Most of us wouldn’t say such things to our kids. If we did, it would be done purely in jest. (Whereas, the true intentions of our own parents were, at times, a bit ambiguous.) This generation promotes a kinder, gentler approach to parenting. We are less prone to speak from a position of authority and more likely to reason with our kids. We prepare our case, anticipate rebuttals, and present our arguments. We listen. In fact, we feel obligated to listen. We judge, but we try to be fair. Who can argue with that?
Our kinder-gentler parenting style has some merits, but I also fear that we’ve lost something. We’ve lost the concept of authority. We’ve forgotten that God put us in charge of our kids. When we tell our kids to do something, if there is anyone who is going to ask “Why?” or “How come?” it had better be God. He is the One we answer to.
I’m not saying we should have authoritarian relationships with our kids, and I’m not saying that we shouldn’t help our kids understand the reasoning behind why we instruct them the way we do. However, I also think we should have the complete freedom to ask them to obey just because we asked them to.
Let me give an example.
Dad: “I’d like you to go wash your hands before supper.”
Optional response 1: “Because you were playing with turtles and turtles are a major source of Salmonella infections among young children. You could get really sick, and I love you, and I don’t want you to get sick. And make sure the temperature reaches 100 degrees Fahrenheit, wash for 20 seconds, and make sure you get your arms too.”
Optional response 2: “Because it helps kill germs.”
Optional response 3: “Because I asked you to. God put you in my family and He put me in charge. You may not like this, or see the wisdom in it, but that’s okay. You may think it would be better to do something else, and maybe you’re even right. But God wants you to obey anyway.”
Optional response 4: “Because I told you so.”
My response in such a situation could depend on a number of factors: the context of the conversation, any rebellion I sense in the child, the amount of time I have to provide an explanation, and how many “whys” I’ve been asked. I could use any of these responses and wouldn’t feel the least bit guilty about doing so.
I love my kids like crazy. I tell them that and I show them that all the time. My relationship with my kids is one of my highest priorities. But I also am in a role with my kids that God has defined. I’m the dad, and they are the kids. I am asked to train them and raise them, and they are asked to honor and obey me.
Using your authority and expecting obedience is not a lack of grace; it’s simply carrying out the charge you’ve been given. We must be at peace with being the ones who give the commands, see to the follow-through, and dish out any necessary discipline. It’s fundamentally important that parents be willing to play the part of the parent.