Last week, the Huffington Post ran this piece on parenting. The basic premise of the piece is that when our children say no to us, they are learning to set healthy personal boundaries that will allow them to make good decisions as teens and adults.
It’s easy to see why, at first glace, that might be a good idea. The author is right on one level: our children absolutely need to learn to say no when it comes to issues like jumping in the back seat of the car with your boyfriend, doing drugs with friends, and many others. But from where does the motivation and the training come that will allow your kids to say those hard nos when they need to? Does it come from saying no to mom and dad?
I submit that it is actually the exact opposite that will produce the effect the author desires. When we teach our children to say yes to us immediately and happily, they are learning to respect authority. While they are learning to respect our authority, they are simultaneously learning to respect the rules and authority of our heavenly Father, who has given us rules for our safety and good. When a child can learn that saying yes to God will bring him blessing, his parents have taught him in a way that will pay dividends for the rest of his life.
Another way to put this is: has your child learned to fear God? Has he learned that disobedience to God’s commands will bring him death, not life; sorrow, not joy? If he has learned this, it will be easier for him to tell his friends no when they’re doing drugs. It will be easier for your daughter to tell her boyfriend no when he wants to climb into the backseat. It will be easier for your son to turn away from the porno ad that pops up on his computer. Your child will have learned that obedience results in joy from the training in your home, and he will desire the same outcome when he is on his own.
We of course must confess that we are never perfect teachers. If we say we are, we will drive our children away from us as they witness our hypocrisy. Our heavenly Father is the only one who is perfectly wise and perfectly loving. He never gives a foolish instruction. He never disciplines out of vengeance. We do. And when we do, our only recourse is the blood of Christ. It’s gospel-centered parenting, if you will. When we give stupid or sinful commands, we need to repent to our children. When we discipline in anger, we need to repent. This, too, will set a model for our children. When mom and dad confess and repent, they will learn that it is a good thing to confess and repent. They will learn the need to obey the authorities that God has placed over them, even though they are not perfect (obey to a point–not when that authority contradicts the Word of God). This will serve them well; for no teacher, no ministry leader, no boss, is ever without sin. Our children must learn to submit to sinful authorities while on earth, for the joy that will come to them in heaven. And it starts at home.
I actually found the timing of this article a little ironic. John Piper just wrote a wonderful article on the Desiring God blog about requiring obedience of our children. He uses as his prime example a boy who refused to obey the authority of a police man telling him to drop his toy gun, and paid with his life for his foolishness.
We do our children no favors when we let them say no to us. When they learn to obey our imperfect authority, and through that the perfect authority of God, we have given them the tool they need to combat the desires of this world, and of their own sinful little hearts.