In my daily Bible reading I've been going through 2 Samuel. Most of 2 Samuel recounts the kingship of Israel's greatest King, David. David was an interesting man. He was brave, loyal and followed God closely. He made mistakes, certainly, but the theme of his life was faithfulness to God and when sin did come up he was quick to repent. If there was an area of David's life where he really blew it though, it was in being a father. The Bible presents him as being distant, inattentive and in at least two major instances, failing to discipline. Having just preached four weeks on marriages and child-rearing, the ideas I presented are still fresh in my mind and were coming back to me as I read David's struggles. Just to give you an idea of what was happening in David's family let me lay out the situation. (2 Samuel 13) David's son Amnon was smitten with his half sister Tamar. He desperately wanted her but it was more lust than love. So, on the advice of a cousin he tricked Tamar into coming to his house and preparing food for him. Once she was there Amnon sent away all of his servants so they would be alone and he raped Tamar. The bible says his love turned to hatred and he despised her and sent her away. This encounter in an of itself is a study in sin, temptation, lust and many other issues.
I'm sure if this were your family you would intervene and deal with this grievous crime. The Bible says that David, "when he heard these things he was very angry but he would not punish his son Amnon because he loved him and since he was his firstborn." What could David possibly be thinking here? As if that were not bad enough, one of David's other sons, Absalom, Tamar's sister, was so angry that he killed his half-brother Amnon two years later as revenge. David mourned but did nothing to punish Absalom either! It's safe to say that David took a very hands-off approach to parenting. In fact, the Bible says nothing about who was actually parenting these kids. Clearly they had few boundaries, little discipline and almost no consistency.
A few key thoughts come to mind:
As parents, it's always easier to slowly grant more freedom to our kids as they get older than to try and restrict them. - Start with firm boundaries that can slowly be widened. If you start with wide or no boundaries it's almost impossible to impose them.
Even though it's exhausting, every offense must be addressed. There can't be days that disrespect is ok and days that it's not. Days that instant obedience is expected and day's that it's not.
We must be consistent. Even though each of our kids is different, disobedience, disrespect or lying looks bad on all of them. One kid can't be allowed to disobey while the other is punished for it.
Parenting is tough work at any age! King David left a fabulous legacy of obedience to God and in his psalm writing but his parenting is a glaring flaw in his otherwise stellar career. The good news is that wherever you are in your parenting, there is still time to improve. Understand though, that love alone is not enough. Love must be paired with discipline, consistency and boundaries.