Raising Our Children Right
Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise), “that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.” Ephesians 6:1-3
I know that good parenting doesn’t guarantee that our kids won’t make mistakes. I had wonderful parents, but I still made a mess of my life in my addiction. I also know that good adults can come out of terrible childhoods. However, in general, poor parenting handicaps kids for the rest of their lives. Working in addiction medicine and the correctional system, I daily meet those whose lives are a calamity because they make one horrific decision after another. It’s easy to sit back and criticize their life choices. How can you be so stupid, repeatedly making the same mistakes?
When I take time to ask them about their childhood though, it’s usually a revealing story. They got where they are for a reason. Their lives are dysfunctional because they were raised in dysfunction. Neglected, abused, or exposed to drugs from a young age, it seems they didn’t stand much of a chance. Appropriate discipline simply didn’t exist in their homes, and they’ve been in trouble with authority since childhood because they never learned obedience from their parents.
In today’s passage, Paul echoed the fifth commandment given to Moses way back in Exodus. Children, obey your parents. He went on to say that following this command wasn’t about obeying God for some arbitrary reason. It’s about our children’s future. Children who learn discipline from their parents have a far better chance of growing into functional adults.
Paul’s command appears to be given to our children, but you cannot blame children for their childhood any more than you can blame them for their conception. The command is at least as much for parents as it is for our offspring. It is up to us to raise our children with the best chance for success in their future. As parents, we must teach our children to follow us.
The problem of course, is that we have our own dysfunctions. It’s difficult to teach our kids to do what’s right, when we don’t follow the heavenly father ourselves. As God’s children, Paul’s command applies to us as well. Being obedient and doing what’s right doesn’t mean that we’ll never have any problems in life, but going our own way is a sure recipe for self-inflicted disaster, which our kids will likely inherit. If we want our children to have the best chance at life, we must teach them to do what’s right. To do so, we must follow the father in heaven ourselves.