Chores: Good for Children, Families, Society

When my oldest child was five months old I went to a married couple I respected who already had six children and asked what parenting advice they would give me. The advice I remember went something like this: “Unlike moms with several children, with only one child you can get by with doing everything for her. Don’t. It wouldn’t be good for her. Children need to work and carry appropriate responsibilities. So expect your child to work and to do things for herself.” That advice bore good fruit for my children, our family, and our society in character-building and for their independence and productivity. There is basis for it in Scripture, such as in 2 Thessalonians 3:6-15, 1 Thessalonians 2:9, Ephesians 4:28, and the book of Proverbs.

Training children in chores requires much investment in time and parental self-discipline. A mom could easily say to herself, “It’s just easier if I do it myself.” But when a chore is learned, a child can do it by himself. Over the years, chore by chore, children can do much of the household cleaning, lawn care, gardening, and food preparation. The work can be made fun, sometimes turned into a game. Or point out the reward of satisfaction in a job well done–“That sink sparkles! Doesn’t that feel good now that it’s done?”

Children doing daily chores can increase family fun time, teamwork, and a sense of family oneness. Effort started very early in a child’s life builds habits that pay increasing dividends throughout childhood and into adulthood in self-discipline, personal responsibility, and a sense of gratitude. It builds a service orientation and an industrious work ethic that will reward them for the rest of their lives.

The next post will make some application, answering the question, how do we determine responsibilities reasonable for children?

Posted in Parenting, Child-rearing | Tagged | Leave a comment

How can I get my parents to stop saying “Because I said so”?

If you’re a teen, you don’t like parents saying “because I said so.” Parents don’t like it, either. Despite appearances, they don’t actually want to drive kids nuts. In fact, they make efforts to avoid it. So they usually resort to “because I said so” only after increasing frustration from a word battle.

Why would there be conflict? As you already know, you and your parent disagree and two opposing forces cannot each rule the other. But your problem is not really with your parent. There is an authority higher than either of you–the Word of God. The principles offered below from that Word will help on a merely horizontal, behavior level. But if you do it from the heart to please God–because He says so–you will reap eternal as well as temporal rewards.

That said, try this.

  • First, consider your own responsibility in triggering a “because I said so” (Matt. 7:1-5).
  • Next, when your parent tells you to do something, respectfully answer, “Yes, Mom” or “Yes, Dad,” and go about getting the job done well (Eph. 6:4; Phil. 2:14; Col. 3:17).
  • After you do what is asked, if you still want to know why, ask respectfully. “Dad, you told me to…. I did it and now I’d like to get a little more understanding. Will you please tell me your reasons for what you wanted me to do?”

Here’s why this works.

  • Pragmatically, if you don’t challenge with “why” you give your parent no prompting to answer “because…”
  • God’s command in Ephesians 6:1-3 to honor and obey parents comes with a promise of reward.
  • Humility, respect, and unselfish service build relationship. Proverbs 20:11 says “It is by his deeds that a lad distinguishes himself, if his conduct is pure and right.” If you obey respectfully, you demonstrate maturity, which earns the trust and respect of your parent.
  • If you respectfully ask for reasons after you do what your parent wants (without complaining–Phil. 2:14), your parent will realize that you actually want to understand and are not just trying to manipulate your way out of doing something you don’t want to do. 

Add some hope.

Considering the results of how the young Joseph and Daniel responded to authorities, even harsh and cruel authorities, there is good reason to hope that respectful responses will reap rewards (Genesis 39-50; Daniel 1-6). In the near term, you might gain a platform to make an appeal for an option to do something different next time. In the long run, right responses now lead to greater freedoms. Even better, they will cultivate maturity and reap lifelong rewards in character, wisdom, and reputation. (Check out Proverbs 12:24 and 22:29, too.)


See also: Reasoning with Children and Answering Why and Because I Said So


Posted in Parenting, Child-rearing, Teens, Pre-teens | Tagged , , ,

Because I Said So

It seems this generation of parents finds “because I said so” objectionable. As one website says,

One thing is for sure: “Because I said so” doesn’t apply to this generation of savvy-yet-stubborn kids. And millions of parents are at their wit’s end trying to figure out how to get the cooperation they’re looking for

The truth is, the authoritarian “Because I said so” method of parenting is on its way out.  Collaboration and respect are replacing the top-down dominance of the previous generation.

