"Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord." - Eph 6:4 (ESV)
Before I even get started with this post, I want to make a general comment on the topic of the chapter. There are many different parenting philosophies in our culture today. Some are biblical, most are not. Without passing any immediate judgment on the topic of this chapter I ask you to do two things: read the entire thing with as little bias as possible and then study what the Bible itself tells you about the topic. Do we have a deal? Great! I'll move on.
Not only did I start this post with a disclaimer, in a sense, the author, Paul Tripp, does the same. Our culture does not like authority - plain and simple. We want to do whatever we want, whenever we want, however we want, regardless of whether or not anyone says we shouldn't. But we should desire to have a biblical understanding of authority, not a wordly understanding. Tripp mentions several questions to think about (p.29):
- What is the nature of the parent's authority over a child?
- Are we in charge because we are not sinners and they are?
- Do we have the right to tell our kids to do anything we want them to do?
A Christian parent is called to be in charge. But what kind of "in charge" and why? God has given us the authority to act on His behalf over our children. I love Tripp's comment, "You may not try to shape the lives of your children as pleases you, but as pleases Him." Deuteronomy 6 underscores the view of parental responsibility. Also, quoted in the opening of this blog, Ephesians 6 commands us to provide the training and instruction of the Lord on God's behalf. If we do allow unholy anger to "muddy the process" we are in the wrong.
So what exactly are we expecting of our children? We are expecting obedience. Why? Because God says we must. As Tripp mentions, "there is tremendous freedom here for a parent. When you direct, correct or discipline, you are not acting out of your own will; you are acting on behalf of God." God has given us a duty and we must follow through.
In addition to the simple fact that God has commanded us, it is important to establish that the parent is in charge for other good reasons. When the younger child continues to go against his parent and be his own decision maker on all occasions, by the time he is elementary aged, he is his own boss. By the time he is a teenager, he's out of control. Tripp also dealt specifically with a common argument against this. He says, "Some may argue, 'Children only learn to be decision makers as parents allow them to make decisions. We want children to learn to make sound decisions.' This misses the most important issue. Children will be good decision makers as they observe faithful parents modeling and instructing wise direction and decision making on their behalf."
Tripp does not stop there. He continues to go against the grain of our culture. Parenting is not just a call to "providing care." Not that we should not be doing that. However, we are called by God to train and shepherd our children (towards Him) at all times and not just when it's convenient for us. Here are a few points Tripp suggests:
- We must have clear objectives for our children. What do you expect of your children specifically?
- We must have humility in our task. When we wrong our children or express anger towards them, we must ask them for forgiveness. Not only is this God's standard, it's teaching them forgiveness in a very real way. You are not perfect and you will sin against your child - be prepared.
- We must have no place for anger. "...for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness that God requires." - James 1:20 (ESV)
- We should remember that requiring obedience benefits the child. "Whoever ignores instruction despises himself, but he who listens to reproof gains intelligence." -Prov 15:32 (ESV)
In the end, Tripp summarizes this way:
- Discipline: Corrective, Not Punitive
- Discipline: An Expression of Love (see Prov. 3:12, 13:24, Heb. 12, Rev. 3:19 to name a few)
This chapter was an encouragement and a conviction to me as a parent. When we're lax in our discipline, we're disobeying the Lord. And yet the call is to lead our children in a way that shows love and points them to Christ. Wow. What a calling! Praise God for His grace and patience with us along the way!