Pastors have a series of weak jokes they tell about how their views on parenting have changed as they’ve matured. The idea is that young ministers preach with certainty about parenting, but the older, wiser pastors who have actually raised kids preach with a much less certain tone. They are silly jokes that aren’t funny and even less helpful. I’ve told them, and I’ve heard them told. They are told in hopes of sympathizing with the struggling parent, but I’m afraid it has gone too far.
Be Secure in Your Parenting
As my second child becomes an 18-year-old young man next month, I’m not less secure about my parenting views, but more so. In fact, my son Britton and I have discussed the way he was brought up many times, and we both agree that what follows may be the most important thing a loving parent of small children can do.
Never tell your child to do something you will not expend all your mental, emotional, and physical energy requiring them to do. It would be better that you never said it. If you’re going to let them not do it anyway, why damage your credibility in the process? Sometimes people imagine that requiring immediate first-time obedience would feel like a never ending scolding. That’s silly. Simply don’t tell your child to do something until you believe that they should do it.
Give Fewer Rules and Require Obedience
So then, I’m not saying give more scolding, I’m saying give fewer rules. In fact, give no rules. Give commands and laws and give very few. Force yourself to require obedience to these few, inviolable laws. If you don’t know how to require a child to obey you, admit it and ask for help.
It’s fashionable to act like parenting is impossible, it’s not. It is difficult, and it is frustrating. But charming, helpful children are not mythical. And my fellow pastors are not being compassionate and understanding by joking that they have nothing helpful from the Bible to say about it.
“Discipline your son, and he will give you rest; he will give delight to your heart.”
— Proverbs 29:17