“Savvy-yet-stubborn kids”–not exactly an honorable description. How did a generation evolve into a state that could be assessed as “stubborn”? Well, “because I said so” implies authority and “Authoritarian…parenting is on its way out.” In other words, kids are stubborn because parents stopped demanding obedience. That is why “‘Because I said so’ doesn’t apply to this generation.” No wonder “Parents are at their wit’s end trying to figure out how to get the cooperation they’re looking for.” (By the way, if cooperation is all they want, again, no wonder it isn’t working.)

To buy that low goal of cooperation, “Collaboration and respect are replacing the top-down dominance of the previous generation.” That’s a problem, not an asset. Since stubbornness is neither collaborative nor respectful, what this really means is that respect is a one-way street–parents toward children, not vice versa.  Parents are abdicating authority. That is the problem.

Collaboration functionally steps off the solid road of authority and onto the marshy patch of persuasion. It trains the kids in manipulation. Collaboration fails to lay the issues of authority, submission, and the sinful heart of the child on the table to be very clearly and openly dealt with God’s way. A child trained to believe he has the right of collaboration with and respect from authorities is likely to have relational problems as an adult, such as difficulty holding a job when he enters the world in which his boss won’t collaborate.

The Collaborative, Cooperative Way

What are today’s parents advised to say when a child responds, “Why”? Parenting gurus suggest a variety of answers. Here are several I found online.

  1. My answer is still No. Here’s why…
  2. I’ve already answered. Do I seem like a parent who changes my mind?
  3. It seems you don’t agree. Can you think of a solution to which we can both agree?
  4. What do you think the answer is? 
  5. Asked and answered.

“Because I said so” may not be the best response, but these options are far inferior to it. Number one has Mom defending her position. Number two has Mom actually inviting critique by a child. Number three makes the child an equal and begins a negotiation. All three abdicate authority, a set-up for savvy arguing and angry stubbornness.

Number four does put the responsibility on the child for his “why” challenge, a good start but not enough. It opens the door to (“savvy”) discussion when discussion is not appropriate; obedience is. Number five, while it doesn’t clarify that resistance to authority is the real issue, it at least refuses to be drawn into a debate.

Because God says so

Children don’t like “because I said so” because it exerts authority over them and their hearts are innately rebellious. That’s exactly what they need to see! Therefore, it is unloving to turn the management of a family into collaboration.

Answering “Because I said so” is not wrong. What is wrong is autonomous authority. According to Ephesians 6:4, parents are not authorities simply because they say so. Rather, they are stewards, granted authority by God and accountable to God for their exercise of that authority. Likewise, Ephesians 6:1-3 unapologetically commands children to obey and respect parents and children are accountable to God for this responsibility. Parents need to explain from the Word of God that parents must parent and children must submit because God says so. 

Telling the reasons for house rules and commands is important. It should be done to build wisdom, not cooperation. However, timing is important, like “a word spoken in right circumstances” (Prov. 25:11). It requires humility to receive commands (Prov. 10:8). When resisting obedience, a child’s pride is high, so he is not teachable (Prov. 9:7-8). At the point of a command is the time for him to obey, not to listen to the rationale behind the particular command.

Therefore, teach truths about authority and submission ahead of time, at non-obedience times of day, not at a moment when obedience is required. Then, when a child asks “why” instead of obeying a command, call the child to his responsibility. “Sweetie, your responsibility is to do what I said.” This reminds him of the divinely-mandated hierarchy of authority of which you have taught. It calls him to his responsibility and his accountability to God.

If from the start parents kindly insist on obedience at the first command without a debate about why it removes the incitement for saying “Because I said so.” It also prevents a multitude of frustrations for parent and child for all the years to follow. It facilitates a good relationship, enjoyable by both parent and child.

Do not be afraid to stand as the authority who must be obeyed because you said so. It isn’t that you have authority because you say so. It is that you have authority over your child because God says so in Ephesians 6:1-4. It is divine authority, no less. You must steward it God’s way, but you don’t have the right to give it up!


See also: Answering Why and Reasoning with Children


Source of quote above:

Posted in Parenting, Child-rearing | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

I Can’t Wait Until School Starts!

“I can’t wait until school starts so the kids go back to school.” How many summers have we heard that sentiment from parents? I confess that I thought it a few times, but since we homeschooled I didn’t have the option of getting away from my children. I’ve even heard parents say it in front of their children.

