"If you live under my roof, . . ." The Folly of Parental Authority

Kids are question-machines.

  • "Why can't I go to Sam's house after school this afternoon?"
  • "Why won't you let me go to that movie with my friends?"
  • "What's wrong with what I want?"
  • "Why do we all have to eat at this restaurant?"

And all good parents instinctively know the right answer: "Because I said so."

At one level, this response is correct. The Bible reminds children that they should obey their parents, as the right thing to do before the Lord (Ephesians 6:1f).

However, if we only give regulations without rationale, then our children may obey as long as we're around. We'll condition robotic responses in children who may lack the internal resources to meet the ever-changing demands of adulthood.

Thankfully, the Bible says more to children than "You just need to obey." The first nine chapters of the book of Proverbs overflow with reasons why children should obey the Lord and walk in His wisdom. Chapters 10-31 contain what we typically think of as "proverbs"—short and memorable sayings, pearls of wisdom.

Yet instead of Proverbs immediately beginning to teach wisdom itself, the opening nine chapters primarily feature incentives for right and wise living. In these chapters you'll find (a) logical reasons for pursuing wisdom, (b) promised blessings for gaining wisdom, and (c) terrifyingly-true-to-life warnings about consequences for refusing wisdom. (E.g., for reasons: see 1:08; 2:1; 3:1; etc.; for blessings: see 1:9; 2:10-11; 3:13-14; etc.; for warnings: see 1:19; 2:22; 3:32-35; etc.)

Wise teaching shouldn't just present statements of truth, but pull back the curtain on why it's important. Wise parenting doesn't just require, it reasons. It doesn't just expect, but also explains.

In this way, we as parents are less like instructors, and more like guides, personally leading the next generation through the twists and turns of life that we ourselves attempt to navigate. We get to invite our children into the inner workings of righteous and wise living. So that one day, when the situation and specifics are different, wisdom may still be sought and found and followed.

If you'd like to learn more, use a good Study Bible to read through Proverbs 1-9. As you read, notice how often Solomon reasons with you, the reader. How does our parenting compare with this counter-balance to "because I said so"?