Growing in Parenting
Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
Eph. 6:1-3 (Holman) Children, obey your parents as you would the Lord, because this is right. Honor your father and mother, which is the first commandment with a promise, so that it may go well with you and that you may have a long life in the land.
We are learning what it means to be submissive to each other when we are Spirit-filled. Wives submit to husbands as the Church submits to Christ (EP 5:22-24). Husbands submit to their wives as Christ serves the Church (EP 5:25-33). Now we will consider how children and parents are to submit to each other.
Considering their lowly standing in society at the time, it is amazing to see children addressed directly. Jesus broke sunshine into their dismal existence.
The ancients by and large dishonored the young. If a father tired of caring for his children, he could set them loose to fend for themselves, sell them into slavery, or execute them. If not pleasing to its father, a newborn was abandoned.
It was common for as many as 30 babies to be deserted daily in the Roman Forum. They died of exposure or became the property of anyone who took them. Healthy babies were often collected by people who raised them to make them laborers, sell them as slaves, or stock the brothels of Rome. Unhealthy babies were forsaken. Seneca said with pride, “Children born weakly and deformed we drown.”
Christianity fought against this dehumanization of young human life. Children were not a burden to Jesus. He called them to Himself, “took them up in his arms, put his hands upon them, and blessed them” (Matthew 19:14).
The young must realize they live with ones who have a right to command. Knowing obedience would be difficult for us, God graciously ordained the ones assigned to punish us are the ones who, until our own marriages, love us most.
Parent, your wild child will eventually be tamed and corralled by someone–a school official, a policeman, a warden, a military officer. God, though, wants the disciplining done by those who love the children the most. I am glad my parents, people who loved me, disciplined me. If spanked at school, I was spanked again at home. One day, in the second grade, I skipped school. A church member saw me walking the streets and called my parents. Dad came to find me. He laid me down on my stomach in the back seat of the car, knelt in the front seat, and spanked me. (I still don’t like 1957 Chevrolets.) At school, he told my teacher to spank me, too. Thank God for a merciful teacher who could tell I had suffered enough that day.
The young who claim to be followers of Jesus must act like Jesus. He is our role model. Christ lived with His parents, “and was subject unto them” (LK 2:51). The Creator of the Universe took the place of submission. Follow His example.
In addition to obeying parents, we must honor them. We grow too old to obey, but never too old to honor, parents. Even if our parents are dead, honor them. Cherish their memory, though they are gone. Youth and adults, honor your parents.
Honor parents by providing for them. Scripture mandates believers to care for their parents as long as they live. We are obligated to our own parents and, after we marry, our spouse’s parents. Never leave them needy or lonely. Be good to them always, and provide for them when they can no longer care for themselves.
Honor parents by making them proud. Never cause them pain or embarrassment. Most parents deem their children the pride of their life. Successful children make parents proud. We owe our parents the best we have to give.
Do not hurt your mom and dad. To hurt parents scars them, and haunts our memory. Dr. Samuel Johnson, as a lad, was often asked by his dad to help him sell books in the marketplace. Samuel, too proud, would not lower his dignity. Fifty years later, Dr. Johnson’s conscience haunted him. Unable to forget what he did to his dad, he one day put on common clothes, and went to the spot where his dad stood to sell books. Boys laughed, adults made fun, but Samuel did not care. He was doing an act of penance to soothe his conscience. Honor your parents. Now!
Eph. 6:4 Fathers, don’t stir up anger in your children, but bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.
Paul, turning to the proper discipline of children, aims directly at men, God’s ordained family leaders. Christian men cannot abdicate child-rearing to women, for God holds fathers primarily responsible for the training of children.
Unfortunately, America has moved toward being a matriarchal society with regard to child-rearing. We too often let men abdicate their rightful role.
This absence of dads spells serious trouble in America. Fatherlessness is the piston, the driving force, impelling most of our social problems.
Some 70% of juveniles in long-term correctional facilities, 80% of drug dealers, and 80% of convicted felons, grew up apart from fathers. Children in single-parent families are six times as likely to be poor, three times as likely to have emotional and behavioral problems, more likely to drop out of school, be expelled from school, get pregnant as teens, or be in trouble with the law. Unless the trend can be reversed, our social nightmare will become ever scarier.
Dads, be present and careful. “Don’t stir up anger in your children.” Avoid harsh, cruel punishment that drives a child to inner bitterness and outer hostility. Our text is a safeguard. Parents do not have the right to act as they please toward a child. Scripture always handles authority/submission relationships with balance and fairness. God protects the submissive by forbidding harshness in those to whom He gives authority. Do discipline children, but not excessively.
“Don’t stir up anger in your children” with anger. Angry parents produce angry children. Children tend to imitate parents who lose control, throw temper fits, and punish too harshly. It is hard for children to learn self-control from parents not self-controlled. Disciplining during a temper fit does more harm than good.
It is better for our children to see us sad rather than mad. A parent’s broken heart has more effect than a raging fit. When I was about twelve, I helped a group of boys steal sodas from church one day after VBS. Stealing from a church was more than one of our saintly ladies could abide. She told Dad, with me standing close by, “I couldn’t steal from a church. I’m afraid God would strike me dead.” Dad agreed. I piously did, too, knowing I was as guilty as sin itself. Weeks later, Dad learned I was in on the heist. He brought me into the living room and had me sit on the couch. He told Mom to leave the house and to take with her my sister and brother. Once they left, Dad locked all the doors, closed all the blinds, pulled out his belt, and walked straight toward his sobbing son. I truly believed my life was ending. Dad wrapped his belt in a circle, laid it on the coffee table in front of me, leaned over me, and said, “Son, I am sorry you stole the sodas from church, but what hurts me most is that all these weeks you have lied to me about it.” He then turned and walked away, leaving me alone in the living room. It is the only time in my life I can remember wishing I had received a spanking. That was the most effective use of discipline I ever saw from my dad. He punished me with his grief rather than his anger. I have never forgotten it, and was made much better by it.
“Don’t stir up anger in your children” through manipulation. Do not bulldoze your children toward what you want them to be. It is not our job as parents to determine what our children should be in life. We are to love them and help them prepare for whatever role they decide God has selected for them.
Some fathers try to make a son into the ballplayer they once were or always dreamed of being. Some mothers try to make a daughter into the debutante or social success they were, are, or always wanted to be. Let’s not try to live out our own fantasies through our children. They have their own set of dreams to fulfill.
Parents must focus on raising our children for the Lord. A lady once said she would not prejudice her children with religious instruction. Archbishop Sharpe replied, “If you do not teach them, the devil will!” If we do not guide our children Christward, we will be the only one that’s neutral, not influencing them (Criswell).
We are seriously fooled and naive beyond credulity, if we think the world, the flesh, and the devil are not using the hard rock culture, the entertainment industry, and drug and criminal elements to seek to win the hearts, minds, and souls of our children. Evil will have its influence and say. “The streets of the city offer no diplomas, they confer no degrees, but they educate with terrible precision” (Criswell). Parents must counteract the flow of evil being flooded on our children.