7. Gracious parenting leads children from external compliance to joyful willingness.
Children need to obey before they can process obedience through faith. When faith comes, the obedience that they have learned from fear and reward and respect will become the natural expression of faith. Not to require obedience before faith is folly. It’s not loving in the long run. It cuts deep furrows of disobedient habits that faith must then not infuse, but overcome.
8. Children whose parents require obedience are happier.
Laissez-faire parenting does not produce gracious, humble children. It produces brats. They are neither fun to be around nor happy themselves. They are demanding and insolent. Their “freedom” is not a blessing to them or others. They are free the way a boat without a rudder is free. They are the victims of their whims. Sooner or later, these whims will be crossed. That spells misery. Or, even a deadly encounter with the police.
9. Requiring obedience is not the same as requiring perfection.
Since parents represent God to children—especially before they can know God through faith in the gospel—we show them both justice and mercy. Not every disobedience is punished. Some are noted, reproved and passed over. There is no precise manual for this mixture. Children should learn from our parenting that the God of the gospel is a consuming fire (Hebrews 12:7). In both cases—discipline and patience—the aim is quick, happy, thorough obedience. That’s what knowing God in Christ produces.
Parents, you can do this. It is a hard season. I’ve spent more than 60 percent of my life in it. But there is divine grace for this, and you will be richly rewarded.