We’ve all witnessed a child’s atrocious behavior in a public place and thought critical thoughts about his parents’ lack of ability to “control their child.” And, to be honest, we’ve all probably been the parents of a child who publicly (and embarrassingly) acts as if she has never learned what “no” means (though we’ve taught her many, many times . . .).
How do parents get their children to behave? How do we teach them to respect boundaries, control their impulses, and honor those in positions of authority?
There’s no magic pill, of course, and kids seldom live up to our idyllic expectations of immediate obedience to all instructions.
It’s important to understand that our goal as parents isn’t to raise toddlers who never throw tantrums, but rather to help our children mature into adolescents and then adults who practice self-control–the ability to deny their sinful impulses and to obey the One who created them. We want them to learn to obey out of love and respect instead of fear.
To that end Paul gives us brief but powerful guidance in Ephesians 6:1-4. In the “household tables” part of Ephesians–after having addressed husbands and wives–he turns his attention to the parent-child dynamic, encouraging obedience, discipline, and instruction. He doesn’t offer “Ten Rules for Raising Obedient Children,” but he does give principles that’ll help us navigate this thorny aspect of parenting.