As we saw last week, when a parent is walking by faith and openly repenting for his own sin, his child is much more likely to repent himself for his than if Dad is always right and never wrong. He watches you and then does what you do, not what you say. A child is taught to repent when he screws up, not by his parents forcing him to do so, but by watching his parents repent. “What you do speaks so loudly I can’t hear what you are saying.”
Some think that as a parent they must always be right and have all the answers in order to be a good parent. Has your subconscious approach to your child been trying to avoid ever saying, “I was wrong in what I did,” or “What I said was out of line,” or “I made the wrong decision – please forgive me”? Can you remember when you last repented to your son or daughter?
In actuality, you are not always right, and you do sin in your relationship with your child. To not openly acknowledge that fact means that you are not walking in reality. Your child will intuitively recognize that you are a hypocrite and your façade of perfection is a subterfuge. They will, maybe unconsciously, resist your leadership in their life. It is a broken and contrite attitude of repentance that makes a child want to obey and follow his parent.
However, this in no way eliminates or reduces the parents’ authority to make all decisions regarding their child’s behavior. They represent God to their child as His on-site representatives, and he must obey them in “all things.” Parents often confuse authority with always having to be right; those terms are not synonymous. Leaders can never be perfect leaders, but when they sin, they can always be repentant leaders. That sin does not diminish their authority; eager repentance only increases its effectiveness.
What do I do when I have repented to my child for past failures as a parent and he still continues to resist me?
Christian parents often have children who have not as yet yielded their hearts and wills to them and are still very resistant to parental direction. They may very well reject a father’s or mother’s loving but firm God-ordained leadership in their lives. The law has as yet not done its internal work of leading them to repentance. However, if this is the case in your family, don’t be discouraged. Know that the love that flows from a parent’s heart for his child over time is the most powerful, creative force for change in the universe. If you, as the authority in your family, will continue to mercilessly expose your own sin and repent, in site of the intransigence of your children, that life-changing love will continue to flow to a child who may not be acting very lovely!
In any case, as rulers who are still learning to walk in this way (none of us has learned this perfectly), we must faithfully apply the external law of God in our homes according to the Word of God and not based on our own best ideas. If our children under our authority refuse to comply with our directives the Bible clearly spells out sanctions for parents to apply.
These sanctions are not what seem best to us, psychology’s latest good idea, or what the state tells us is permissible. Sanctions must be exercised according to principles laid out in the Word of God, and the Bible teaches very clearly that rebellious children are invariably disciplined using corporal punishment, or what the Bible calls “the rod.” In The Family, God’s Weapon for Victory, Chapter 21, available on this website, the biblical basis for the use of the rod and how to do so effectively are clearly defined. The rod is never used in anger but with compassion and a broken heart for one’s child, with the hope that God will continue to exert pressure, either through His human representatives or independently of them, until the child’s rebellion is broken.
As these measures are faithfully applied, God may use the pressure that arises from this external application of the law internally as well to show the child his sin and bring him to Himself. That is God’s job. But whether or not that occurs, the rule of God, the kingdom of God, is expressed in the family through those in authority—the parents--whose rule is based on two things: the experience of God’s grace internally in their personal lives and the administration of God’s law externally in the lives of those over whom they have authority—their children. God’s kingdom comes in that place and the Lord’s Prayer is answered—“Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven.”