Please refer to Monday’s article for the broader context of this discussion.
Reference Text: Romans 5:6-10
Continuing to use God as the ultimate example in conflict resolution, today we will consider our children. Do any of you remember an advertising campaign that McDonald’s had for the Happy Meal a few years back? It was something like “Happy Meals: Stopping Temper Tantrums since 19__.”
The ad was effective because it was based on reality and I believe it reveals one of the most common parenting problems I face on a regular basis and one I see all around us. It seems that “conflict avoidance” is one of the most used parenting strategies of our time…but at what cost?
God initiated the reconciliation
“While we were still helpless…while we were enemies”, God took action. God didn’t sit back and wait for us to show willingness to reconcile, He didn’t even wait for us to acknowledge we had a problem, He took the first step. One of the easiest ways to avoid conflict in the home is to simply let our kids get their way. Saying it like that sounds ridiculous but this idea takes many forms. We can lavish gifts upon them and provide a certain lifestyle and never require any work or responsibility from them. We can be “supportive” and enable them to follow their “dreams” even when those dreams take them farther away from God. We can make empty threats and never actually hold them accountable to their commitments or for their actions. In truth, this kind of parenting is simply forgoing small manageable conflicts now for what will most likely be large destructive conflicts in the future. What does God require from us as fathers?
“Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” (Ephesians 6:4) As fathers, we have been called to bring up our children in “discipline” and “instruction”. Discipline is the idea of training, chastisement and correction. Instruction is the idea of admonishment and warning. Both of these ideas imply conflict. Our children will naturally go the way of selfishness and self-gratification and it is our job to correct attitudes and behaviors so that they become more Christ like, so that they become servants. This process always has the potential to produce conflict, especially as our children grow and begin to develop their own identity, their own faith, and their independence. In essence, God is telling us to introduce conflict into the lives of our children. The text in Ephesians also instructs us “do not provoke your children to anger” which implies that we are responsible for providing the path of reconciliation when conflict arises. How do we do that? There is a significant amount of guidance in scripture to assist us, but for the sake of time let’s consider one simple thought from the text in Ephesians. The passage says “the discipline and instruction of the Lord.”
First, and primarily, this is done by our example. How can I hold my children to a standard that I am not willing to meet? How can I expect them to submit to the Lord’s authority if I won’t? If we have a great deal of conflict in our homes with our children (especially teenagers), we should always look to our own hypocrisy first. Resolving our conflict with God is often the first step in resolving conflict in our homes.
Second, let the Lord set the rules. I have had a number of occasions when one of my “rules” was a source of constant conflict and when I examined the Lord’s teaching I realized I was drawing lines He never drew. On other occasions I’ve seen conflict arise in my house from attitudes and behaviors that I had never addressed. In other words, I had ignored the Lord’s instruction and had not been holding my children accountable to His instruction. To resolve conflict, sometimes we will need to throw out some rules and sometimes we will have to establish some new ones. But in every circumstance we should be sitting with our children and reading God’s word to help them understand the source of all the discipline and instruction that takes place within the home. “Because I said so” needs to be replaced with “Because God said so”.
There is so much more we could discuss regarding this topic, so much we could learn from my plethora of mistakes as a father, but this article is already too long for this current format. So let me close with this encouragement. Read Hebrews 12:4-14 to get a broader picture of the purpose of discipline and especially as we approach the growth and maturity of our own children. You’ll notice in this text that the purpose of discipline is healing and peace (vs 12-14). And the greatest peace we can provide for our children is found as they develop a relationship with our heavenly Father through Jesus Christ His Son. And peace with God will involve our willingness to introduce and manage conflict as we bring them up in His discipline and His instruction.