It might appear that Ephesians 6:1 gives parents complete authority. Tell your kids to do something, and God says they have to obey. However, context is everything when we're studying God's word, and if you keep reading in Ephesians 6, you come across another verse that I don't like quite so much. Ephesians 6:4 says "Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord."
Too often, I fail at not exasperating my children. I give orders without instruction. I expect perfection when I'm not perfect. I let anger get in the way of offering instructive discipline.
God gave the instruction for children to obey their parents, so that our children could learn to submit to His authority. The parent-child relationship is an earthly picture of our heavenly relationship with God. By putting parents in authority over their children, God set up a great teaching tool for learning to submit. But if we abuse that authority and expect obedience without love and understanding, we don't give our kids a good picture of godly authority and submission.
There are times when your kids need to obey you without question. If you yell "Stop!" because a car is coming, your children need to stop. There's no time to explain that a car is coming. When our children are very young, it's enough for our kids to know that mom or dad said don't do that, but as our kids get a bit older, they begin to question why they need to follow our instructions.
If we fail to teach our kids that obedience to parents is a form of obedience to God, and we refuse to offer up some reasons for their obedience, we exasperate them with our demands. Sometimes, "Because I said so" is an OK answer. Other times, it's important for us to explain some of the reasons behind our requests. God gives us this example. When He asks us to do things, sometimes it will be very clear why we need to do that thing. God tells us not to lie. It's easy to see that lying has consequences and can cause lots of hurt. God sometimes asks us to jump into situations where it's not easy to see why we need to be there, but He still expects obedience.
Help your kids understand why obedience to you is important.
- Remind your kids that God commands us to obey Him. Obedience is important to God because if we won't follow what He asks, we can't fill our spot in His plan.
- Talk with your kids about the reasons that God gave them parents. Talk about how He put them in your care so you could care for them, love them and protect them. Sometimes doing those things requires that they obey you.
- When possible, explain the reason behind your requests to your kids. Don't reason with them or rationalize your request, simply give them an explanation. Expect them to obey the request even with the additional information. Don't let your kids turn it into a debate.