I was recently presenting at a conference and was suggesting that Aaron’s son’s sins of active disobedience and passive disobedience might have been influenced by Aaron’s passivity as a leader. Though parents are certainly not responsible for the choices our children make as adults, we do have some influence over them as we shape their wills growing up.
One application of that talk was to strongly suggest that men fight passivity and engage in leading their home and specifically in the area of child discipline.
At the end of that talk, one mom asked this question, “I have just come from a talk where the female speaker was urging the women not to be pushovers and put the discipline on the fathers. How would you fit those two thoughts together?”
This was a helpful question because it allows us to correct what listeners might be hearing that I was not saying.
My response was something like this:
I don’t think we are contradicting each other at all. Men can have a temptation to be overbearing or passive in parenting. By far the most common struggle is passivity. Moms have temptations as well not to be the “bad guy” and inflict some sort of painful discipline on the little one that they love. They can be tempted to either spoil them or pass the buck to the father saying, “Just wait until your dad gets home.” As a result, dads regularly walk into a messy situation at the end of the day and are too often the bad guy in the relationship.
Ideally, Mom and Dad are on the same page in terms of correction. Mom carries it out when Dad is not around. She only refers the “big things” to him. Dad makes sure that the family has a plan and the children are under control.
My wife and I tried to follow these principles.
1. Dad and Mom are a team in leading the household in the area of discipline with Dad ultimately responsible before God.
2. God expects and commands men to discipline their children (Ephesian 6:4, Hebrews 12:9, 1 Tim 3:4-5). When children are wild and disobedient it is a black mark on the man (Titus 1:6, 1 Tim 3:4-5).
3. Therefore, I as the dad need to learn about parenting principles and make sure my wife and I are on the same page. As a dad, I can delegate but I cannot abdicate.
4. This means that we will learn together godly principles of child-rearing.
5. I will trust her as the person on site the most with the children. She will be most in tune with what they need.
6. We will communicate often to come up with plans that are working and that she can implement. Dad will value Mom’s insight and suggestions. Since Dad is to lead the family, Mom will bring issues to him and thoughtfully engage with his insights.
7. Since we are a team, we will not disagree about discipline in front of the children. We may have those disagreements offline. But in the moment, the children will see a united front.
8. Moms can and should correct and enforce the principles of discipline. Those same commands in #2, apply to women as co-regents with your husband.
9. When Dad is home, he will take the lead if discipline or correction needs to occur. He will not sit passively in the other room while his wife hands out discipline. This grows even truer the older the children become.
10. Moms will watch carefully their own temptation to overrule and disregard their husbands as well as passively pass all the difficult issues to him.
Mom and Dad together are a great team. Together they bring complementary insight. But Dads, we are responsible in this area to take the lead. So don’t be lazy. God called you to this. You can do it!