The call to biblical leadership is the call to serve our families. Accepting our positional authority and using it to firmly discipline our children is crucial for effective influence upon our children. Parenthetically, we don’t need to fear that wielding such authority will harm our relationship with our kids. Scripture assures us, We have had earthly fathers who disciplined us AND WE RESPECTED THEM. Firm discipline, in the long, run wins our kids’ respect. They will not respect a dad who just wants to be their play buddy. On the other hand, to maximize our influence there is no substitute for winning their hearts by caring for them well.
Some years ago, I found myself praying about whether I should pursue a DMin degree and write my dissertation on men’s ministry. But a rather sobering thought struck me. If my kids are in my home roughly twenty years and I live to be seventy, they are only going to be with me 2/7ths of my life. The price of pursuing the degree now will be paid by my 5 kids, who will get less time with me. I decided to put it off until 4 of my 5 kids were in college.
The years of greatest influence in our kid’s lives go by in a flash; so, dads whose kids are still at home, need to know how to maximize their influence, before their kids are launched into a world full of destructive worldviews. But it is not only Dad’s with kids at home who care about their influence. Even if our kids are already launched or have gifted us with grandkids, we also want to know how to maximize whatever influence we can have with both our adult kids and grandchildren. This episode examines God’s two-part design of the influence we wield as spiritual leaders of our home, positional influence and relational influence. In both cases, we must overcome false worldviews that undermine the way God wants us to lead our homes.
This is the third episode in our January series, Leading Our Homes Well in a Culture That Doesn’t Want Us to Lead. Last week we answered the first leadership question, “Where am I taking my family?” noting the biblical answer, to spiritual maturity as Christ’s disciples. Like Paul, home leaders say, One thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus… Brothers, join in imitating me. (Phil 3:13ff). Today’s episode examines the second leadership question, which has to do with my relationship with my followers. “How do I use my leadership influence to motivate them to come with me?” The biblical answer to this question, once again, requires us to overcome strong cultural headwinds, i.e. worldviews promoted in the culture, which undermine a man’s leadership calling. We identify four.
A. False Worldview #1: Men Are Unnecessary
This view is rooted in feminism, egalitarianism, and the LGBTQ+ movement. A lesbian couple can parent as well as a heterosexual married couple. Men bring nothing unique to the process of raising children. Egalitarian-leaning, church-going men know their wives have more intuitive insight about kids than they do. When the kids ask permission to do something, their response is, “Go ask your mom.” Such men don’t wear the pants in their family.
Biblical View #1: Fatherhood Is Irreplaceable
- Creation, itself, tells us that the nuclear family is not just a social construct. The biological fact that conception takes place in the context of husband and wife making love speaks volumes about the best environment for nurturing that child to healthy adulthood. In God’s obvious creation design, for a child to thrive, he needs a family built on mom and dad’s love for each other.
- The family code sections of Ephesians and Colossians are significant. They address wives, then husbands, then children—commanding them to obey their parents. So, we might expect the next group Paul addresses to be parents; but it is not. How about mothers? No. It is striking that when Paul addresses the training of the children, he doesn’t mention mothers but gives commands to fathers. This pattern of responsibility began with Abraham, the Father of the Christian Faith. God said of Abraham, 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 has promised him (Gen 18:19). Perhaps fathers are specifically addressed because we inherited Adam’s passivity. He should have protected Eve from Satan and reinforced the truth of what God said.
- Substantial research confirms that fathers and mothers discipline their children differently. Focus on the Family writes, “Dad takes an objective approach and provides his children with much needed instruction in the area of moral absolutes and the consequences of right and wrong actions. Mom, on the other hand, emphasizes compassion, empathy, relationship, and the importance of appreciating the uniqueness of each individual” (Online article, Mom and Dad Approach Discipline Differently). Both Mom and Dad are needed.
B. False Worldview #2 Teaches a Parent-Centered Approach to Children’s Discipline
In our narcissistic culture, it should not surprise us that some approaches to discipline are more about the parent’s feelings than the child’s behavior. It is reactive discipline. Here is an example. A dad on the playground says to his son, “Stop playing on the monkey bars.” But his son knows that this command means nothing. His father will not act until he has told the boy four or five times to stay off the monkey bars. So, the son continues to ignore his father’s command. The father, who is busy talking, yells at him again, but the son knows that his dad is not steamed up enough to act. Finally, the father reaches his limit and explodes,“You’ve got me really angry with you now. Get into that car.”
Instead of clarifying his instruction once, and then giving painful consequences for disobedience, this parenting approach is based upon the exasperation of the parent. Kids live up to whatever is demanded of them. The dad didn’t want to be bothered with the responsibility of being a good parent, but instead to continue his conversation. Furthermore, when my parenting is based upon how patient I feel, or how irritated or angry I am, punishment becomes random, and inconsistent, which provoke hot anger in a child. One moment, he gets away with murder, the next moment he barely steps across the line and is slammed with punishment. The dad trained his son not to obey until he started to get angry. He also made the issue HIS anger instead of the son’s disobedience. Good parenting isn’t rooted in how a parent FEELS but how a child BEHAVES. In fact, good parenting makes sure that the child understands that painful consequences for his misbehavior are NOT personal and do not interfere with the parent’s love for him.
Biblical View #2: Disciplining Children Is Part of a Training Plan for the Child. Paul Writes, Fathers, Do Not Provoke Your Children to Anger, but Bring Them Up in the Discipline and Instruction of the Lord (Eph 6:4)
- Here are four wrong approaches to discipline that provoke anger: 1) Inconsistent discipline, as we’ve seen. Consistent discipline trains a child to know what the boundaries are because the parents have thought them through ahead of time. It is not a seat-of-the-pants, reactive discipline. 2) Discipline that attacks a child’s character using the words, you always or you never instead of correcting behavior provokes anger. 3) Disciplining a child in public will wound his spirit. 4) Discipline that is more frequent than praise wounds our child, also provoking anger. Studies show that parents use critical words ten times more than they use words to praise their children. Mostly correction with little or no affirmation CRUSHES kids’ spirits and can lead to a rebellion.
- In context, as Ephesians 6:4 continues, Paul implies that the alternative to provoking anger in our children is to exercise discipline in connection with the rest of the training plan for the child. Paul describes the plan: 1) bring them up: Dads are NOT to watch their children grow up but to actively raise them with intentionality 2) in the discipline: This Greek word is PAIDEA, from which we get pediatric. It means using consequences to train children. A father’s punishing authority is never to be used selfishly, or reflexively, but as part of a TRAINING plan. Paul continues, 3) and instruction (of the Lord): Instruction, means literally “to put into the mind.” This requires a plan for what biblical truths, godly qualities, and characteristics of Jesus we plan to impart to our kids.