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Written by Dan Istvanik

The classic parent response to almost anything is “because I said so….”

Why do I have to eat my broccoli? Because I said so!

Why do I have to go to bed early? Because I said so!

Why should I stop kicking my sister? Ummm…because I SAID SO!!!

It is the go-to in the parenting repertoire of commands and explanations. We tell our kids to do something or not do something, and we expect they will obey us because we have commanded them out of our parental authority.

We can force them to do something out of expectation and obligation, but is that what is going to change our child ultimately?

Is that how God the Father leads and loves us as His children?

We, of course, have commands from God, like the 10 Commandments. Commands are God’s tool when His children have rejected this love and influence over and over.  They are the thing He uses when His children have completely lost a relationship with Him. Like the child that is about to run out into traffic, God does give us commands.

Commands are the base level of leadership in any situation, the simple “because I said so” to do or not to do. Influence, on the other hand, is the highest level of leadership, especially in our home. Continual influence over time can change the dynamic of how we lead our children and changes them as people. There is a difference…

AUTHORITY VS. ACCEPTANCE

We must choose how we will lead and guide our children. Will we lead them out the commands of our authority over them, or will we lead out the influence of our acceptance of them?

We can see this shift in how we were parented versus how we may choose to parent. Generationally, there is a difference in parenting.  The pendulum may swing too far either way with parents being “the boss” or being “the friend.” We can find a balance of influencing our children through our continued acceptance of where they are at, guiding them to what they can be while still maintaining our godly leadership role as their parent.

CAPACITY VS. COMMISSION

Often as parents, we want our kids to “live up to their potential.”  We say things like “you are capable of so much more….” Parenting to our children’s capacity is commanding their best humanly in their talents and abilities. Parenting as Godly influencers seek to grow our children in their Godly commission.

We need to seek to influence them to live out their calling and use their spiritual giftedness.

OBLIGATION VS. OPPORTUNITY

We love to quote the command that our children are obligated to, Honor your father and mother…”, but we often forget the second half of the verse that there is an opportunity to “..live long in the land the Lord has given you.”

God repeats the words in Ephesians 6 and adds on some additional influence instructions for parents too, “… not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.”

When we only lead our families out of obligation, we may be missing the opportunity to influence them in claiming God’s blessings and instructions. Do we want our kids only living God’s words out of obligation, or would we rather have our children love God’s word because they have understood the opportunities He provides?

EXPECTATION VS. EXCELLENCE

We all expect our children, our hope and prayers for them. These things are lived out in our expectations of behaviors.  These expectations often turn into rules that we command them to obey. We measure our success as parents based on their obedience of the rules.

When we seek to parent beyond more than expectations, we are looking for more than good behavior.  We are influencing them toward excellence of life. Expectations may lead us to good kids. Influence will lead us to godly children.

RESPONSE VS. RESPECT 

“Don’t talk back!” How often have we said that phrase? How often are we upset by our children’s reaction to something we have asked them to do? When we command our children to do something, we expect them to respond in obedience.  We said it…they respond by doing it.

When we are seeking more than command and response but instead invested influence, what we may find is we are heard out of earned respect.

Like our relationship with God the Father, we listen not out of “being afraid fear” but out of “respectful honoring fear.” (Proverbs 9:10) Often, even as parents, we confuse those two different kinds of “fear.”

LEADERSHIP VS. LOVE

We want to lead our family and children well.  We may be a leader in other places, but the most crucial leadership we have is being a parent. We can lead our children as their commander, as they will follow in step, but eventually, this may lead to resistance or even rebellion.

As godly parents, we have a relational opportunity to influence them through our relationship with our loving heavenly Father. They are not just our children, but they are also His children. He lovingly influences us, so we can pass on His love in influencing them.

Move beyond the “Because-I-said-so” command style of parent leadership by fully understanding the power of the influence of God’s love on our families, children and ourselves.

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Written by DAN ISTVANIK, who is our lead content writer and a 5th to 8th-grade pastor in Lancaster, PA. He has been working in youth ministry for over 22 years, serving churches in Pennsylvania, Louisiana, Wisconsin, Ohio, and Virginia. He is a speaker, ministry coach, writer, and contributing to a variety of other great ministry resources. He shares daily middle school ministry specific resources, and hints on his own site “The Middle Years”  at middleyearsministry.com.