when they are young with an absolute dictatorship. A three year old should not have the liberty to choose her own clothes.

During the primary school years the authority is more of an instructor. Here you need to be teaching the reason why this is right and that is wrong as well as how to approach the experiences of growing up.

When the teen years roll around, you should be exercising your authority like a coach. You may still call most of the plays, but you do so from the sidelines, not ordering them around on the field.

Into adulthood the parents’ authority changes to that of a counselor. You can’t (and don’t want to) tell them what to do, but you do advise.

It is very important that through this whole process, husband and wife are one. Check with each other about instructions so the child doesn’t play you against each other (and end up damaging his own security in your relationship).

Ephesians 6:4 also says that this authority is not to be exercised in a way that provokes children to anger. The natural rebellion of the heart will tend to feel some degree of exasperation whenever authority is exercised over it. The idea here is not to provoke unnecessary anger by eg. being too harsh in discipline, too vague in instruction or too pedantic in expectation.

The key is to use your authority to direct them to God’s authority. You are God’s agent in your children’s lives.

Children Must Be Raised in Biblical Obedience
The standard to which we must train our children is obedience to God. Obedience to Mom and Dad is not the true standard. That obedience is only because God Himself requires it (Ephesians 6:1-3).

This means that what we require of our children is from God’s Word (not from the way you were raised or contrary to the way you were raised). You need to know the biblical reason why you require what you do. You must learn to think things through biblically. As you observe behaviour and attitudes that do not seem pleasing to God, be able to identify what biblical command, principle or wisdom with which they are out of line.

In the early years of childhood obedience to your instructions needs to be established. Throughout childhood the biblical reasons for the instructions needs to be taught to your children (though not “on demand”). Always let your children know that they must obey because it pleases God, and that is our whole purpose in life. Help them understand that if you do not instruct and correct them so they obey, you would be disobedient to God.

Biblical obedience is immediate and complete with an attitude of respect. Immediate obedience means that the child does what he is told the first time he is told without delay. Repeating the instruction trains the child to not listen the first time. Delay in obeying or “I didn’t hear you” are rebellion. Complete obedience means that only picking up 9 of the 10 toys is disobedience (be wise in picking your battles here – it is better to give no instruction than to instruct and not have the time or will to enforce complete obedience). Do not accept less than full surrender to your instruction and authority.

An attitude of respect means no whining, excuses, rolling of the eyes, heavy sighing, etc. which are all expressions of heart rebellion. Eye contact and a verbal “Yes, Mom/Dad” express respect. Expect immediate and complete obedience with an attitude of respect. Many parents struggle as a result of their own expectations that there will be a struggle. This attitude of expectation gets communicated by your tone in the instruction as well as by your response if obedience does not happen – confident, matter-of-fact discipline rather than repeating and threatening.

You must discipline for attitude as well as action. Mere external obedience to the instruction without full submission of the heart and attitude is hypocrisy. That is not the kind of obedience that God requires. Don’t raise hypocrites. Remember it is His standard of obedience we are required to train our children in, and it is only the Gospel that gives the forgiveness and ability to do it (for both parent and child).

These are key principles and commitments. We will get more specific in future articles. For now, ingrain these truths into your thinking and expectations, and you’ll start to see a real change.