Many have grown concerned with the “best buddies” model of parenting, where the young are not given a model to follow as much as the old are given a model to follow. Both end up immature and the relationship is, well, not ideal.
In reaction, we have seen many, “I’m not friends with my child” messages, complete with a clarification of the differing roles and callings of children and adults. These can be a helpful corrective, but may, I think, tend toward over-correction.
Calling my children friends — literally calling them “friends” — has helped me to realign my heart with the calling I have as a Christian parent.
I routinely say to my son, “Hey, my friend, did you remember to flush the toilet and wash your hands?” I’m not trying to eliminate my son’s need for authority in his life, I’m just trying to remind us both that we’re on the same team.
I think hierarchy can be a gift. God made a world where hierarchy exists. It existed in the past (even eternity past), does now, and will into the future, including in the Kingdom of God on earth. I have no problem with that. King and Kingdom come, I say, and the sooner the better. But we sure love to foul this operation up, don’t we? Our sinful nature calls out to us to lord over others, to dominate and manipulate others, to punish and coerce. I don’t want to dive too deeply into these waters, but I’ll just say that Christian parenting is a hierarchical arrangement. Parents are “over” their children. But we aren’t over them to dominate and exasperate them. Quite the opposite. We are called to love them, to help them flourish and grow, to lead them into maturity.
We are not finished products. We do call our kids to good behavior (it’s OK to do this, it really is), but we don’t do it from a perch of perfection. We do it as people in need of grace ourselves, as people walking the same path.
I think this influences our discipline, both what we say and what we do when we correct our kids. If we view their sin as something we need to expunge, then I think we’re taking on a job that’s not ours. We don’t need to hurt our kids to balance out their bad actions. We correct them with the goal of restoration and realignment. It’s not the revenge business. We do this because we are not different sorts of creatures than they are. What we do for them, we ourselves needed and need.
Our sins are provided for in Christ, but we need correction to remind us who we are, where we stand, and who we belong to. It is an act of love from a loving Father. When we correct our kids, we are coming beside them and saying, “Hey, we’re in this together. You and I aren’t different kinds of people where you’re bad and I’m good and I am punishing you because you’re bad. I am selfish at times too. I need to ask God for a humble heart too. Here, I’m inviting you into this life of grace and joy. Let’s do this together.”
Though we are far from being worthy of the title, God calls us friends. We are on a journey with our kids, leading and loving them, correcting and caring for them in the path of abundant life. Surely, we can call our children friends. If we are afraid to do that, then maybe we are assuming an adversarial role that is unwarranted and unhelpful.
Give your kids grace. Give them leadership. And yes, give them friendship.
S.D. Smith, www.storywarren.com