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Christian Parenting Advice: Boundaries and Authority

One tidbit of Christian parenting advice that is foundational to a peaceful family is that your kids must learn to respect you as God's appointed authority over them until they grow up.

Here's a humorous story that illustrates how parents all-too-often obey their children instead of their children obeying them:

Jim put his son Paulie to sleep one night. After a few minutes Paulie called his father and asked for another drink of water.

Dad said, “No, go to sleep.”

After several minutes, Paulie appealed again for a glass of water. Jim was more irritated this time. He spoke sharply and advised his son to forget it.

But the boy would not be put off. He waited for a few minutes and then reopened the case.

Every time Paulie called his dad, Jim became more irritated. Finally, he said, “If you ask for water one more time I’m going to come in there and spank you!”

That quieted the boy for about five minutes, and then he said, “Daddy, when you come in here to spank me would you bring me a glass of water please?” The kid got the water. He did not get the spanking.

It is not surprising that when the Duke of Windsor was asked what impressed him most in America, he replied, “the way American parents obey their children.”[1]

Rules and obedience. These are not words that most children like to talk about. But learning obedience is crucial for their well-being and happiness for the rest of their lives (not to mention the well-being and happiness of parents!).

God’s Authority Structure

Foundationally, it is important for your child to understand that God is the one who set up authority structures among human beings. He set up the authority structure in the family. Scripture says:

Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. (Romans 13:1-2)

The authority of parents, then, is not an authority of their own taking, but is one given them by God. Of course, it is the natural tendency for humans of all ages to balk at authority and rules. But hopefully, as our children grow and mature, they will come to recognize that family rules are there for their protection and wellbeing.

Two Equal and Opposite Dangers

When it comes to setting family rules, parents must guard against two equal and opposite dangers. On the one hand, we must guard against the danger of not setting any consistent rules at all. On the other hand, we must guard against the danger of an over-supply of petty regulations. There is a balance that must be found and constantly checked.[2] (This web site will help you find that balance.)

Whenever possible — and according to the ages of your children — it is good to often remind them of the reason behind the rule. This doesn’t mean you have to give an explanation for every instruction you give, but it is helpful to give the reasons behind the consistent family rules you’ve made. Your children, over time and as they grow up, will begin to see the merit behind the rules and be able to apply them in other areas of life both inside the home and out.

With this in mind we come to an important principle...

A Principle to Remember: Honor your father and mother that it may go well with you.

As a foundation to build on, it is essential for Christian parents to enforce this one key principle in the child’s life. Whatever other principles and rules you come up with, this one is foundational to all else. It is the beginning point for all other family rules.

[1] Raising them Right: Focus on the Family Offers Its Best Advice on Child-Rearing (Colorado Springs, CO: Focus on the Family Publishing, 1994), p. 29.

[2] Larry Christenson, The Christian Family (Minneapolis, MN: Bethany Fellowship, 1974), p. 78.

— Dr. Ron Rhodes

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