Crucial to the fulfilling of your responsibility as parents is understanding your position of authority. God has commanded fathers to have authority over their children. (See Genesis 18: 19; Exodus 20: 12; Leviticus 19:3,32; Deuteronomy 32:46,47; Deuteronomy 6:1-9; Hebrews 12:5-9; Ephesians 6:4; 1 Timothy 3:4,12.) Ignorance of, or willful disobedience of, this command is one of the greatest causes of uncertainty in training children. You have a God-given right to govern your child and to expect his obedience to your rule. You are not your child's "pal," nor should it be your goal to pursue that kind of relationship with him. When you understand and accept your position of authority and actively bring up your child with Godly nurture and admonition, you do reap the blessing of a joyful and close relationship with your child. Secular psychologists claim that their methods of child training guarantee a loving, trusting relationship between parent and child. Their claim is a false one, because it is not based on God's order. On the contrary, humanistic child training destroys the family as God intends it to be.
Parental authority is not to be carried out in an arbitrary or capricious manner, however. Encompassed in the concept of the God-ordained authority of parents is the responsibility to discipline their children. (See Ephesians 6:4; Deuteronomy 6:1-9.) The term "discipline'" as used in this book, includes all of the training of the child-the chastening as well as the teaching. In other words, discipline is the order or control imposed upon the child's life and the instruction given to him by those responsible
for his training.
Both the Deuteronomy and Ephesians passages make it clear that the Lord's way of discipline is two-pronged. First, there is to be training of character, or "nurture." God expects you to give your children training and instruction thatwill promote growth and maturity. The word "nurture" in Ephesians 6:4 is a translation of the Greek word "paideia," which means discipline that regulates character. It includes both chastening and teaching, and is a term for training by discipline. Popular psychology encourages us to see our children as developing through stages, each stage a little more unbearable than the previous one. The Christian parent must reject this thinking and nurture his child-encouraging his growth into a mature Christian. This was once the understood goal of child training. Note, for example, the entry in Webster's Dictionary of 1828, which states that nurture is "that which promotes growth; education; instruction; Ephesians 6."
The second prong of Biblical discipline is "admonition," or counsel to the understanding or intellect. In the Ephesians passage, admonition is the translation of the Greek word "nouthesia," which means words of encouragement or rebuke and warning. Through admonition we call the child's attention to what is right or wrong. The definition given for admonition in Webster's Dictionary of 1828 is "gentle reproof; counseling against a fault; instruction in duties; caution; direction. " Admonition, then, is the verbal instruction and reproof that causes the mind to grow in discernment. Sadly, parents of today are sternly cautioned against damaging their child's self-esteem; correcting a fault is seen as negative and destructive of his fragile psyche. This is blatantly anti-Scriptural and has created weak, doting, confused parents and self-willed, self-centered children who do not respond to any instruction, words of caution, or direction from others.
Hand in hand with the honor of parental authority, then, comes the responsibility to chasten and teach your child. The parent who neglects or refuses to discipline his child is himself undisciplined and disobedient to God. The result of this neglect or refusal is an undisciplined child who comes to despise and reject all authority. This is perhaps another aspect of what the Apostle Paul meant in Ephesians 6:4 and Colossians 3 :21 when he warned fathers not to "provoke their children to wrath:" the Greek words mean "to exasperate and to cause a longlasting anger"-anger that is the result of a lack of training or inconsistent and unreasonable discipline. If you question whether you are acting with Godly authority in your home, turn to Appendix A and give the list of warning signs prayerful consideration.
The consequences of rejecting God's order and authority for the family are grave; we have already begun to see the resulting breakdown of society. Parents who are unable to command obedience, whether through ignorance or willful disobedience, teach anarchy to the young. This has been true at previous times in history: the prophet Isaiah spoke of children in his day as oppressive, insolent rulers (Isaiah 3:4,5,12).
In this nation, the youth rebellion of the 1960s was a logical result of impotent leadership in homes that had been immersed in the teachings of Dr. Benjamin Spock in the 1940s and 1950s. God-ordained parental authority was replaced with the child's autonomous will, resulting in defiance and disregard of all authority. How very different are the results for a nation that honors the following command: "Correct your son, and he will give you rest; yes, he will give delight to your soul" (Proverbs 29: 17).
There are three ways in which parents show their willful disregard for, or ignorance of, God's command to discipline children: lack of restraint-or failure to set standards-permissiveness, and neglect. Lack of restraint, the failure to set boundaries or standards and to give order to the child's life, is a common weakness among parents. In 1 Kings 1:5,6, the sad story is told of King David, in which he-a mighty warrior, a killer of giants, and a king-fails to set down the law for a son. This is a frequent sin of leaders as well as common men. Parents can neither afford to be oblivious to their child's actions nor fail to give direction to his activities.
Permissiveness is another common failure of parents. Permissiveness is the failure to chastise disobedient children, and shows dishonor to God. This problem is the focus of the story of Eli and his sons in 1 Samuel 2:22-32 and 3:13, in which we learn that chastening or discipline is much more than the mild reprimand Eli gave his sons. God let Eli know that his failure to discipline his sons for their disobedience was dishonoring to Him, and it resulted in His judgment on that family forever (2:29-32; 3:13,14).
The battle against permissiveness is a daily one for parents. Their own emotional weakness or leniency may prevent parents from taking proper action against disobedience, for example, "You did not mean to hit Susie, did you?" In other cases, so many exceptions are made that the exceptions become the rule, for example, "I am going to count to ... " In other instances, parents may find it difficult to see what is so bad that warrants chastening, that is, the behavior seems cute or normal. Parents need to realign themselves daily with God's standard of right and wrong and to honor God by upholding the right.
Finally, neglect can be a problem, even in families of believers. Parents may pride themselves that their children are nicely dressed, comfortably housed, and well-fed, and yet be neglectful in other ways. There are children who lack instruction and training because of their parents' misplaced values, such as career or work priorities, or self-fulfilling activities that diminish available family time. Other parents leave the job of child training to the Sunday School or the day school, erroneously assuming the children's teachers can accomplish the task.
In 1 Samuel 8:3, we learn that Samuel had greedy and unjust sons; some have surmised that it was Samuel's circuit-riding responsibilities that led him to neglect his training of them. Psalm 78 is very instructive concerning not concealing the lessons of ancient times from our children (v.2-6) and recounting God's law to them so they will "set their hope in God, and not forget the works of God, but keep His commandments" (v. 7). Hebrews 12: 10,11 speaks of the resulting righteous living that comes from receiving the Lord's chastening and instruction.
You may have a battle in one or more of these areas every minute you spend with your child. In one day you make hundreds of decisions as a parent about what you will or will not set as a standard or boundary to give order to your child's life, whether or not you will take action against disobedience, and whether or not you will take time to instruct and teach.
Understanding that you are ordained by God to have authority over your children and being willing to obey His command to discipline your children, through character training and verbal instruction and reproof, will give you confidence in this important task.