One of the verses my kids heard me quote a lot was “rebellion is like the sin of [witchcraft]” (I Samuel 15:25). Old Testament law condemned people found to be witches, and while we are under a new covenant, God is still not pleased with witches because whether they claim to be good or bad witches, they center their lives on having power and not serving God, and/or they commune with weird spirits or the dead instead of the Holy Spirit, or in the case of some of the more “New Age” varieties, they worship nature instead of the God who created all that great stuff in the first place. All of this is idolatry in the first degree, a violation of the first commandment to “love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might” (Deuteronomy 6:5).
The reason I so often quoted that verse about rebellion and witchcraft is that in our society, rebellion is usually taken lightly, sometimes celebrated, and very often excused, especially when referring to children and adolescents. I’ve even heard pastors pretty much say that kids will rebel, as if we are to excuse their behavior. Indeed, ever since World War II, many popular depictions of youth in the media have portrayed them as wild and unrestrained, so I am going against the tide of popular opinion when I say that children should not be allowed to defy authority.
I do believe that young people have a lot of energy, that they are perhaps testing limits at one level or another, and that while they are desperately trying to find their places in the world they will screw-up, but during the whole process they had better recognize that God has the ultimate say in their lives, that parents are there for wisdom and protection, and authority figures like teachers, principals, and police officers are ordained by God.
It’s good for kids to know that there are rules that should not be broken. My children learned the Ten Commandments, and within our household we had rules about when we ate and went to bed and where certain activities could and could not be performed. If children don’t learn that they shouldn’t throw sand in the face of others when they play in a sandbox, they will have problems at school and work and in the families they later create. If a little girl is allowed to wear her dress shoes out in that same sandbox, she will be more likely to resist when a parent suggests that what she is wearing later as a teen is too tight, too revealing, or otherwise inappropriate. Kids need rules to learn how to live correctly, and more importantly, they need to learn that there are consequences when these rules are violated.
“God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he shall also reap” (Galatians 6:7), which means that if we go against God’s ways, there are negative results. In real life, these consequences are often distant from the violations people commit. Wicked people often spend their lives doing what they want, they appear happy and prosperous, and too often we never see them suffer. Dictators die in opulence at old age, drug addict rock stars survive their straight peers, and good people are ignored, impoverished, ridiculed, and killed.
The psalmist lamented this reality when he wrote, “I was envious of the arrogant, as I saw the prosperity of the wicked, for there are no pains in their death” (Psalm 73:3-4). He was discouraged, until he saw their end in judgment (73:17-20).
Kids are too short-term in their thinking and need some help understanding the ideas of reaping, sowing, and judgment. That is why it is good to discipline kids when they disobey. They need to understand that actions result in judgment.
Of course, there are two sides to our roles as judges when we parent, and my kids suffered no dearth of praise and positive reinforcement. When they did well, I let them know. Sometimes, I would hold them and look in their eyes and say, “Listen to me. Some people wait all their lives and never hear this from their fathers: I am very pleased with you.”
I have hugged my children, kissed them, lavished affection upon them, esteemed their uniqueness, and loved them as well as I could, which also meant disciplining them when they needed it.