A parent may think, “It’s so much easier to be their friend than the parent!” Friendship will come in time, but for now, BE THE PARENT! God will help you because it follows His design for your children’s maturity.
Children are to obey their parents, and we parents like that command! But what about the part that requires a parent to balance nurture and admonition in order to avoid exasperating the children, provoking them to wrath (anger, rebellion, disobedience)?
Parents are never responsible for sinful choices the child/teen makes, but parents are responsible for their own parenting style, for the models they follow, and for the ways they model life for their children.
Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. (Ephesians 6:4, ESV)
Nurture in Balance
I like to describe this balance to parents I counsel as a huge X. This is a very delicate balancing act that requires two parents dancing in unison over a period of 18 to 21 years! Start drawing the X at the top left with “Nurture” for the toddler. Nurture is structured, loving discipline.
Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. ‘Honor your father and mother’ (this is the first commandment with a promise), ‘that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.’ (Ephesians 6:1-3)
Parents lay the groundwork of order (structured time management for meals and bedtimes; reasonable rules with consequences for disobedience; and plenty of blessing for obedience). The bottom left of the X is about Admonition, minimal for the toddler but increasing with age. During the preschool years, children are primarily learning about obedience to the authority God has given their parents to teach and train them in obedience to the Lord (Nurture).
Nurture is the structured discipline that moves a child toward maturity and self-control,
but admonition plays an increasing role in maturity.
Admonition in Balance
Admonition helps the maturing child begin to understand God’s heart for him. Admonition is a parent’s heart for God that instructs his child in such a way as to encourage the child to seek God’s heart for himself.
Out of the parents’ love for God (Deuteronomy 6) flows the desire to disciple their children in love, which encourages the child to mature in obedience to the Lord (John 14:15,21).
As the child increasingly chooses obedience, the focus becomes more Admonition (instruction and counsel) and less Nurture (structured discipline) until the mature young adult functions out of love for God and others rather than out of “Rules.”
So the top right side of the X represents Admonition for a mature young adult. The focus completely changes over the years, moving from primarily Nurture in a young child to primarily Admonition in the young adult. The relationship between a parent and their adult children has become counsel and friendship.
However, most of the years of training fall in the center part of that X, meaning the balance of Nurture and Admonition is extremely important during those developmental years. Sometimes I see a child/teen with one parent acting like the army drill sergeant, while the other parent just wants to be the nice guy to make the kid feel good.
It doesn’t take long for that kid to be in charge while the parents end up fighting each other over every discipline issue. Everybody loses! Parental unity in front of the kids is much more important than which parent has the better techniques.
Looking to God as the Parent
Two parents bring into marriage and parenting very different upbringings.
Even though a parent may hate the way his parents yelled constantly, he finds himself defaulting to yelling. Or an insecure child who believed his uninvolved parents never cared may grow up to be the overprotective parent that hovers over his children.
When a couple can set aside their own experiences with earthly parents and focus on ways their heavenly Father parents His children, then they are able to establish a Biblical model of discipline that truly works!