It's every parent's favorite phrase. Or not. But it is inevitable.
In every sinful child (and therefore, every child), there is an innate desire to be his or her own boss. And in that, an innate desire to rebel against the actual boss (aka: Mom & Dad).
I hear this phrase every day. Maybe that makes you think poorly of my parenting. Nevertheless, my response is always the same. "Actually, I am the boss of you. God made me the boss of you. Do what I said."
Today it was at piano lessons. My daughter was telling her teacher what outfit she was going to wear at the recital, and I said (kindly), "Oh actually no you're going to wear the dress you wore on Palm Sunday...you look so beautiful..."
"Mom! You're not the boss of me!"
Yes I am. God says so. That's what you're wearing for your piano recital. Discussion over.
Is the dress a huge deal? No.
Is it a huge deal that I'm her boss? Absolutely.
And then it happened again with a child when I turned on a DisneyNature documentary instead of the requested PBS show. Each child wanted a different show than their siblings, so I vetoed all requests and made the decision for them. And then I told them "Yes I am your boss, so watch this or nothing."
And it's exhausting. There are certainly way more amazing, heart-warming, overflowing-with-gratitude moments than defiant moments, but the defiant moments are utterly exhausting.
So far only three of my four kids say this to me, but there will be a day not too far away when all four of them say it. (Although the glimmer of hope is that our parenting will be effective enough that they soon QUIT saying it...but I work with parents of teens so I think I just need to be realistic on this one.)
The interesting and good thing (yet admittedly sometimes frustrating) is that they never say this to Dad. Only to Mom. Dad's authoritativeness as head of the household and his definitive boss-ness is never in question to them. They know undoubtedly that he loves them. They also know that they obey him without question.
But Mom...hhhmmm...apparently there's a soft compassionate side that comes off maybe too often as being flippant or more willing to compromise than is healthy. Or maybe it's that I'm home way more than Dad and they know I'm tired and can be worn down more easily. I'm not sure. But I am guessing your household is pretty similar.
But that doesn't mean we let them get away with it. Because we are in fact their boss. Loving, compassionate, forgiving, and kind, yes. But authoritative boss also.
For this season, which will last approximately 22 years (or longer if we're still paying for their insurance and schooling!), we are their boss. Of course as they grow we give them more and more freedom so they can learn to make decisions on their own, but we have to always maintain the authority to veto.
And although there are certainly some things that we can wiggle on and negotiate, it's important that we don't lose sight of the big picture. Because the big picture is that our children need to learn to obey. Nobody can succeed in life without knowing how to obey, how to submit to authority, how to heed to self-control.
Life is really all about learning to obey. Obey your parents. Your teachers. Your professors. Your coaches. Your law enforcement. Your boss. And ultimately, God.
And learning that within obedience there is great freedom. Relief. Peace. Joy. Righteousness.
Today in my women's bible study group we wrapped up our study of the book of Matthew. And in the last verses of Matthew, Jesus says, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20).
Wow. Did you catch it? Obedience is huge! This is how Jesus gives his great commission. Jesus is the authority. OVER EVERYTHING. The boss. OF EVERYONE. And he wants us to learn how to obey everything he says. And teach others. Including our children. And he is with us. Immanuel.
If you're not familiar with Jesus, this might come across as sounding harsh or arrogant. But it's not. It's only in his relentless, overflowing love that he calls us into obedience for our own good and for his honor.
When he says this, it's right after he died for us and rose again. And even in this command, he is promising to be with us always.
It's all in love. But that doesn't make it any less serious.
Obedience is serious. And even though little things like a recital dress or a Disney show really don't matter one iota, the lesson within it matters alot.
Because this desire to rebel is already expressing itself through friendships, and whether or not to do homework, or whether or not to hit a sibling with a baseball bat. And then before long this desire to rebel will be about issues of modesty or swearing. And then after that this desire to rebel will be about issues of whom to date or when to date or if to date. And then it'll be about what they can and cannot spend their allowance money on. And then it'll be about alcohol. And then it'll be about driving. And then it'll be about cheating. And then it'll be about sex. And then, and then and then.
The desire to rebel will be a life long battle. But as parents, we can plant the seeds of obedience early.
It's like training for a half-marathon. The more you get up early in the morning for those long runs, the easier they become. Getting out of bed gets easier. And then eventually, your legs wake you up in the early morning, begging you to take them running. It grows on you. It becomes natural.
Obedience is like that. And we get to start young with our children. It's a privilege and an honor to be able to point them to the love of Jesus in this way...that we have a God who loves us so much that he wants us to walk in obedience because it provides freedom and joy for us. "It is for freedom that Christ set us free" (Galatians
So let's stick together and hang in there. Sure we're going to fail. I'm sure I failed at least a dozen or a hundred times just today. That's why we need friends - this parenting gig is way too hard to do it alone.
It's exhausting. All the parents of teens I work with assure me it'll get far more exhausting. But there's such joy in teaching a child to obey. And seeing them enjoy the fruits of obedience - joy, freedom, peace.
So let's carry on. Be the boss. When we fail, let's help each other back on our feet.
Let's parent lovingly and wisely, but authoritatively.
Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.