By Gilbert Mbewe
Last week a friend asked me this question “when did we start to negotiate with our children?” This was after we entered a shop and show a parent tying to negotiate with the child what to pick.
We could see that this parent had a difficult time trying to negotiate with the child and apparently the child seemed not ready to listen. I see this many times. Some parents have even developed a strategy for negotiation with their children.
Okay. There is nothing wrong negotiating with your children and allowing children to occasionally participate in decision-making. Children need to learn to make some decisions on their own. It helps them develop their decision-making skills and learn to use good judgment. Yet children also need to learn to take directions, follow commands, and render immediate obedience to parents.
Children must be taught and trained in obedience. This should be deliberately emphasized and practiced in the home setting. God has designated parents as the primary authority over their children and children must obey their parents (Ephesians 6:1-4).
Let me say this again it is imperative that parents train their children on how to honor and submit themselves to authority. Through immediately obeying parental commands, children learn how to submit to God and His appointed authorities. Ultimately, obedience to parents prepares them to submit their own selves to God.
When the Bible says that, “Fathers do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord”, (Ephesians 6:4) does not stop you from training your children to obey you.
As parents we should not needlessly provoke our children, but avoiding all provocation skirts the child’s fundamental need to learn to submit to parental authority.
Parents who consistently avoid provocation are at risk of abdicating their God-given authority over to the child. In this way they encourage their children to believe that they have authority over themselves.
Children should learn to accept early that God has placed them under their parent’s authority. Children should be trained to unconditionally obey without expectation for explanations, pleading, negotiation, or discussion.
While there are times when parents should explain their directions and engage in a reasoned discussion with their children, it’s absolutely unwise to allow your children to believe that all parental directions require explanation and are subject to negotiations.
Parents who negotiate with their children may believe they are doing the right thing if they successfully avoid the immediate unpleasantness of an emotional outburst.
They are unaware of the future problems they create by hardening their child in self-will and leaving them wrapped in self-absorption. You need to confront disobedience and require your children to submit, not negotiate.
As a parent you should not fail to hold accountable your children for not heeding to your instructions. A parent who fails to hold their children accountable for not heeding simple directions ultimately pay a heavy price in future.
As a parent you must be firm and set clear boundaries at home and enforce them. When children learn to be obedient they can easily adapt to new environments.
However, some parents don’t have set boundaries for the children at home and become so accustomed to having their children ignore their commands at home. This makes them not to have control of their children.
Parents who don’t vigorously enforce their commands in their own home train their children to believe that parental commands are not important and can be safely ignored.
This style of parenting encourages self-centeredness and delays the development of self-control in children. It is harmful to allow a child to dictate their own terms. As a parent you must train your children to obey your instruction, you need not to negotiate with them to obey you.
Unconditional obedience is desirable because it creates an attitude in the child that is conducive to joy and peace, and leads to more pleasant interactions with others.
The author is a pastor in the Reformed church of Zambia, and serving at Kalichero congregation in the Eastern Province. He is also a psycho social counsellor and currently studying at the The Protestant Theological University in Netherlands.