TLP 420: Children and Authority | the biggest parenting challenges you will face, Part 4
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Today we’re going to discuss the fourth biggest parenting challenge you will ever face, and it involves your children and authority. You knew this was coming, and here we are, but I believe the foundation we’ve laid in the previous three parts will help us understand this parenting struggle in new ways.
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Alright, so what’s with kids and authority?
Growing up, I had pretty sever issues with authority.
Well . . . actually, with the exception of my father, most of my authority thought I was a good kid. I didn’t try to hide my disdain for my dad, but I was pretty capable of deceiving my youth leaders and bosses.
Still, even though I liked being on their good side, I didn’t like obeying them if it weren’t something I already wanted to do.
And none of you are surprised to hear a story about a rebellious teen. In fact, many of you daily experience this from your children . . . even the very young ones.
That’s why we’re frequently discussing disobedience, rebellion, and sin. It’s our children’s biggest spiritual issue.
By the way, I’ll link some of those previous discussions in today’s description so you have easy access to them if you haven’t heard them before.
So what could I possibly have to say that you haven’t heard about authority struggles with children?
I believe today’s discussion is going to be excessively valuable for you in light of the pyramid we’ve been building since the first episode in this series.
That means that if you haven’t heard the first three parts, I strongly recommend you work through the episodes in order. Because if we don’t really get the connection between these four parenting challenges, we won’t address them biblically.
So, let’s start by defining the problem, but then let’s approach the solution by reminding ourselves that our kids’ struggle with authority is not the problem.
1. What are authority problems?
Merriam-Webster rightly defines authority as “persons in command,” and some of their definitions of command is “to direct authoritatively, to exercise dominating influence over, the ability to control, the authority or right to command.”
And it’s very possible that many of you hate those definitions . . . not because they’re inaccurate, but because the very idea of being “commanded” doesn’t sit well with you.
Our first-world culture rises and falls on the idea that no one gets to tell me how to live my life.
But authority issues really don’t make sense if we focus solely on the authority issue. Allow me to demonstrate.
Let’s say a thirteen year old boy doesn’t want to submit to his father’s expectation for mowing the lawn. It doesn’t matter if the kid doesn’t want to do it at all or if he doesn’t want to do it the way he was asked. Regardless of the disagreement, the boy doesn’t want to obey his authority.
Let’s be honest . . . this is foolish at best, stupid at worst. The kid is thirteen. He’s arrogant enough to believe that his dad doesn’t know what he’s talking about. Either his dad is completely wrong that it’s appropriate to expect the boy to mow, or dad’s wrong in the way he wants it to be mown.
Even though the father may be an affluent, materially-prosperous individual who has proven his work ethic over and over and whose life is evidence to the fact that the dad knows how to be successful in life . . . and even though the boy can’t seem to pass any of his classes or have any real success on his team, the kid believes he knows better than his dad. And he refuses to do what his dad said because the kid honestly thinks his way is best.
Add on top of all of this that the kid knows he’s going to get in trouble when his dad finds out the lawn wasn’t mown (or at least mown the right way), and he’s going to lose privileges and probably have to end up mowing the right way anyway . . . disobedience doesn’t make any logical sense at all.
And yet children do it all the time.
The parent will communicate the expectation, the child won’t want to do it, and relational carnage ensues.
The problem is that most parents try to deal with authority issues in a backward way.
The main problem is not the disobedience. It’s not the rebellion. It’s not the disdain for authority.
So, let’s work backward through the parenting challenges we’ve studied so far so we can better understand why our kids struggle with authority and — consequently — we should be able to discover the best way of helping them address it.
Why didn’t I love and obey my dad when I was in high school? Well, I didn’t believe I needed him. I believed I was autonomous enough (or should be allowed to be autonomous enough) to make my own life choices. It didn’t matter that he was older or more experienced or simply my dad . . . what mattered was that I didn’t believe he could run my life better than I could.
And once I believed that I no longer needed other people to be happy, I no longer believed that I needed anyone to tell me what to do.
“Okay, so Aaron, the best way to deal with my child’s disobedience is help them see that they’re not truly autonomous?”
That’s a good start. You’re going in the right direction, but there’s still a long way to do. But I probably wouldn’t start there. So, let’s continue working backward.
How did I reach the point where I actually believed I didn’t need other people to be happy? Well, it had to do with the way I used my technology.
I’ve always been a collector. I’ve always been a dumpster-diving packrat. And the more and more stuff I was able to acquire, the more I believed — like medieval kings of yore — that I had amassed great wealth. I was satisfied.
