Do you want to see what happens when a ponderer ponders about parenting? Keep reading and you will see my wheels spinning and clicking and…well…maybe even smoking a bit. I’ve been pondering…parenting. I’ve been pondering authority and control and letting go. I’ve been pondering how a person successfully releases control while maintaining their position of authority in their God-given territory. I’ve been pondering different styles of authority and control…some ARE more effective that others. Ask the experts about parenting and you get MANY ideas…conflicting ideas. So, you want to parent from a biblical viewpoint…okay. Pick up any number of parenting books available at your local Christian bookstore and you will still find differing opinions even within the Christian community…all based on scripture.
So…who is right? Who has the magic formula? What’s a mom to do who wants to get this very important job she has been given right? Ask Him, right? See how He does it? See what He has to say about it? Here is a little of what He has to say about parenting and authority.
13 Every [a]person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except [b]from God, and those which exist are established by God. – Romans 13:1
6 Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. 2 Honor your father and mother (which is the first commandment with a promise), 3 so that it may be well with you, and that you may live long on the earth.4 Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. – Ephesians 6:1-4
And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. 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. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. – Deuteronomy 6:6-9
Hear, my son, your father’s instruction, and forsake not your mother’s teaching, for they are a graceful garland for your head and pendants for your neck. – Proverbs 1:8-9
Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it. – Proverbs 22:6
Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged. – Colossians 3:21
Whoever spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him. – Proverbs 13:24
Discipline your son, for there is hope; do not set your heart on putting him to death. – Proverbs 19:18
Folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline drives it far from him. – Proverbs 22:15
Withhold not correction from the child: for if thou beatest him with the rod, he shall not die. Thou shalt beat him with the rod, and shalt deliver his soul from hell. – Proverbs 23:13-14
The rod and reproof give wisdom, but a child left to himself brings shame to his mother. – Proverbs 29:15
Discipline your son, and he will give you rest; he will give delight to your heart. – Proverbs 29:17
And that took me to the dictionary to see about a few things found within those verses…just in case I was missing something.
Authority – 1. the power to determine, adjudicate, or otherwise settle issues or disputes; jurisdiction; the right to control, command, or determine. 2. a power or right delegated or given; authorization: Who has the authority to grant permission?
Control – 1. to exercise restraint or direction over; dominate; command. 2. to hold in check; curb: to control a horse; to control one’s emotions. 3. to eliminate or prevent the flourishing or spread of: to control a forest fire.Discipline – 1. training to act in accordance with rules; drill: military discipline. 2. activity, exercise, or a regimen that develops or improves a skill; trainingInstruction – 1. the act or practice of instructing or teaching; education. 2. knowledge or information imparted. 3. Usually, instructions. orders or directions 4. the act of furnishing with authoritative directions.Training – 1. the education, instruction, or discipline of a person or thing that is being trained 2. intended for use during an introductory, learning, or transitional periodProvoke – 1. to anger, enrage, exasperate, or vex. 2. to stir up, arouse, or call forth (feelings, desires, or activity) 3. to incite or stimulate (a person, animal, etc.) to action. 4. to give rise to, induce, or bring about
Okay…so…authority and control are not the same thing. Parents have been given their authority by God. Children are to obey their parents because of that God-given authority. Parents are to instruct, train and teach. And clearly there is discipline involved in that training process. Okay, no light bulb moments in any of that. But what about control? Does the bible instruct me to CONTROL my kids? You know, the 3rd definition in that one really caught my eye…to eliminate or prevent the flourishing or spread of. Control them so all those things we don’t want them to do won’t grow and spread. Control them so bad attitudes won’t take root in them. Control them so they make good friend choices. Control them so they grow up to be healthy, independent adults. UMMMM. What if controlling them actually prevents them from flourishing in who they were meant to be? What if controlling them prevents them from flourishing as fearless warriors in the Kingdom because they never learn to control themselves…for themselves.
So does that mean I throw caution to the wind, close my eyes, grab some earplugs and hope for the best and clean up the messes they make as they learn how to navigate life? I don’t think so. I’m not a teacher, but I have a good number of teacher friends. Have you ever seen how hard those people work at teaching our kids? They spend years being trained for the job, they spend hours preparing lesson plans, they spend hours teaching and instructing. They use their “free” time to grade papers to see that their students have actually learned what they are teaching. They administer tests…and have absolutely no control over what that student does during that test. All they can do is sit back and wait and watch. And if a student fails? Well, it’s back to the drawing board. It’s loss of recess time. It may be loss of bigger things depending on the parents or the number of times and course that is failed.
Different kids learn different ways. That is a fact. Different kids have different ways of being love and encouraged. Also a well documented fact. So, wouldn’t it stand to reason that kids have different ways that they respond best in a parent/child environment where training and instruction and discipline are required. Teachers are the authority in the classroom, but they can’t control how a student learns or what they will do on the test. All they can do is teach to the best of their ability, the rest is up to the student. It doesn’t mean they aren’t in control of their classroom. It doesn’t mean they haven’t established their authority…in most cases.
And what about authority…Romans 13:1 clearly says that all authority has been established by him. Really? What about those crooked politicians? What about those world leaders in countries that don’t grant civil liberties and freedom to their citizens? Yeah, that one is hard for me to wrap my “justice seeking” mind around, but that is what it says. I told you that book about Saul and David and Absalom would be coming back up again. David knew and walked out this principle very well! Saul was not nice to him. Saul was trying to kill him. YET, he spared Saul’s life when clearly given a chance to do otherwise because he knew who had placed him in authority over him. He was a man after God’s own heart and that enabled him to submit even in that circumstance.
So, can I do anything I want to with my authority as a parent? God did give it to me. He did instruct my children to obey. Yes, but he also gave me clear guideliness…don’t provoke them to anger. What exactly happens to you when you are feeling controlled by another person? What kind of authority are you more likely to submit to? What kind of boss do you prefer? What kind of Father do you serve? Is He controlling or loving? Does He teach and instruct or rule with an iron fist? I go back to the Garden for my personal answer to that. He instructed Adam and Eve what to do and not do. He didn’t prevent them from messing up. He didn’t put a leash on them or lock them safely away from the temptation. He instructed them and then let them go. Yes, He disciplined, afterwards, for their own good, for our own good. He dealt out some pretty harsh discipline in the OT, but he always welcomed his people back when they returned to Him. He even sent His son to die for us because we couldn’t submit flawlessly to his authority. Seems like a pretty legitimate reason to have controlled us!
God has ultimate authority. He is the FINAL authority. He is my Daddy. He will discipline me when I choose not to follow his commands. But He created me with free will. He created me to make my own choices. He chose NOT to control me, but to teach me and love me and instruct me and when necessary discipline me to bring me back in line when I choose badly.
And He did so fearlessly!