Raising children to serve God doesn’t happen by itself. Parents must intentionally engage their children in step-by-step training towards this higher goal. One step is to remind your children that God has given you authority for their own protection and good.

In the previous issue I drew attention to God’s comment in Genesis 18:19, “For I have chosen him, so that he will direct his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing what is right and just, so that the Lord will bring about for Abraham what he has promised him” (NIV).

According to this passage, part of your task as a parent is to establish and maintain your authority as your child’s director, protector, and disciplinarian. Your child must see that he needs kind and gracious authority. You must be winsome and gracious as you help your child learn to see that authority is something God brings into his life for a blessing.

Margy and I saw this principle in action recently. We had finished a meal at a restaurant with our youngest son, his wife, and their five children. The plan was for us to take the infant and the two-year-old home with us while the rest of the family went to see a play. As we strapped our two-year-old grandson into his car seat, he realized that he was not going with the others. I responded to his tears of protest by calling his father to the car to engage his son. The short intervention at the back door of my car sounded like this:

“Son, God has given you a Mommy and Daddy who love you. You can trust God and you can trust Mommy and Daddy to know what is best for you.

“You are going to have a nice evening with Grandpa and Grandma. We will get you on our way home, and we will all be together at home tonight. Remember, you can trust Mom and Dad, and you can trust God. Let me pray with you, asking God to give you a wonderful evening with Grandpa and Grandma.”

Our grandson stopped crying, and we had a wonderful evening with him. As I observed the effect of my son’s engagement of his son, I realized this was not the first time this boy had heard those words. “God loves you. God has given you a Mommy and Daddy. You can trust us and you can trust God. It is a blessing for you to obey.”

Even though he was only two, he had heard those words hundreds of times before. The reason it “worked” is that his father had been self-consciously teaching him that he needs kind and gracious authority. Even at two he had begun to accept these ideas.

Dr. Tedd Tripp is the senior pastor of Grace Fellowship Church, Hazleton, Pennsylvania. He holds a DMin with an emphasis in pastoral counseling from Westminster Theological Seminary. Tedd is the author of the popular child-rearing book, Shepherding a Child’s Heart.

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