For the majority of Christian families there is a real emphasis on making children obey their parents. Everything seems to center on obedience. When children don’t obey, parents feel they must punish the children through spanking/hitting or other types of harsh punishment. These well-meaning Christian parents believe that if they don’t teach their children to obey authority, then they won’t obey God.
Yes, the Bible tells children to obey their parent in Ephesians 6:1 and Colossians 3:20. However, this is directed at children, not parents. Parents seem to ignore Ephesians 6:4 and Colossians 3:21, which states, “Fathers, do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged.” “Fathers” can also be translated into “Parents.”
Nowhere in the family living instruction Scriptures in Ephesians or Colossians does it tell parents to force their children to “obey them.” In fact, the Greek word used for “obey” in both of these Scriptures is “hupotasso,” which means to voluntarily submit or listen under.
And if you read the whole passage in Ephesians, it emphasizes more mutual submission within the family where everyone has a role to play instead of a hierarchy where certain members are dominant over each other. Sadly, many Christian families are trapped in hierarchy where the focus is on control.
This is not what God had in mind. Yes, the husband is the head of the household, and yet the husband is to love his wife as Christ loved the church. Meaning to sacrifice for her which makes her want to submit to him by listening to him and giving him respectful consideration.
This is cooperation and teamwork!
The same applies to children. When parents give children respectful care and consideration, children are more likely to cooperate with their parents. They learn to trust their parents. They also learn that they are an important part of a team.
Teamwork and cooperation are key in the world! Everywhere, when people work together, things actually get done.
I’ll be honest. I have a real distaste for the word, “obey,” within the parent-child relationship as I saw first hand how it destroys connection instead of fostering it as cooperation does.
For example, the parent tells the child to get ready to go. The child is trying to finish something and dawdles and/or complains. The parent, if they don’t do first-time obedience, (which is even worse) tells the child again to get ready to leave. If the child continues to dawdle and/or complain, the parent will say, “Obey me or I will have to spank you!”
The parent focused on cooperation will give the child multiple heads-ups that it will be time to go soon. If needed, they will validate the child’s not wanting to go and will later ask the child how to better help him/her get ready to go if the child had a hard time making the transition.
No, cooperation does NOT mean parents let children rule the roost. Cooperation simply connects the parent and child, thus, allowing the parent to work *with* the child! True discipleship happens in families that focus on cooperation rather than obedience.
Cooperation also removes the need for punishment. Obedience tends to foster an attitude of “Obey me or else.” On the other hand, cooperation allows natural consequences to happen. It teaches. It disciples. It even allows respectful back talk.
True obedience to God comes out of cooperation! Real obedience cannot be taught as it is a heart issue. I obey God because I love and trust Him. Forced obedience to parents is fear based, and therefore, fake. Yes, fake! Obeying only out of fear in order to avoid being punished isn’t true obedience.
It’s very sad that some parents don’t care why their children obey as long as they obey.
Another reason why I really dislike using obedience within the parent-child relationship is we’re not God and are mere sinners. Only God is worth obeying. He will never lead us down the wrong paths. Humans will.
Finally, I can hear pro-spankers asking, “What about the police? The police won’t negotiate with us.” Yes, sometimes immediate cooperation with authority figures is a must. Children raised with respect usually have no problem respecting other authority figures. And we should teach children that police are there to help us, so we must always cooperate with them. In fact, research shows that people that grew up in homes with harsh corporal punishment are at a higher risk of being criminals.
Cooperation should be our aim within the parent-child relationship. May we foster true obedience to God by making cooperation our aim within the family.