I had my job, my income, my band, my friends, my esteem and popularity, and though I was always working to gain more, I was happy with what I had.
The only thing that annoyed me was my father’s dogged desire to keep me from a lot of the technologies I was trying to collect. I wanted freedom he didn’t believe I should have. I wanted CD’s that he wouldn’t want me listening to. I wanted “friends” with whom he wouldn’t want me spending time. I wanted to watch things he believed were inappropriate.
“Okay, Aaron, so if my child is rebelling against authority, the problem is the technology and possessions in his life?”
It sounds weird when you say it that way, but that’s how a lot of parents handle it. Their parenting style basically says, “You’re rebelling, so I’m taking your phone.”
Like somehow confiscating the phone will actually solve anything.
Again, don’t get me wrong. You may very well have to confiscate the phone, but if you stop there, you will likely never experience any real change.
So, we have to go down to the next level. We’ve established why I was rebelling against my authority. It’s because I believed I was autonomous. And we’ve established that I believed I was autonomous because I had convinced myself that how I was acquiring and using my material possessions (aka: technology) was good.
And how did I know it was good? Why did I believe my tech use was better than my dads?
I hope you see where this is going.
My life choices were bringing me pleasure.
My enjoyment of pornography and inappropriate relationships with girls satisfied me. My bank account gave me a sense of security. My martial arts prowess made me feel safe. My secular music gave me pleasure. My food consumption made me feel good.
I had convinced myself that I didn’t need my dads authority because I could make life work on my own, and I had convinced myself of that because I was using the technology in my life to gain all the things that I thought would bring me security.
And even though I grew up with Christian Parents, went to church, was active in youth group, I still found pleasure doing things that did not please God.
“I think I understand, Aaron. When my children are disobeying me, it’s because they are enjoying things they shouldn’t. If I can convince them that the things they love aren’t truly satisfying, they will start to obey again.”
You’re getting closer. Yes, that can be helpful, but you shouldn’t start there. It’s still a matter of your opinion versus your child’s.
Natasha Crain has recently started a podcast, and during her first episode she mentioned that she and her children were taking about the people who celebrate abortion. As disgusting as that is to us, Natasha explained to her children that without a biblical belief system, it makes all the sense in the world that people would be happy about aborting a baby.
And — in that moment — she hit on the real problem.
Your child’s biggest problem is a problem of security. But the root of the issue is what they trust to keep them secure.
Had I — in high school — believed that God’s plan for my life was the best. It was the most safe, secure, and satisfying I could live, then I wouldn’t have pursued satisfaction outside of His will. I wouldn’t have used my technology in ways that would displease Him. I wouldn’t foolishly believe I could autonomously make this life work. I wouldn’t have rejected the authority of those trying to lead me in the paths of righteousness for His name sake.
If you are experiencing authority problems with your kids (whether it’s with a teacher or with the police or with a parent), the most seminal heart issue is the fact that your children don’t believe God can or will satisfy them. They believe they have to do it on their own. They’re rejecting God’s sovereignty.
“Wait, Aaron, are you suggesting that the root issue is — in fact — an authority issue? Are you saying my kids are rejecting God’s security because they’re rejecting His authority?”
No, they’re rejecting His will for their life simply because they don’t believe Him. They’re rejecting His authority because they don’t believe He’s worthy of it.
Last time I quoted part of Romans 1, and I think I need to quote it again.
Romans 1:21-23, “For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. 22 Professing to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures.”
II Peter 2:1-3 says, "But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will also be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing swift destruction upon themselves. 2 Many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of the truth will be maligned; 3 and in their greed they will exploit you with false words; their judgment from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep.”
Psalm 2:1-3, “Why are the nations in an uproar And the peoples devising a vain thing? 2 The kings of the earth take their stand And the rulers take counsel together Against the Lord and against His Anointed, saying, 3 “Let us tear their fetters apart And cast away their cords from us!””
We deny our rightful authority because we simply refuse to believe they have the right to be our authority. It’s nothing more nor less than a trust issue.
This is exactly what happened to Satan.
Isaiah 14:13-14, “You said in your heart, ‘I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God, And I will sit on the mount of assembly In the recesses of the north. 14 ‘I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.’”
In Ezekiel 28, God command Ezekiel to speak against the king of Tyre, but what’s interesting is that he tells the story of Satan’s fall and applies it to Tyre.
