A thoughtful anonymous reader posted this in response to my Monday piece on television watching by evangelicals:
“We don’t miss it, but our teenage son is somewhat of a prodigal and resents us for “imposing” our beliefs on him. Of course, we have explained the obvious to him and he is refusing to see reason in the true fashion of teenage rebellion. What would you do in that situation? Just curious. We are not budging, since we have 5younger children, but wonder if we are missing some form of reasonable compromise.”
I always read comments to my posts, which is not usually terribly taxing. But that should encourage some of you fence-sitters out there to write in with your thoughts. At any rate, I thought that this was a great question, and so I decided to give it a hack. Let me first say that I am not a parent of children who exist in physical form outside of their mother’s womb. I do in fact have a child, but it is presently hanging out in its mother’s womb, learning to punch her in all sorts of interesting ways. I am not a parenting authority, then, and do not present myself as one. With that said, I think on a personal level that parents have to set a tone in their home in which they are recognized as the authority. They do not need to apologize for being such and should in fact claim the role of leader as a God-given station in life. They should seek to set a tone for the home, though, in which authority is mixed with grace and love. In other words, children in Christian homes should be happy, inasmuch as parents can make this happen. They should experience life in happy, joyful terms. They should not grow up with a view of the Christian home that sees it only in terms of what it is against, but rather that sees it as being clearly rooted in joy that flows forth from a rich understanding of the doctrines of election, atonement, and providence.
This means that we strive to make our homes happy, that we give our children that happiest childhood we can, and that we root all our parenting in a vision of the Christian life that is not legalistic or stingy. However, we will also have to make difficult choices that our children, particularly our teens, may disagree with. Hopefully, when this happens, we can look back and see that we have trained our teens to trust our authority and follow our leadership, even if they disagree with certain decisions we make. Without such a foundation, I really don’t know what one would do in the situation described above. With it, though, we can point our children to the duty to obey their parents, clearly and graciously articulate the reasons for our decision, and instruct them to seek to live joyfully under our rule.
In this particular instance, it sounds like this young person could have a hard heart. I don’t think it’s the parent’s duty to give in here, as it often is not. Way more often, it’s going to be the child’s duty to follow their parents. Were I in the above situation, I would do what I’ve already written and stand my ground. Of course, I’m not sure that I would necessarily outlaw all tv, and that’s not what I stated in my post. If you have made that decision, however, I would stick to your guns, love your son boldly, and attempt to show him that you’re not making this decision to stick it to him but to usher him to holiness. If he rebels against you, that shows that his heart is hard. Again, he can well choose to watch tv when he’s on his own, but as long as he’s in your house, it is his biblical responsibility to joyfully submit to your leadership and follow you as his God-given authority, one put there for his own health and flourishing. It will naturally only help if this response is given in the context of a home in which a full, happy, rich Christian life is celebrated.
But even still, your son may reject your wisdom, and rebel against you. In such a case, you must not relinquish your authority as a parent and bend to his will, but stand firm and seek to love him.
Those are my thoughts–do other readers have their own? This is a sticky question, I must admit. I gave it my best shot, but as I said, I’m no authority here!