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Parental authority does not give us the right to impose our will upon our children and make them into unthinking people.
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A Biblical Theology of Parenting (II)
( Parental Authority )
Feb 1998 Alan S.L. Wong
Revised Apr 2006

A Biblical Theology of Parenting (II)

I have a thought ... children will never learn to obey the Lord unless and until they first learned to obey their parents.

Parental Authority

In other words, parents have the authority to command their children in all things (not sinful). This parental authority gives us the right to ...
  1. make rules

  2. reward obedience and

  3. administer punishment for disobedience
    ... including the use of the rod

However, this authority does not give us the right to impose our will upon our children and make them into unthinking people. Moreover, in the exercise of our authority, we must not exasperate our children (Eph. 6:4; Col. 3:21) by unreasonable rules, favouritism or false accusations.

Here are some suggestions for the exercise of parental authority.

  • If a child breaks a rule ... then he must bear the consequences as spelt out earlier by his parents.

    If I had failed to set the consequences for violation and my child already felt guilty for his wrongdoing then I should not punish but share how he could make restitution.

  • If no rule was laid down ... then such first offences should not be punished.

    No parent can lay down every conceivable rule for their children. Therefore, there will be many occasions where our children's behaviour would be unacceptable and for which we have not laid down rules. What should we do?

    Such first offences should not be punished because "where there is no law, neither is there violation" (c.f., Rom. 4:15). Nevertheless, these offences call for rebuke and the setting of a new rule or standard of behaviour.

  • If a child actively defies parental authority ... then parental authority must be re-established and this may entail the threat of the use of the rod or the withholding of privileges.

    A child who is actively rebelling against parental authority is rejecting his parents' right to rule over him. Such a child is not receptive to parental instruction. Parental authority must first be re-established before parental instruction can effectively take place.

    Should the rod be used to re-establish parental authority, it is not to vent parental anger at the child's audacity to go against you. It is also not to abuse the child. Rather the objective is to bring about submission to parental authority. Parents must administer the rod in a controlled manner to cause the child to cease his rebellion and to accept his parents' authority over his life. If children do not learn to obey their parents then it would be difficult for them to obey God.
In Christian parenting, our first priority is not our children's obedience but our own relationship to the Lord. Look carefully at Deut. 6:4-7a and you will discover our first priority as parents.