3. Instruct Clearly
Father God does not leave us to figure out life by ourselves. He gives us clear instructions about every area of life and explains why his way is full of wisdom (Gen.2:15-17. Deut 30:11-20). God's words are contained in the Scriptures and they present his will and best wishes for our life. They are for our good – our ultimate benefit – not because he wants to take the fun or enjoyment out of life (2 Tim.3:16-17).
As parents, we are to instruct our children in God's way of living (Eph.6:4). We are to make our expectations clear as well as the consequences. Then we need to be consistent in following through. Instruction may be a regular structured family devotion time or it may simply be impromptu conversations as a family does life together. Often that's more powerful, as teaching takes place in the context of life's experiences (Deut.6:1-9).
Children do not respond to rules alone. They respond to relationships. You can get your children to behave by enforcing the rules but that doesn't mean you're getting their loving and obedient response. They may obey on the surface but beneath their may be anger, fear or frustration. Josh McDowell says, "Rules without relationships lead to rebellion."
One of the most powerful forms of instruction is our example – our modelling of the things we expect from our children. Kids tend to do what they see, not just what we tell them they should do. Are our lives worth imitating?
4. Discipline Lovingly
Father God is not just a loving forgiving God who is so soft that never deals with our disobedience. Because he loves us he also disciplines us when we need it (Heb.12:4-12). The Bible is filled with stories of God's children and how they were blessed when they obeyed their Father and the consequences they faced when they disobeyed God's commands.
Great dads take responsibility to lovingly discipline their children. Types of discipline change as children grow and vary for each situation. Discipline should be for defiance (intentional direct disobedience) but not for childishness. Always follow through promptly. Empty threats teach children that they can ignore warnings. Communicate the reason for the discipline. Discipline in love, not in anger. Control your emotions. There is a distinction between crushing the spirit (abuse) and shaping the will (discipline). Don't favour one child over another. Most importantly, apologise when you get it wrong.
5. Empower Fully
God the Father is not a controlling father. He is a releasing Father who wants his children to grow up and take responsibility for their lives. He desires to empower us to full maturity and to join him in his work on planet earth. We see this with Adam and Eve. He gave them a mandate to take dominion over the earth and to be responsible to populate it with their offspring.
As children grow and become teenagers and then young adults we as parents must empower them more and more - to make their own decisions and to be responsible for their lives. The degree of empowerment is determined by the maturity of the son or daughter. You're not going to let a two year old mow the lawns alone and of course, you hopefully aren't going to be still brushing the teeth of your thirteen year old daughter.
As parents, we are responsible to raise our children and teach them God's ways but as they grow and come of age they are responsible for their own choices and we have to release them to that responsibility. This doesn't mean that we don't care, or pray or seek to influence, but we have to gradually let them go (not too soon or not too late). This also means that we should not take inappropriate guilt upon ourselves as parents if our children make unwise choices. There are a lot of parents who feel that they are failures because their children are not serving God or have made unwise choices in their lives. If that's true then God the Father is a failure because his first kids blew it badly. As parents we must empower our children fully – then pray, trust God and believe that the seeds we have planted will bear good fruit in due time.
A final thought ... "A hundred years from now it will not matter what my bank account was, the sort of house I lived in, or the kind of car I drove ... but the world may be different because I was important in the life of a child."
Dads, you're important!