Recently I read a blog that took an excerpt from the book Eight Secrets to Highly Effective Parenting by Scott Turansky, D.Min. and Joanne Miller, R.N., B.S.N. The passage compared running to disciplining children. The writers emphasize the primary goal of parenting to be teaching children to obey. This doesn’t sit right with me, even though at one time in my young parenting I might have agreed with them. They refer back to the Biblical 5th commandment of “Honor your father and mother. Then you will live a long full life in the land the Lord your God will give you.” (Exodus 20:12) The Apostle Paul also writes “Children obey your parents”. He also speaks to fathers and says: “Do not exasperate your children.” I propose that when we make obedience our goal in raising children we can very easily exasperate them, and even wound them, which would lead to all sorts of trouble for these children as well as trouble in our relationship with them.
If we look to the founder of our faith, Jesus, whose example Christians are meant to follow, I believe the goal of our parenting is love. We are to teach and train our children to receive love and give love. Jesus emphasizes the two greatest commandments in which we are instructed to love God, others and ourselves. (Matthew 22:38-40) Jesus’ example in the gospels of receiving and blessing children, even rebuking his disciples when they harshly tried to keep them away from him, is the one I want to follow. He delighted in them, blessed them and affirmed them. He even honored them by teaching his disciples to become like them. Jesus also taught us that if we love him, we will obey him. So obedience flows from a heart full of love. When I know him and love him, of course I want to please him and do what he asks of me. I want to make his heart glad, put a smile on his face and make him proud of me.
As a Pastor, Healing Prayer Counselor and Parent Coach I have seen too many children and adults who have been wounded by this kind of harsh obedience orientated parenting, my own children included. (Thank God they have forgiven me!) Instead I propose that we let love be our goal. I am not saying this is easy or promoting a wishy-washy kind of permissive parenting where anything goes. I am promoting engaged, creative parenting where we are committed to disciple our children, rather than merely discipline them. As we teach and train with the long-term goal of raising loving children, they will become loving adults who respond to God’s love as well as love themselves and those around them.