How can parents help children submit to authority?
When teens are asked about changes they would like to see in their parents’ lives, their wishes often fall into three basic categories. They wish their parents (especially their fathers) would (1) admit when they are wrong, (2) control their tempers, and (3) keep their promises. When parents fail in these areas, children can be deeply wounded and consequently express their hurt and anger through rebellion against authority.
Although no parent is perfect, in your relationships with your children, you can take steps that will help them become successful, healthy adults. As you demonstrate your commitment to the following standards in your family, you can avoid many tragic breakdowns in family relationships.
- Walk in humility.
Pride drives parents to focus on selfish goals. When this occurs, the needs of their children are often overlooked or ignored. Pride also keeps parents from asking for forgiveness when they know they have offended their children. Ask your child, “Is there something I have done to offend you, something that I haven’t apologized for?”
Be attentive to signs of bitterness and take steps to restore a broken relationship. When you fail, quickly admit that you were wrong and ask for forgiveness.
- Conquer anger.
God instructs fathers not to provoke their children to anger. (See Ephesians 6:4.) If parents respond with anger when they are disappointed or discipline their children in anger, they wound the hearts of their children and provoke them. Consider times when you have been angry in the presence of your children and the damage it caused in your relationship. Repent and ask for their forgiveness.
Ephesians 6:4 also challenges fathers to be proactive by raising children “in the nurture [education, training, disciplinary correction] and admonition [calling attention to, i.e. mild rebuke or warning] of the Lord.” Take the initiative to instruct, to lead, to train, to guide your children in the ways of God. Your actions will equip them to become healthy adults, and as you heed the word of the Lord, you will more easily discern and reject the temptations to provoke your children to wrath.
- Fulfill your promises.
When a parent makes a promise and does not fulfill it, a child is hurt. If the offense is not cleared up immediately, it can breed bitterness. Ask your child if you have made promises that you haven’t kept. Do what you can to fulfill your promises and restore trust in your relationship with your child. Pay attention to what you say, and do not make promises unless you intend to carry them out.
May God grant you wisdom as you invest in the lives of your children and lead them to submit to God’s authority. When you are submitted to God, your consistent example of Godliness will teach them to respond righteously to their authorities.