James Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family, is known for his saying: “Rules without relationship equal rebellion”. This has proven true time and time again in parent-child relationships. We must strive for a parenting goal that is not simply to have someone to obey us, but rather to build a lifelong relationship that has meaning and purpose.
All relationships flow two ways and we must strive to be aware of what our child sees in us by the way we parent them. Healthy relationships are not built when one side is self-focused. Parenting is not about us as much as it is about what we are shaping in our children. We must step out of ourselves and consider the relationship from our children’s view or position.
The truth is we can’t make our children do anything they refuse to do, and when obedience is our only objective then the relationship can go sour quickly. Let’s process this expectation for a moment and ask a question, “Do I do everything I am told to do in the way it should be done?” Our goal in parenting is to train them up to “want” to do the right thing. “Because I said so” may work with some children at certain ages, but it won’t be good enough over the long haul. It fuels resentment.
Relationships are built in both directions and with both parties; however, as parents we set the standard and model respect, love and care of another. Respect is not something we demand but something we earn. We have no right to demand of our children what we have not already modeled for them. We must listen to them.
Proverbs 18:13 (NLT): “Spouting off before listening to the facts is both shameful and foolish.” This proverb speaks volumes. We must ask, “What is my end game in parenting?” We must listen to our children to know what we sound like to them.
The first one we learn to listen to is the Lord:
“Anyone who listens to my teaching and follows it is wise, like a person who builds a house on solid rock. Though the rain comes in torrents and the floodwaters rise and the winds beat against that house, it won’t collapse because it is built on bedrock. But anyone who hears my teaching and ignores it is foolish, like a person who builds a house on sand. When the rains and floods come and the winds beat against that house, it will collapse with a mighty crash.”Matthew 7:24-27 (NLT)
When we listen to Christ and obey Him, then we do it His way. James 1:19-20 (NLT): “Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry. Human anger does not produce the righteousness God desires.” As Alexander Hamilton of American Family Radio says to remember, “What is happening in your house is far more important than what is happening in the White House”.