I have been working on a little devotional for fathers and thought I might share some of it with you from time to time. I know I need it!
“Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.” Ephesians 6:1
One reason children struggle to obey is because they are sinners. Another reason they struggle to obey is because we make obedience difficult.
We make it difficult for our children to obey when we are harsh and unfair in our expectations. This is something that Paul is going to deal with in verse 4 when he says, “Fathers do not provoke your children to anger.”
As parents we should think very hard about the rules we set in our families.
We try not to set too many rules, because the rules we have, we expect our children to obey. Obedience isn’t easy and if you are the kind of person who has a rule about everything, you are going to tire your children out, because they are not machines, they are little people.
When you set rules and ask for obedience, think about the way in which you are doing it. Think about who you are talking to. What age is this child? What is he or she capable of doing? Children are different. We trained some of our children to sit still and quiet in church at age two. There were other children we couldn’t expect that of and waited until they were three or four.
When you call your children to obey, you need to think about whether or not you have actually taught the child what they need to do in order to obey. If you say, “clean your room” and yet, you haven’t told them what that means or shown them the steps involved in cleaning their room, you shouldn’t be surprised if they don’t do it exactly the way you do it.
Think about what the child is doing when you ask them to obey. If you are over at a friend’s house and they are playing, yeah sure you can go in there and say, “it’s time to go, we are leaving now.” But at the same time, they are a person and it’s nice to have some notice when leaving friends. So you might make it easier for them to obey by giving them some warning.
Consider how you are speaking to them. If you come into the room and it’s late at night and they are reading, you could just turn off the switch and say, “that’s it buddy, you are done.” Or you could come in and say something like, “how many pages until you are done, or honey it’s getting late, let’s try to wrap up your reading by the end of this page.”
Another simple way to make obedience easier for your children is to be reasonable and to help them learn how and when to respectfully ask questions about the rules you are giving them. It’s not right for a child ever to look at you and say, “you are dumb I am going to do what I want because it is better.” But I’ll tell you a little secret, sometimes I don’t always give the best instructions. So I try to be proactive and caring and not just to give rules but notice if my children are having a hard time obeying. And if they are struggling to obey, I will let them know that I notice and as they grow older, I will sometimes even ask questions like, “what is hard about what I am asking you to do?” And I am not asking that in a proud way, like hey why is this hard for you, but really help me understand. And sometimes they will say things that I hadn’t thought about. And I don’t just pretend then that I know everything but I am willing at times to change because I have now more information.
Finally, we make it difficult for our children to obey when we are not serious about obedience to God ourselves.
There is a lot of hypocrisy that goes on in parenting. Parents are calling and expecting their children to act in ways that they are not serious about themselves. How many have yelled at their children for yelling at each other? You want your children to respect your rules and your wisdom, but you don’t respect God’s rule and God’s wisdom. It’s not surprising then that your children aren’t listening to what you say to them, they are instead imitating what you show them. One of the ways we as parents can help our children do what God is commanding them to do here in Ephesians 6 is by doing what God commands us to do, without delay, excuse or challenge. When your children see that you are serious about obeying God even when God asks you to do things you don’t want to do, they see that example and they learn from it.
Take Time to Reflect:
- How have you made it difficult for your children to obey?
- Is there anything in particular you need to ask your children for forgiveness for in this regard?
Sit down with your wife and talk about specific ways you can make it easier for your children to obey this week.