Who's in charge at home? Healthy families need structures of authority, and we all have authorities in life to which we answer. God cares about the flourishing of families, and calls us to be accountable to one another in our roles, in society and at home. Consider the authority that God has set in place and evaluate how your family is embracing a Biblical model of authority.
Even at home, parents are never so above the law that they can behave in any way they choose. We are all accountable to God and we should live in obedience to God’s word. Psalm 47:7-8 says, “For God is the King of all the earth; sing praises with a psalm! God reigns over the nations; God sits on his holy throne.” We serve in obedience under God’s authority. Our lives should reflect an obedience to God’s commandments. Jesus said in Matthew that, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” If we can recognize that the authority of this world is placed into hands that we can trust, it may make it easier for us to relinquish control.
In society, we have a responsibility to respect those with authority over us and model respect for those God has commanded us to obey. Romans 13:1 says, “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.” Parents have an opportunity to model respect for authority by how they live under the authority of the church and the government. Protest can be appropriate, for all people are under God's design, but it should still be respectful. The obedience and respect that we model will be the obedience and respect we'll see in our kids.
At home, parents are in charge, and their parenting goal is to raise godly kids. Our culture pushes an ongoing temptation to defer to the wishes of our children. Our culture has made an idol out of childhood. We love our children and desire that they would feel our affection. We dote over children trying to provide them with every new opportunity. But as a child's happiness, rather than character, becomes the focus, children become entitled, expect others to serve them, and take on an authoritative role in the home as parents defer to their desires. But this is not how God established the authority in the home. Parenting is not about meeting children's expectations. God placed parents in the position of leadership in the home and we should not neglect the responsibility God has given us as parents.
Accept the responsibility God has given to you. Parents can feel helpless when a newborn is placed in their arms and entrusted to their care. Parents may feel clueless about how to parent well when a child's behavior is baffling. Parents may wish to remain forever young and not act like their own parents. But that does not alter the call of parenting nor the position of authority that God gives parents in the home.
You are the grownup, and there is help available. Sometimes parents need each other. Sometimes we lean on God in prayer for strength. Sometimes professional resources through Christian counseling centers can be very helpful, whether seminars or counseling. God promises to give wisdom to those who seek it. Proverbs 13:24 says, “Whoever spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him.” Exercising our authority and disciplining is a demonstration of love to our families. It is in your power to say no to things and set limits. As those given authority, it is okay to say no to things that interfere with making God central in our homes. God places us in authority over our children and calls us exercise that authority faithfully. Parents can delegate age appropriate responsibilities to help their children learn responsibility, but they do not neglect the role of being in charge.
We harm kids when we do not serve them by being in charge. Children should have age-appropriate decision making power, but they shouldn't be responsible for parenting siblings or without resources for meeting their own needs. It is far healthier for children to exercise age appropriate independence. Absent or neglectful parents raise anxious and directionless kids since structure provides the supports that children need for success. Children should not be in charge of home finances or house rules; this is part of the parents' domain. Children should have age appropriate responsibilities without being put in a position to carry a burden that is beyond their ability. The brain of child is still developing and it is ill prepared for seeing the consequences of actions so do not give them authority that God did not entrust to them.
Children answer to the authority of the parents. As Ephesians 6:1 says, “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.” This is the structure that God has put in place. As parents we need to accept the position in which God has placed us. Our culture tends to put the wants and desires of children central in family life. This is not the role that God established so we need to be careful not to give our children undue influence into the functioning of the family. It is appropriate for parents to take into consideration the needs of everyone in the home, but ultimately it is the adults who must be exercising decision making authority. This indulgent parenting is harmful to children in that it gives them authority that is beyond their capabilities.
We do not neglect our role as parents leaving our children without leadership or abuse our role by being harsh with our authority. It is important to listen to the voices of everyone involved and allow opportunities for other voices to be heard. As Ephesians 6:4 says, “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” Neglectful or abusive parenting is as destructive as indulgent parenting. Parents who exercise authority without love are too enamored with their own power. Our children should obey not just because we say so, but because they know that we love them and want what is in their best interest.
Negotiating the authority in the home can be challenging, but God has established his channels of authority to bless us. If we are all fighting for control then the result is chaos. Following God’s design brings us to a place of orderly function.
Rev. Dr. Rob Toornstra
Rev. Deb Koster