There’s a lot of things parents shouldn’t do. In a recent sermon series we talked about how, as parents, we want to go beyond obedience and get to the heart of our kids. That means we don’t want to make decisions as parents that simply modify our children’s behavior, but instead we want to train them up in godliness (Proverbs 22:6). This rules out a number of bad habits we can form, but there are at least seven things that parents can—and should—do.
The Parent’s Can Do List
1. You can believe in your own selfless authority. If you lack conviction, yet require obedience, you’re just being a bully. If you don’t believe that you are only saying and doing the things that are going to bring the child joy and goodness in the future, then you have no business enforcing your words. But if you do believe that your words will bring joy and goodness, you have no right to fail your child by giving in.
2. You can articulate a clear purpose to your child (and, when necessary, to your own nosy relatives). In life’s calmer moments you can teach, “Do you know why Daddy/Mommy makes you always obey? Because I only tell you to do what is best. God doesn’t want daddies/mommies to be selfish.”
Real Parenting is Noble
3. You can discern the difference between bullying and training. Training is often unpleasant. It can hurt, and can make us angry at the trainer, but we understand that ultimately it is focused on the trainee. A bully is focused only on himself. Ironically, the permissive parent who lacks the conviction to require obedience (first-time, non-complaining obedience) is just as self-focused as the bully parent who merely wants their way. Neither is thinking of the good of the child, but has something else they’d rather be doing.
4. You can believe in the nobility of decisively winning every confrontation of the will. Without the conviction that a) you are the authority, b) that your authority is selfless, and c) that your selfless authority is only exercised for the good of the child, there is little honor in telling a child to go back to bed. However, the wise parent knows that slowly giving a toddler the tools to become a self-disciplined adult is as noble as walking your daughter down the aisle.
Real Parenting is Pervasive
5. You can make being a parent a part of your “real life.” If you look for quick solutions so you can get on with your real life, you will never get beyond obedience. Yes, there are tips and tricks to getting a new behavior to emerge or disappear within a few days, but real parenting is pervasive. My wife, Brooke, told me that this should have been first on the list.
6. You can ignore popular parenting. The good dad in Proverbs 7:2 is so confident in what he is saying he tells his son to keep this teaching as the “apple of your eye.” The same dad will say that his words are the “words of life.” What passes for parenting wisdom online doesn’t even claim to bring life. It’s about dealing with frustration, managing difficult days, and keeping sane in chaos. Going beyond obedience is good because it is old, even ancient.
Parents Can Do This
7. You can do this because you love your child, and you don’t hate him. If you Google, “a father who hates his son,” Proverbs 13:24 is on the first page. “Whoever spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him.”
Loving your child means putting away dreams that your children are already self-controlled. They’re not. Putting away dreams that maybe today they won’t need constant correction. They will. Putting away dreams that they can make the wise choice, speak with love to their brother, take an insult without needing revenge. They can’t.
This scripture is begging, “Don’t hate them just because they’re children. Sure, if they were adults you wouldn’t have to be in authority, but they’re just little kids.” Love them by being diligent in your authority over them.