“Lighten up! It’s just a joke.” Is it? Do the kids really not perceive a grain of truth in it? Are you sure your children don’t get a sense of, “My children are inconvenient. I feel irritated. I want to send them away so I can have relief and get life back to the way I want it.”

Now, most parents love their children sincerely and fervently and are glad to have them. Being human, parents also tend to dislike being inconvenienced by other people. I’m right there with you. And I think that in the discomfort of the interruptions, irritations, and inconveniences parents might speak without considering the underlying message in their words. We all do that. That’s why “he who restrains his lips is wise” (Prov 10:19). So here are a few questions and suggestions to think about.

  • Is this the attitude you want to have toward your own offspring? 
  • Is the implication in that statement what you want your children to hear? Perhaps some day we’ll hear them say, “I can’t wait to get Mom to the elder day care so I can have some relief!” Will that get a chuckle from someone?
  • The Lord says that children are a blessing. When we imply that they are disruptions that we would prefer to do without we are disagreeing with the Lord and His assessment that children and the inconveniences they cause are His sovereign best for us.

“Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones” (Pr 16:24). If we really think about it, what we would like to speak in the hearing of our children are words that give grace, that edify, that build honor and godliness in their hearts.

  • Rather than complain, choose to thank the Lord for His gifts (your children) and the growth in godliness they help you with by virtue of the many inconveniences that call upon you to think of others rather than self.
  • Choose to enjoy your children. Children are a blessing from the Lord and ought to be enjoyed as such. You have so few years with them. You will never again have this summer with them. Play together. Work together. Whatever you do, choose to enjoy their company.
  • Is your child unpleasant to be around? You trained her; change your training. “Bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Eph. 6:4). Teach your child manners that make him or her an enjoyable person. Fix your parenting, not the child.
  • Perhaps you are not pleasant to be around. “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger” (Eph. 6:4). What are you like to live with? Do you need to change your attitude and demeanor?
  • Encourage your child. This doesn’t mean to build self-esteem; that is pride. But a child ought to know that his parents are glad for his company. A child who hears that you’ll be glad to have him out of the house may be disheartened or angered. A child who hears that you’re glad to have him around or thankful to God for your child is enticed to be more congenial.
  • Choose to encourage other parents. The Lord says, “Consider how to stimulate one another to love…”  Our words can influence other parents to view their children as inconveniences hindering our happiness or as blessings from the Lord.
Posted in Parenting, Child-rearing | Tagged ,

Answering “Why” to Your Children

Do you find yourself giving umpteen reasons why your child should do what you just told him to do? Do you find yourself repeatedly explaining why or why not? (This post is part 2 of a series.)

I am concerned about the postmodern trend to reason with children over an obedience issue (either a command or a denial of something requested). When I mentioned this topic to a friend of mine, a grandmother, her reaction was instant and emphatic. Her strong reaction incited me to ask several other older moms living in other U.S. states. Every one echoed the same concern with intensity. They see it as a serious problem among young parents.

Initially, little children ask “why” because they are learning to connect cause and effect. However, when obedience is required the question easily morphs into a control tactic for delay, avoidance, or resistance. Given time and practice it becomes a slip-n-slide to rebellion.

The Bible is clear that the primary reason parents must exercise decisive, loving authority is because God commands it. If that was the only reason it would be sufficient. Of course, underlying that command is the nature of God Himself and, therefore, what parents’ obedience to this command models to children and others about God. But for this post, I would like to take a more pragmatic approach and show from biblical principles of child development why reasoning does not work but provokes anger and rebellion. I won’t elaborate on the principles so much as state them and then connect to the implications. At a minimum, child development in the areas of knowledge, perceptions, thinking skills, feelings, impulses, conscience, and will relate to the issue.

Reasoning disregards factors of child development.

First Corinthians 13:11 says that a child reasons and perceives as a child. In context it refers at the least to a lack of knowledge, lack of understanding others, and lack of broad perspective. A child has neither the brain ability nor the years of experience you do. So if you give reasons for what you want the child to do you are showing reasons to a person who is literally unable to see them like you do because he is literally unable to understand as an adult does. Children generally live for the moment, so you are trying to get a short-sighted person to see distances–he can’t.

Living by feelings and impulses, children aren’t naturally sensible or reasonable; they are emotional and selfish (Ps. 51:10; 58:3; Prov. 22:15; Rom. 3:10-18; 1 Cor. 3:1-3). Therefore, if you think you’re logically explaining why, what you’re actually doing is pitting reason against emotions. His feelings matter a lot more to him than your reasons.

