We Do Not Negotiate With…
Hear, my son, your father’s instruction, and forsake not your mother’s teaching… (Proverbs 1:8)
Parents, we do not negotiate with… our children! This is a hard one for parents, because it’s so easy to negotiate with our children, but is it always best?
First off, what do we mean by negotiate? Negotiation in parenting is when the parent bargains with the child to get the child to act differently.
“I will give you ice cream, if you would just stop screaming!”
What’s important to recognize here is that the “reward” is the motivation for obedience. What does the child really want? They want ice cream! Obeying mom or dad’s voice is not the desire here… the desire is ice cream!
This doesn’t mean that you never recognize good works in your children and even reward them for these things. That’s good! Positive consequences flow from good works. When your teenager demonstrates that he/she is trustworthy, then more trust and greater opportunities should be offered. Give thanks and recognize when little boys and girls share their toys.
Negotiating is a different animal. Negotiating is seeking to correct bad behavior by simply promising them something that they already want. There is a huge difference between using rewards to recognize good works and using rewards to motivate good works.
What’s the Big Deal?
Now, you maybe thinking – Is there really that big a difference between recognize and motivate? It’s not that big of a deal right!? Well, as parents we are given to our children, by God, to teach them about who God is and how to respond to him. Consider what negotiation teaches our little ones about obeying God.
- Parents – “If you stop screaming, I will give you ice cream.”
- God – “If you stop sinning, I will forgive you and give you what you want.”
This is not what we want to be teaching our kids about authority and what it means to follow Christ. This is not the gospel. Negotiation teaches that the one being bargained with is the one in charge. They have all the leverage. When the parent is simply a negotiator, the child is in charge. This is not an accurate depiction of the authority structure that God established.
Authority Is Good For Us
The Bible reveals that God is sovereign over all. He is the authority of the universe, which includes us! His words are not to be taken as advice, they are truth. Therefore, He does not wait for us to tell Him what’s good for us. He tells us what’s good for us. That’s what loving authority figures do. They don’t abuse us with their authority, nor do they lay down their authority. They practice authority for the good of those under their care.
In the gospel, God tell us what’s good for us. He is holy, we are sinners, and redemption is through the death and resurrection of Jesus alone. God doesn’t say – “I’ll give you ______________ if you would just stop doing ___________.” God doesn’t negotiate a gospel with us based on what we want. The gospel promises us far more that some lame negotiation could ever deliver.
- God – “This is the way – Through the death and resurrection of my Son, Jesus, you have forgiveness, life, and all spiritual blessing.” (Ephesians 1:3-14)
- Parents – “Listen to and obey my voice, because I’m offering you wisdom. This is good for you.”
The Alternative To Negotiating
Parents, speak the truth to your children. Offer them wisdom, tell them hard truths, call them to repent, encourage them, teach them to listen to your voice. Through your words and actions teach them to want their father’s instruction and/or their mother’s teaching more than they want all the bargaining chips that are out there. Teach them about repentance by admitting when you’re wrong. Instruct them do what’s right when others do the opposite. Teach them that you are their authority and that God is the authority over all, and teach them that this authority is for their ultimate joy!
This is the harder path. Negotiation is easy, teaching and modeling true Biblical authority is hard. Parents can not do this on their own, we need help. Parents, you have a help far greater than a Netflix show, dessert, phone, or any other bargaining chip you can think of. You have the Holy Spirit. You have God’s empowering presence to help you. It will be impossible for you to teach this authority to your kids when you are resistant yourself. Often, I think, we’re negotiating with the Lord when we’re negotiating with our kids. “God, this is what I expect you to make my family like: (fill in expectation here) .” The Holy Spirit gives grace and joy to submit to God as our authority. The Spirit tells us “This is good for you” and gives us the power to humble ourselves. All this must be done in the power of the Spirit or it won’t happen.
Hope For Negotiators
Are you realizing that there are times when you function more like a negotiator than a parent? Don’t be discouraged! Why? Because God’s ability to work and God’s grace are greater than your strategies. When God reveals patterns that we need to change the response should hope and not despair. Your shortcomings, blindspots, sins, and struggles do not nullify God’s powerful grace. When you see something that God is calling you to change – repent and act in faith. It’s not too late and you’re never too far gone. Plead with God for his mercy, for you and your kids.
The Bottom Line:
God is not going to negotiate with our kids. That’s a fact. Parents, don’t let your kids grow up in such a way that this is a surprise to them.