“Discipline your children while there is still hope. If you don’t you will ruin their lives.” Proverbs 19:18 NLT
My husband and I were at a neighbor’s house one day, when the father and husband of the household confessed in exasperation, “The better I treat my kids, the worse they treat me!” This man began to describe in detail how for years, he had bent over backwards to win the approval of his children by striving to meet their needs, and even their wants. These children were now in their teens and early 20s, and they were spoiled and selfish, and showed a definite lack of respect for their parents. As I began to think about this man and his family, and to pray for them, I asked the Lord to help me understand what might have gone so terribly wrong in this household. First of all, let me say that my own family and I have had our share of ups and downs over the years. My husband and I have made many mistakes in raising our two sons, who are both in their 30s now. They are fine young men, but I know in my heart that I could have done a much better job as a parent, and I regret not seeking God more, so that I could follow more closely His divine plan for my family.
When I was growing up, there was a famous child “expert,” who had a tremendous impact on an entire generation. He advocated permissive methods of parenting, and he condemned the kind of discipline that the Bible teaches. Decades later, this man said that he had been terribly wrong, and that after conducting long-term studies, he discovered that permissive parents almost always raised rebellious children. His revelation made me think of the Scripture that says, “A servant who is pampered from childhood will later become a rebel.” (Proverbs 29:21 NLT) One reason why pampered children often become rebellious is that they usually have very little respect for their parents. The Bible says, “We have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it.” (Hebrews 12:9 NIV) I had a very tough father, and though I resented much of his discipline when I was growing up, I have to admit that I always had a tremendous amount of respect for him. I know a young man who is angry and bitter, and if you ask him why, he will tell you point blank, “My father didn’t say ‘No’ to me enough.” This man equated discipline with love, just as the Bible does. Proverbs 13:24 (NLT) says: “If you refuse to discipline your children, it proves you don’t love them; if you love your children, you will be prompt to discipline them.”
One of the biggest mistakes that parents are making today is that they are desperately trying to win the approval of their children. Do you think that God worries about winning the approval of HIS children? No, He does not. And why is that? Because He is more concerned with doing what is best for His offspring. And we, as parents, should have the same attitude. God is not pleased when we focus on pleasing our children. Instead, He wants us to focus on pleasing Him–in our parenting, and in all other respects–and when we do things His way, HE will give us favor with our children. God is never going to let us earn our children’s respect or approval when we are busy trying to please them, instead of Him.
When Jesus bitterly rebuked the Pharisees for their lack of concern and respect for their parents, we have to remember that He was speaking to grown men. (Mark 7:9-13) Parents of grown children should still expect their sons and daughters to treat them with respect. That doesn’t mean that we should try to control their lives, but that we should never have the attitude that our kids have outgrown their need to respect their parents. Likewise, we as adult children, should always remember that when God commanded His people to “honor” their father and mother, He was speaking to adults, at least as much as to children. (Exodus 20:12)
Scripture says: “Discipline your children while there is still hope. If you don’t you will ruin their lives.” (Proverbs 19:18 NLT) No matter how old your children are, and no matter how many mistakes you’ve made as a parent, let me assure you that there is still hope for your family, through God’s redeeming power. May this precious promise from the Lord encourage you today: “Discipline your children; you’ll be glad you did–they’ll turn out delightful to live with”! (Proverbs 29:17 MSG)
Lord, forgive me for the mistakes I’ve made as a parent, and for neglecting to seek Your wisdom and grace in this area. Remind me that if I want to do what’s best for my children, I need to focus on pleasing You, instead of them. Thank You that as I give You first place in my life, You will equip me to be the godly parent that You want me to be!