Children think and perceive self-centrically, simplistically, and foolishly (1 Cor. 3:1-3; 13:11; Prov. 16:2, 25; 22:15). You see yourself reaching the heart. The child sees an adult who, at the point of disagreement, can be distracted and drawn into a discussion by just the little word “why.” You explain reasons. The child perceives he is in a negotiation over a behavior. And he’s right. When giving reasons, you are trying to persuade your child to give up wanting what he wants. He’s doing the same toward you. That’s a negotiation, not instruction.

A child is a chooser. He has a will, a strong will, a will bent toward his own way. More than one parent has thought that if she could just explain it enough times the child would finally “get it.” Understanding is not the problem. Willfulness is. (Ps. 51:5; Prov. 22:15; Rom. 3:10-18, 23)

Reasoning doesn’t reach the heart in the way you intend.

For the reasons above, I propose that it is not the assertion of gracious, judicious authority that is harsh, but it is the efforts at reasoning little children into obedience that is unloving. (Again, I’m not talking about a congenial discussion time. I’m talking about a time for obedience.) Expecting a person who can’t understand to understand is not kind. It expects more than a child is able to handle. It frustrates, provokes, and that is inconsiderate at best. Parents who adopt this practice do not realize its long-term effects.

Christian parents rightly want to shape the heart motives of their children. By Ephesians 6:4 we see that instruction is an important way to do so. Thoughts about truth influence the desires a person chooses. Perhaps this command to instruct leads to a misapplication, to explaining (“instructing”) reasons why a child should obey instead of enforcing the responsibility of the child to obey.

Reasoning with a child over obedience teaches by example that it is right for the child to expect authorities to answer to him, to defend decisions. It feeds pride. “Mom is willing to negotiate with me person to person; therefore I must be on a level with her. Okay, I’ll ask ‘why’ because it draws her into explaining herself. Then I’ll negotiate until she compromises.” 

Christian parents rightly want to train the conscience. Reasoning when the child should be obeying does the opposite. It hardens a child’s heart. How? It lets him practice ignoring his conscience in order to resist, argue with authorities, and comply only on his terms–when he deems the decision to be “reasonable.” You may out-debate a young child until he does what you want, but the teen will out argue and outlast you without remorse.

It is vital that a child learn to trust and obey. Explaining reasons in order to gain compliance teaches the opposite. When God told Abraham to sacrifice his only son, Abraham didn’t ask why. He didn’t question or negotiate. He didn’t dawdle. He immediately obeyed (Romans 4, Hebrews 11). That is mature faith. Having to know all the reasons first opposes faith.

Teach at the effective time.

Do teach. Just don’t do it when submission to authority (obedience) is at issue or when the child is disputing. When obedience is the issue it is time to learn obedience, not thinking skills. “Son, your responsibility right now is to honor and obey without disputing” (from Ephesians 6:1-3 and Philippians 2:14, spoken calmly).

Train the conscience. Teach the right standard to inform the conscience. Discipline violations to help him listen to that conscience, to care about God’s standard. That is reaching his heart. Discipline makes him more aware of the sin in his heart that his conscience is warning him about, which then uncovers his need for Christ. This is why discipline is a grace to the child.

Just as the Law exposes our sinful hearts, so requiring compliance to an authority without reasons exposes the child’s heart. If the child is resisting, he is not teachable anyway, so explaining is futile and leads to frustration. When your child truly wants a discussion for understanding you won’t feel your tension increasing and he usually won’t use the whiny “why.”

So then, don’t confuse application time as teaching time. I’m not saying the two can never go together. Relationships are dynamic. But if you find yourself frequently hearing “why” or being expected to defend your commands, your child has moved away from teachability to resistance. He doesn’t need more words; he needs more practice at application.


See also:  Reasoning with Children and Because I Said So

Posted in Parenting, Child-rearing | Tagged ,

Reasoning with Children? Parents, Don’t Abdicate!

Reasoning with children to obtain compliance without confrontation is a parenting approach in epidemic proportions and prolifically promoted on the web. People propose that children have a basic “need for power.” They suggest empathizing with a child’s anger and resistance until the child is willing to listen to reason.

The reasoning method comes from humanism, not the Bible.

