Exodus 20 v 12. Honour your father and mother.
But what about the responsibilities parents have to children?
We now turn to the duties and the responsibilities of parents to their children. Although this is not specifically stated in this commandment, it is included in a general consideration of the family. Parents stand as representatives of God’s law. Children will only understand God’s law as it is represented to them and interpreted by us. We will make many mistakes but our behaviour should be such that they do not find it difficult to transfer their faith from us to God Himself.
In Ephesians 6:4 we read that parents must not provoke their children. Let me suggest several ways in which we can act so as not to provoke our young children and I share these with you as a fellow failure and sinner. I have no special insights but I have had the experience of parenting with all the lessons such an experience offers.
If we are not going to provoke our children they must see that we ourselves are under law. If we instruct our children not to engage in extramarital sex, not to get into alcohol and drugs, we ourselves must be free from these things. We have to be able to give an answer to the question, ‘Why not?”. Our children need to see that Mom and Dad live under a higher and greater law. We are not presenting ourselves to our children as the ultimate law, nor are we making up our own rules. We must be seen to live in submission to God.
Secondly, parents must provide wise discipline for children. Sometimes we fail as we ourselves grow up with our children, but we should try to keep a level of discipline in our homes. As your children grow up they mingle with children who are not disciplined and they see what other children are permitted to do. This makes it doubly difficult for those who are trying to do the job of disciplining consistently. But we must persist because God’s Word is very plain. It says, ‘Bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord. He who spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is careful to discipline him’. In Proverbs 22:15, ‘Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of correction will drive it far from him’. Proverbs 23:13 and 14 goes on to say, ‘Do not withhold correction from a child. For if you beat him with a rod, he will not die. You shall beat him with a rod, and deliver his soul from hell’.
Obviously this discipline is not intended to be abusive. Children are highly valued in scripture and seen as evidence of God’s favour. They are therefore cherished but they are also disciplined. The entire ethos of discipline is one of love and concern for the child – not the impatience of a parent who is distracted by personal problems and reacts to childish naughtiness by lashing out.
All too often, however, parents are too scared to discipline their children because they fear they may alienate their children’s affections, or they love their children so much they can’t bear to see them shed a few tears. But Proverbs 29:15 tells us, ‘The rod and reproof give wisdom, but a child left to himself brings shame to his mother’. Surely you want your children to be wise? What happens to your child when you withhold discipline? ‘But a child left to himself brings shame to his mother.’ Proverbs 29 v 15. We need to draw the boundary lines of acceptable behaviour and to undertake wise and compassionate punishment when they transgress.
Something must be said about the current persecution of Christian parents who wish to bring their children up biblically. I know that the authorities often do not see their actions as persecution, but one wonders what would happen if they interfered as much in the other religious cultures who likewise attempt to bring up respectful and obedient children. I will address this again tomorrow.
Discipline works when the children know they are loved and valued. What is your relationship with your child like? Is it good, heart-warming, loving and protective? Does your child feel safe with you? If so discipline will be much easier.