Parental Success: The objective of Godly Parenting is Bringing Children under God’s Authority
By Mark Benedict
“You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. 6 And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. 7 You shall teach them 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.” Deuteronomy 6:5-7 ESV
As parents, we should strive to diligently implement the command in Deuteronomy 6 to teach our children and speak of the Lord as we rise up, sit down, and journey through all of life’s experiences. Many parents relinquish their personal responsibility to others. Sunday school teachers and pastors play a part in training our children, but the primary responsibility for teaching them about God belongs to parents. God’s plan is for parents to lead their children to a living faith. In bringing our children to faith, both parents and God Himself each play critical roles for parental success.
We should never leave to God to do those things that he has commanded us to do, nor should we try to accomplish those things that only God can accomplish. While we can teach our children about God it requires a personal revelation from God himself to convince our children that He truly exists. To be successful as parents we do our part, and God will always be faithful to do His. We must have wisdom to know and do our responsibilities.
If we have diligently taught our children, we’ll find comfort in knowing that the One who never sleeps or slumbers is always watching over them. He is able to warn and encourage them, even during those times when we cannot be there. When our children were young they frequently attracted the notice of friends and family for their contentment, good manners, and polite behavior. We were truly blessed that they were happy and obedient. However, our heart’s desire for them was that they would be God-pleasers, not men-pleasers.
Parents are not necessarily guilty of poor parenting because one of their children chooses to rebel against God. Children can reject their Christian heritage despite the benefit of Godly example and sound teaching. Children have a will of their own. Many a child has chosen to exercise their will through rebellion and disobedience only to be brought to repentance later in life through God’s grace. Parenting must be judged on a continuum, not merely during one point in time. However, the way parents respond to an older child who resists their authority is will reveal their faithfulness to Biblical truth and principles and impact their parental success.
If an older child does not respond Biblically to his parents, the parents should faithfully represent God’s authority in placing that child under family and church discipline. It would be a mistake for a father to allow one rebellious teen to challenge his authority or sow discord in his family through blatant rebellion. Parents must deal with a rebellious teen firmly and decisively in the interests of protecting their other children.
Ruling your house well does not preclude all disobedience, and wise parents must respond to challenges to their authority from a disobedient child wisely and firmly. However, whenever there are unruly children, parents should examine their own lives to see if their own spiritual walk has fallen out of step with God. Children are always adversely affected by any matter of spiritual disobedience in their parent’s lives. More often than not, when children rebel, the reason behind it can be found elsewhere in the home. Parents who are worldly, walk in secret sin, spiritual laziness, or backslide can expect to see their children wrestle with their own obedience.
However, there are cases where a child appears to have been brought up well, yet inexplicably chooses to rebel. It is wrong to assume a child’s rebellion is always due to parental failure or we may come to wrong conclusions.
There can be no doubt that parental failure has occurred when parents fail to make their children experience negative consequences for disobedience and defiance. Permissive parents who allow a rebellious child to effectively camp under their roof in a state of disobedience, yet feed and care for them, just as if they were in a state of obedience, teach their children that God does not attach consequences to sinful behavior. This is wrong and will negatively impact the entire family!
Hearkening back to the Bible story of Eli and his evil sons, we can see that this state of affairs is much how Eli treated his children. This is why God sent the young prophet Samuel to rebuke Eli:
“In that day I will perform against Eli all things which I have spoken concerning his house: when I begin, I will also make an end. 13 For I have told him that I will judge his house for ever for the iniquity which he knoweth; because his sons made themselves vile, and he restrained them not. 14 And therefore I have sworn unto the house of Eli, that the iniquity of Eli’s house shall not be purged with sacrifice nor offering for ever.” 1 Samuel 3:12-14 KJV
Eli, rather than tolerating his children’s wickedness should have exercised judgment against them and had them removed from their priestly offices. He was far more tolerant towards his sons’ failings than God showed Himself to be later. God’s responded to Eli’s failure to correct his adult children by permanently removing them from their offices. His judgment was to cut short their lives by having them killed in battle. He further punished Eli for his failure to uphold moral judgment and ended Eli’s life on the very day his sons were killed for their wicked behavior.
Many permissive parents should have shown their teenager the door and told them they were not welcome to return until they repented of their self-centered disobedience and proved it by a proper Christian walk. God calls us to restrain our children from evil habits and dishonorable conduct. If a child wishes to exercise the privilege of independent decision making, they should experience the responsibility of paying their own rent and working for their own food as well.
Parents are failing when their response to their disobedient children does not faithfully represent God’s character and holiness. The Bible histories of the Jewish people continually illustrated the principle that God never fails to reward obedience and punish rebellion. When parents fail to respond to rebellious children firmly, using the Biblical authority granted by God, they misrepresent God’s character and moral government. Double-minded and permissive parents encourage their children to form false views of God’s character and authority. God holds both parents and children accountable for their actions or inaction, just as he did with the family of Eli the priest.
My wife and I have observed Christian parents who tolerated misbehavior from rebellious children and shrank from their responsibility to discipline them. When our children were growing up and we witnessed blatant misbehavior in other children, we used it as an opportunity to convey object lessons to our children.
We warned them that we would never tolerate that type of behavior from them and that no matter how much we loved them, we could not allow them to defy God by disobeying us. We would tell them that we were very appreciative of the way they presently honored and obeyed us, but told them God would never allow us to tolerate the kind of disobedience that they were observing in their friends. We felt compelled to remind them that if they ever felt they could openly disobey our legitimate commands, we would not be able to shelter and protect them in our home. God would never accept such behavior and neither could we.
As they were growing up our children heard from our lips again and again the Bible verses that told them they needed to obey us. We reminded them frequently their willing obedience was the proof of their love and respect for God. As a result, our children understood that the blessings of a home, and the financial support of their parents are not “rights” they could demand, but privileges they maintained, by demonstrating respect and obedience to God.
God commands children to honor parents and delights to bless them with long and prosperous lives for their obedience. He will resist and discipline children for failing to show parents appropriate respect and honor. He has set parents in a place of special honor. In return, parents are charged with faithfully representing God to their children. This demands they ensure their children experience the appropriate consequences for their actions in the home.
What brings parental success? Parents who fail to enforce their authority in the home are likely to find their children turning life into a living hell through their chronic disobedience and defiance! If children disobey, they need to experience consequences that will discourage them from choosing the way of sin and self-will. Parents are responsible for applying positive or negative consequences for their children’s behavior. The Scriptural principle of reaping according to what we sow must be clearly demonstrated to children, or they can become irresponsible and stubborn.
Parents who obey God’s Word and refuse to put their trust in worldly wisdom will discover they can deal effectively with their children. These are more likely to find parental success. Many parental failures are traced to a lack of obedience by the parents. We most closely follow God’s direction in the practical choices of parenting. He requires us to model His values and character before our children. The Christian life is not complicated, but it requires daily devotion and practical obedience of all the teachings of God’s Word.