While it is certainly biblical to give a gentle answer and to speak persuasively and lovingly, this practice of reasoning with children over an obedience issue is not biblical. It is a worldly method traceable back to at least the 1950s. Clinical psychologist Thomas Gordon believed that use of coercive power damages relationships, so he opposed authoritarian parenting. Children inherently resent anyone having authority or power over them and want to decide for themselves what behaviors to limit. Therefore, adults must use non-power, non-authoritative methods of raising children. 

In 1962, Gordon introduced the program Parent Effectiveness Training (PET). It is designed to encourage collaborative, cooperative relationships between parent and child. It quickly gained popularity.

PET taught the use of three key methods: active listening, I-messages, and No-Lose Conflict Resolution. An “I-message” is an assertion of the feelings or values of the speaker. “I feel frustrated that this room is a mess” rather than “Son, please clean up this room.” “I need you to pick up your toys” rather than, “Son, pick up your toys.” One goal is to give the child the opportunity to solve the problem. Empower the child. Another goal is to avoid blame by not pointing out faults.

By no-lose conflict resolution is meant arriving at a solution to which both parties agree. So, a parent is no longer to command her son to pick up his toys; she is to persuade him to want to pick up his toys.

What this all amounts to is negotiation. Rather than assert the authority a parent rightfully and necessarily has, parents are to pursue a collaborative, cooperative agreement–with a mere child! No wonder so many children don’t respect their parents. No requirement to comply; no blame for defiance; adults answering to the child; negotiating on equal terms; empowerment––no wonder today’s younger generation is being labeled narcissistic!

What about I-messages? Regarding “I need you to…,” Parent, why would you think your child cares about what you need? Regarding “I feel…,” if you understand the sin nature of a child, why would you expect a child to care about how you feel?

Parents have no right to abdicate.

There are two primary reasons why parents must unapologetically act on authority. I don’t mean legalistically authoritarian parenting. There are profitable times for parents to answer and explain many “whys.” I mean authoritative parenting, using a right and kind application of legitimate authority in obedience to God and for the good of the child. The foundational reason is God’s command. The horizontal reason is for the blessing upon and relationship with the child.

The issue of authority is at the very core of life. The first words of the Bible establish that: “In the beginning God created…” God’s commands to Adam in Genesis 1 and 2 establish the principle of authority and presume God’s supreme authority. Satan’s “Has God said?” first thing in chapter 3 shows the centrality of the issue. Adam’s sin was essentially a rejection of God’s authority. Authority is a foundational principle.

God Himself authoritatively commands parents to instruct and discipline as authorities, not as collaborators (Eph. 6:4). He unapologetically commands children to obey parents as authorities, not collaborators (Eph. 6:1-3). By subverting parental authority, the PET philosophy subverts God’s. While there is no warrant for harshness or selfishness, and while direct confrontation may not be the wisest course in every situation, parents don’t have the right to avoid being authoritative.

Your child’s right understanding of authority is essential for his welfare.

Every person must grapple the issue of authority. Whose agenda takes priority? Who rules? Who must submit to whom? Practically speaking, throughout his life your child will be responsible to comply with many authorities whether or not he agrees with them, or face unpleasant, even coercive, consequences. Would we rather he learn this hard lesson from those who mix compassion with the lessons or from the cold, cruel world after he leaves home?

Ultimately, our craving for control clashes against the granite wall of the sovereignty of God. Therefore, your child’s eternal life hinges on what he does when he hits that wall. The safest place to hit it is under the care of lovingly authoritative parents who will help him see the issue clearly with his welfare in mind. Don’t let the world deceive you into avoiding the concept of authority with your children.

What about the claim that children have a “need for power” and so adults must avoid asserting power? What a lack of understanding! Of course your child inherently resents anyone having authority over him and wants to decide for himself what behaviors he gets to do. Of course he wants power. So do you. So do I. It’s called pride. It is the sin nature (Rom. 3:23; Prov. 22:15). The Bible has pointed that out for millennia. A child needs to see that his “need for power” is actually his dominating drive of selfishness (2 Tim. 3:2). His “need to decide for himself” is a sinful demand for control to get his way. When he demands power, reasoning is not what he needs. The experience of running into your loving but firm authority is intended to help open his eyes to the fact that he is a willful sinner in need of a Savior. Parents who wisely and lovingly enforce their God-given authority do not damage relationships. They please God, shape wise children, cultivate peace and order in the home, and therefore build rewarding relationships.


See also the previous post Answering Why and the subsequent post Because I Said So

Posted in Parenting, Child-rearing | Tagged , | 4 Comments