In my last article I quoted from nationally known Pastor, John Piper’s very helpful observations to rescue parents from what he calls “the folly of laissez-faire parenting.” I offer these excellent insights for you as a help and encouragement. I will reserve my comments for another article but simply say that I am in agreement with all he writes below.
Imagine this scenario. You’re shopping at the grocery store. Having just paid for your food you are walking out the automatic doors with your two children just in front of you. As you make it to the second set of doors your youngest, a 4 year-old, dashes through the doors heading directly to the parking lot without looking for approaching vehicles. You see an oncoming car. You shout your child’s name and say STOP! What happens next? Does your child continue ahead without looking back? Do they stop? Their life could depend upon their response. Obedience is a matter of life and death.
Practice at Home. Piper rightly observes, “(r)equiring obedience should be practiced at home on inconsequential things so that it is possible in public on consequential things. One explanation why children are out of control in public is that they have not been taught to obey at home. One reason for this is that many things at home don’t seem worth the battle. It’s easier to ‘do it ourselves’ than to take the time and effort to deal with a child’s unwillingness to do it. But this simply trains children that obedience anywhere is optional. Consistency in requiring obedience at home will help your children be enjoyable in public.” (emphasis added)
Require Obedience. “‘Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right’ (Ephesians 6:1). It makes no sense that God would require children to obey parents and yet not require parents to require obedience from the children. It is part of our job — to teach children the glory of a happy, submissive spirit to authorities that God has put in place. Parents represent God to small children, and it is deadly to train children to ignore the commands of God.”
Enforce Obedience. Piper rightly asserts: “To watch parents act as if they are helpless in the presence of disobedient children is pitiful. God requires that children obey because it is possible for parents to require obedience. Little children, under a year old, can be shown effectively what they may not touch, bite, pull, poke, spit out, or shriek about. You are bigger than they are. Use your size to save them for joy, not sentence them to selfishness.”
It’s Worth the Effort. “If you tell a child to stay in bed and he gets up anyway, it is simply easier to say, go back to bed, than to get up and deal with the disobedience. Parents are tired. I sympathize. For more than 40 years, I’ve had children under eighteen. Requiring obedience takes energy, both physically and emotionally. It is easier simply to let the children have their way. The result? Uncontrollable children when it matters. They have learned how to work the angles. Mommy is powerless, and daddy is a patsy. They can read when you are about to explode. So they defy your words just short of that. This bears sour fruit for everyone. But the work it takes to be immediately consistent with every disobedience bears sweet fruit for parents, children, and others.”
Parents May Have to Learn How To Discipline. “One reason parents don’t require discipline is they have never seen it done. They come from homes that had two modes: passivity and anger. They know they don’t want to parent in anger. The only alternative they know is passivity. There is good news: this can change. Parents can learn from the Bible and from wise people what is possible, what is commanded, what is wise, and how to do it in a spirit that is patient, firm, loving, and grounded in the gospel.”
Children Whose Parents Require Obedience Are Happier. “Laissez-faire parenting does not produce gracious, humble children. It produces brats. They are neither fun to be around, nor happy themselves. They are demanding and insolent. Their ‘freedom’ is not a blessing to them or others. They are free the way a boat without a rudder is free. They are the victims of their whims. Sooner or later, these whims will be crossed. That spells misery. Or, even a deadly encounter with the police.”
Requiring Obedience Is Not The Same As Requiring Perfection. “Since parents represent God to children — especially before they can know God through faith in the gospel — we show them both justice and mercy. Not every disobedience is punished. Some are noted, reproved, and passed over. There is no precise manual for this mixture. Children should learn from our parenting that the God of the gospel is a consuming fire (Hebrews 12:7, 29) and that He is patient and slow to anger (1 Timothy 1:16). In both cases — discipline and patience — the aim is quick, happy, thorough obedience. That’s what knowing God in Christ produces.”