Jesus equipped his disciples and commissioned them before he went to Heaven. It’s the commission every single disciple of Jesus has inherited ever since: Go and make disciples. Baptize them. Teach them to obey.
Well parents, you have little mini disciples under your roof. And one of your jobs is teaching them to obey.
And that’s not a popular idea these days.
The world would tell you that your babies are born good and innocent and full of divine potential. That if they can just be allowed to follow their hearts and actualize their true identities, they will be bright lights of love and goodness to society. That your job as a parent is to simply keep them alive, get out of their way, and let them self-direct their destinies.
That is not the message of the Bible. And anyone who has watched two toddlers fighting over a toy knows they are not born sinless. And anyone who has had a child try to wear flip flops in sub-zero January knows they aren’t born wise.
We come into the world neither innocent nor motivated to be kind. We are born selfish and determined to get our own way. We are born tiny little bundles of desire. Cravers. Takers. And screamers if we don’t get our desires met quickly enough.
We are born adorable little rebels. And that’s why God gave us parents.
Parenthood is power. Loving power. Benevolent ultimate power. There are things you force your baby to do that they might not want (sleeping in a crib, being buckled in a car seat) but those things are insisted upon by a good and trustworthy person. Someone who consistently loves them and affectionately provides not just their basic needs but constant joy and comfort and pleasure too.
The successful parent doesn’t abdicate that power in the face of opposition but insists upon it as a duty and a calling. You know what is best for your child. And you know that it usually isn’t what your child would willingly pick. Carrots over candy. Baths over bacteria. Naps over Nickelodeon.
Real love is wanting your child’s best more than you want your own convenience and comfort. Real love is leveraging your power for your child’s ultimate good.
Confidently remaining in that position of loving power and unapologetically training your child to obey you is not for the faint of heart. It’s a challenge. It is very time-consuming. It requires unflinching commitment and courage. Because those little ones can put up quite a fight! And us parents are prone to our own rebellious ways: anger, impatience, and a desire to have a little me-time right when our kids need our engagement the most.
Be strong and very courageous, Moms and Dads. It’s okay for you to be in charge. You’re supposed to be.
The goal is to eventually help them mature past self-centered childhood toward others-centered Christlikeness. We want to see them live with patience, gratitude, kindness and generosity. The very first baby step is for them to learn there’s someone else in charge of them. At first it’s you. Eventually it’s their Father in Heaven.
“Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise)…Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:1-4).
May you learn the delicate art of being the boss of them.