HAPPY FATHER'S DAY!
Today's lesson dealt with Parental Authority or central authority in the family. In some very important ways, earthly families are models of the spiritual family. The Groffs suggest that parents are a child's first curriculum on God. In his/her early development, a child does not understand the concept of a transcendant God. However, they learn about love, provision, authority, submission, and dependence by observing and experiencing the parent/child relationship.
According to the Groffs, when a small child understands, accepts, and enjoys their parents as the central authority in their lives, they are prepared to accept and enjoy God as their ultimate central authority. They learn about the nature of a relationship with God from their relationship with their parents. Hopefully, as they grow, they will become less and less dependent on their natural parents and more and more dependent on the Perfect Parent instead.
The Groffs refer to parenting as a "team sport." In other words, both parents have to be on the same page when it comes to interaction, discipline, consequences, and the exercise of authority in the family. As Chris says, "Kids are adept at discovering cracks in the parental coalition, and you should be aware of their ability to spot a weakness." He suggests that parents have "team meetings" in which they discuss issues, differences of opinion or philosophy, and the best action or communication in reference to their kids or some behavior of their kids. In talking with your spouse about the kids, he suggests that we should be empathetic and attentive listeners as our partner expresses their position. Each person in the body of Christ has different spiritual gifts. Therefore, it is not surprising to find that the husband and wife will also have different parenting skills. Chris Groff advises us to listen to one another and to discuss our views calmly in order to establish a joint response that we both can support.
God has uniquely created you to be the central authority of your family. However, this role requres a delicate balance. Being the central authority requires the judicious exercise of power that helps each member of the family grow into the person God intended them to be. Groff also makes the point that the parental exercise of power will likely be different for each child. As a parent, it is our job to determine the appropriate and unique limits for each child.
Unfortunately, in some families, the role of central authority has been unwittingly ceded to a child or to the children. This happens when we allow the child's activities to become the center of the family's life. In today's society, this reality is fairly common. We all want our kids to have meaningful experiences that will help them develop and be prepared for the challenges of life. Consequently, we sometimes, quite unaware of our actions, allow the tremendous deluge of activities and events to drive our schedules and to consume our time and energy. When this happens, it is easy for the central authority to be shifted away from you as the parents of the family.
Here are some examples of the perfect central authority shared by the Groffs:
God (as the central authority in our lives)
--Is a strong, calm authority
--Sets reasonable boundaries
--Permits any choice within those boundaries
--Lets the consequences of choices teach
--Relies on influence rather than control
--Meets us with unconditional love, regardless of our choices.
How about "Respect for Authority?" How important is it for your children to learn respect for authority? Very few of us have positions in life where we do not report to someone and do not, at some point, have to demonstrate submission to someone else in authority. Groff says that the family setting is a safe place to start practicing respect for authority.
Keep in mind also that a really good central authority will choose to EARN the respect of their children. They use power in a respectful and empathetic way.
As mentioned previously, in today's fast-paced society, it is not uncommon for a child's calendar to become the central authority in a family. In such situations, children often learn entitlement. If we take on their responsibilities and problems, they grow to expect it and become angry when a parent is not available to cater to their needs. This certainl is a sensitive issue since most parents want their children to be exposed to a lot of activities. Therefore, it becomes increasingly important that age and development appropriate boundaries be set and observed. Groff emphasizes that such boundaries should not be based on our own personal preferences, but on creating an environment within which you will allow your childrent to make good choices or mistakes and experience the consequences of them both.
The Groffs suggest one good indicator that we may be stepping over a boundary. They suggest that when a fun family activity becomes anxiety, this may be a clear indicator that we have crossed the boundary and that appropriate consequences should be allowed to progress.
Homework for this week:
Try to make dinnertime enjoyable. According to Groff (p.40), research shows that families who eat dinner together at least five times per week are substantially less likely to have kids who smoke, drink, lie, use drugs, have premaritial sex, or contemplate suicide. Make dinner a time for fun and sharing.
HAPPY FATHER'S DAY, DADS. HAVE A GREAT WEEK AHEAD.