(Whether a parent yourself, or a grandparent, an aunt, an uncle, a neighbor, a teacher, a scout leader, or whatever your role in the lives of the children around you, this important series will give you valuable tips on how to influence those kids for the Lord! To access the entire “Bringing up Kids God’s Way” mini-series, please click here.)
Many of us grew up in an age where what our parents said was to be obeyed without question. The obeying part is a Biblical concept: “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.” (Eph 6:1 NIV); and I never had too much trouble accepting this part. But what I couldn’t understand as a child was the “without question” part. Naturally, I understood that I was to honor my parents (See Ex. 20:12). There were times, however, that to my immature brain, what they asked of me didn’t make any sense. In fact, there were times when it even seemed wrong. How was I, in good conscience, supposed to honor them with my obedience when my teenage mind saw it all as wrong?
Now, there are personality types who are content to do things simply because they are told to. Mine is not one of them, and I would add that it is actually a good thing to question. Those who don’t question are easily drawn astray. I would like to propose that personality aside, questioning is also a big part of the maturing process, and during this questioning stage, the “do it because I said so” attitude is maddening, often leading to rebellious thoughts.
I never openly rebelled with my parents; I only rebelled in my mind. But many others of my generation did rebel openly.
Were we right to rebel?
Rebellion, whether open or in the mind, is wrong, because it does not “honor your father and your mother” (Ex. 20:12).
Were our parents wrong to expect us to obey without questioning?
They were simply expecting us to follow our part of the biblical commands.
I would like to propose, however, that as parents and grandparents, we can take steps to prevent the next generation from rebellion by taking to heart another Biblical command: “Fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath”.
But wait a minute. Don’t we have a bit of a paradox here? Children are to obey without question, yet expecting them to do so often provokes them to wrath!
I would like to propose that there is a simple solution to the dilemma: Be prepared to explain yourself to your kids!
But wait a minute! I shouldn’t have to explain myself to my kids!
Maybe not. But if they are not content to obey without question, as is most often the case, then it is not our job to judge them for their disrespect. It is our job, as mature, Christian adults, to help them find a middle ground. To help them want to obey. If a child understands your reasoning on an issue, he or she is much more likely to obey without becoming angry.
My oldest son doesn’t feel cold. His ears may be frosty red and he may be covered with goose bumps, but he still claims he feels hot and he refuses to wear a coat. As a result, I am often faced with a dilemma: Do I let him go out in the -20 degree weather without a coat and risk getting frost-bite? Or do I put my foot down to insist on a coat and risk a battle?
Naturally, my place is to insist on the coat. But can I do so without him rebelling?
Yes, I can. By explaining myself; by making him see it from my perspective.
A recent conversation with him went something like this: “Son, I know you don’t feel the cold. But you’re going to clean stalls, and you’ll be outside in the wind and snow.”
“Oh, mom!” He rolled his eyes. “I won’t get frostbite!”
I bit my lip as I prayed for wisdom. Then I said, “Take a look at the thermometer!” I waited while he obeyed. “Now notice how windy it is out there,” I added, again waiting as he complied. “How long would it take exposed flesh to freeze at this temperature?”
“Uh . . . Not long?”
“I know you don’t feel the cold,” I continued, “but your skin still does. And whether you feel cold or not, you can still get frostbite!”
My son rolled his eyes and reached for his coat.
I sighed. I had won, but had I prevented the anger? That would become apparent as soon as I picked him up from the barn.
“Mom,” he said, rather sheepishly. “I’m glad I had my coat. In fact, I wish I had taken my gloves! My hands got really wet when I was hauling water!” Then he looked up at me with a twinkle in his eye: “But I didn’t need the coat in the barn!”
My son had to admit I was right, yet he didn’t want to feel like he was totally out of control. But that was okay. He didn’t have to like the idea about the coat, as long as the reasoning made sense to him. As a result, the rebellion was stopped.
This type of reasoning may not work with every child. You have to know your child and how he thinks. But the idea is the same. When we take the time to explain ourselves in ways our kids can relate to, much trouble can be avoided.
There are times, of course, like when your child is in the middle of the road and a car is coming, when we shouldn’t even be required to explain ourselves. You and your child should have such a strong trust relationship (and this has to be earned, on your part as well as on his or hers) that they don’t stop to question what you say, they just obey. Always be prepared to offer an explanation afterwards, however. This will go a long ways towards building that trust relationship!
Enough to ponder, but do ponder this: When we take the time to explain ourselves to our children, we make it much easier for them to follow the biblical commands to obey and to honor their parents!
Join us next week for Bringing Kids up God’s Way, Part 9: Issues of Control!
In His love,
(To access the entire “Bringing up Kids God’s Way” mini-series, please click here.)