I’m going to jump around a bit, but starting in verse 13 it says, ““You were in Eden, the garden of God; Every precious stone was your covering . . . And the gold, the workmanship of your settings and sockets, Was in you. On the day that you were created They were prepared. 14 “You were the anointed cherub who covers, And I placed you there. You were on the holy mountain of God; You walked in the midst of the stones of fire. 15 “You were blameless in your ways From the day you were created Until unrighteousness was found in you.”
And then Ezekiel starts describing Tyre’s sins that followed in Satan’s footsteps.
“16 ‘By the abundance of your trade You were internally filled with violence, And you sinned; Therefore I have cast you as profane From the mountain of God. And I have destroyed you, O covering cherub, From the midst of the stones of fire.”
Satan and those who rebel against God like he did use their trade, their possessions, their technologies to accomplish their own desires.
And why do they do this? They believe their desires are more important than God’s.
In verse 17 he says, 17 “Your heart was lifted up because of your beauty; You corrupted your wisdom by reason of your splendor. I cast you to the ground; I put you before kings, That they may see you. 18 “By the multitude of your iniquities, In the unrighteousness of your trade You profaned your sanctuaries. Therefore I have brought fire from the midst of you; It has consumed you, And I have turned you to ashes on the earth In the eyes of all who see you. 19 “All who know you among the peoples Are appalled at you; You have become terrified And you will cease to be forever.”’”
They believed a lie. They believed they were everything they needed. They didn’t need God. They had everything they wanted.
Like I said before . . . it’s a trust issue. And this is why faith is such a seminally important concept in Scripture.
Hebrews 11:6 says that “Without faith it is impossible to please [God], for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.”
That sums up the whole issue right there. You and your kids must accept by faith that God is Who He says He is and — listen carefully to what it says — “He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.”
He provides all the security you and your kids will ever need.
Your children disobey because they don’t trust God to love them and care for them and do what’s right for them. They believe they can do it better.
Now, your rebellious child is not going to be able to connect those dots. In her mind, your demands are unreasonable, your expectations are stupid, you just have different likes when it comes to music and boys, you are the wall unfairly keeping them from everything that will make them happy.
They probably don’t realize that their main issue is that they’re refusing to believe God’s promises. They don’t understand that they’re calling God a liar by rejecting His truth and love.
And that’s why God gave you to your kids. He wants you to use these parenting challenges to help your children seen their need.
Think about pain for a moment.
A woman is going about her life thinking that she’s the picture of health and wellness, but one day she feels something under her skin. It’s a sensitive spot that she doesn’t remember hurting before. That pain and discomfort motivates her to see a doctor who determines that she has cancer.
Without the pain, she never would have known there was a problem.
Paul Tripp tells a similar story. He was experiencing what he thought were some low-level health issues. His doctor sent him to another doctor, he took his time, but when the test came back the second doctor told him that if we had waited a few more days, he could have died.
What does this have to do with parenting?
These beautiful, providential, sovereignly ordained parenting challenges provide you an opportunity to help your child understand that they have a heart issue. They’re living a lie. Their desires and feelings and actions and words are growing out of a rejection of God’s truth.
Without the pain and consequences, we wouldn’t see our sin. Now, unfortunately, some people experience the pain of sin, but they continue in it anyway.
But other children who likely would have responded in faith had mom and dad helped them see what their root heart issue was, weren’t given the opportunity. They’re lectured about obedience, grounded, and left to figure out how they can continue harvesting satisfaction without getting consequences. So, some kids become more sneaky, and some kids substitute personal pleasure in sinful behavior for personal pleasure in seemingly righteous behavior.
The problem is — as we’ve learned before — doing the right thing for the wrong reason is still a sin. The only reason the child is doing right is that they don’t want to receive the consequences. But they’re not relying on God and trusting Him, they’ve simply chosen a new way to be satisfied. They’re still living autonomously, only submitting to the authority because they’ve pragmatically decided it’s best.
So, where do we go from here? What other parenting challenges could we possibly face?
There are plenty, and as our pyramid of parenting problems grows and grows, the challenges will become more and more specific. Still, the bottom-most layer, finding security in ourselves instead of God, will be the root issue in every case.
If — when this series is finished — we’re able to see how every single parenting challenge we will ever face all link back to our children’s lack of faith in God and His Word, we will have been successful.
So, I’m looking forward to connecting even more of these parenting dots.
Please subscribe to this show, share this episode on your favorite social media outlets, and tell your friends about Truth.Love.Parent.
And I hope you’ll join us next time as we open God’s Word to discover how to parent our children for life and godliness.
To that end, we’ll be taking a short break to get ready for Season 18 by discussing the Season of Life.
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