In raising our children, parents are often frustrated because their children do not listen to them. We want to exercise our parental authority, but we often end up blaming the children for their disrespect and disobedience, which begins a vicious cycle of making it even more difficult for children to listen to their parents. We often ask ourselves: What use is all the blessings I have, if my children do not listen to me? So, how can parents reclaim their parental authority?
To begin, take time to think about what parental authority is from a biblical perspective. Parental authority is only as effective as we are 1) properly representing God to our children, 2) and leading our children to trust and obey God. I know. Most of us might look at this and become discouraged. We might say, “I fail at both.” But take courage. Here are some suggestions on how you can reclaim your parental authority.
Take some time to study the biblical perspective on parenting. A top recommendation is Douglas Wilson’s Standing on the Promises. A core conviction of this book is the power of God’s promises toward believing parents. Take a promise like Gen 18:19. “For I have chosen him that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing righteousness and justice, so that the Lord may bring to Abraham what he promised him.” The implications of parenting and reclaiming parental authority are all here.
First. The authority of parents lies first and foremost in their faith in God’s promises. If our children see that we truly believe in God’s promises, even parents do not set a perfect example, children will follow our example in trusting in God and come to trust in God themselves.
Second, if parents truly believe in God’s promises, they will “command his children to keep the ways of the Lord.” That means, the parents will set clear practice of keeping the ways of the Lord to their children. This includes worshipping God on a weekly basis, keeping God’s specific commandments, regularly reading God’s Word, and training them “to do righteousness and justice.” In other words, parental authority comes from setting God’s standard over their children’s lives. Parental authority comes from being committed to training our children in God’s ways. Our children are made in the image of God, so they long and thirst to know God and his ways. If parents are committed to providing this, they already have a great authority over their children.
Third, if parents’ authority lies in their faith and obedience to God’s promises, gradually the primary authority figure in our children will become God himself. God’s authority is the goal. Parental authority is the means. Don’t confuse the two. The more parents are aware of this distinction, the more our children will respect our parental authority, because our children know that it is only a means of learning to embrace God’s authority. The way this transfer of authority is taught to our children is illustrated in Abraham’s sacrifice of Isaac. Abraham understood that God wanted to not only teach Abraham to trust him, but also his son Isaac to learn to trust in the God of his father. If parents keep this distinction in mind, they will neither abuse their parental authority, nor neglect it.
Fourth and finally, parents’ authority lies in our ability to enjoy God as parents. God asked Abraham to trust him and train his children in order to lead them to a new life of enjoying God. It’s this promise of life in Christ that should motivate parents to both provide a clear boundary for our children, and a clear vision of life. In other words, the joy that parents experience in the Lord is the authority. Authority is not so much a right, but our ability to share the weight of God’s glory.
This type of biblical authority can and should be reclaimed because everything is at stake. The future of our children. The quality of relationship with our children now. The glory of God in our generation. May the Lord bless you in your endeavors to reclaim your biblical parental authority.