Teaching your children about Authority
By Jill Savage
“Erica, Mrs. Jones is in charge during Sunday School. I expect you to respect and obey her.”
“Anne, Sarah is the boss while we are gone. I expect you to listen to her as your babysitter.”
“Evan, Mrs. Purcell is your authority in the classroom. You are expected to obey her as your teacher.”
The above statements have all been heard at some time in or around our home. It is the lesson of delegated authority that we have strived to teach our children. Although we are still training, we have seen the benefits throughout the years. Being home with our children does not insulate them from the need to learn how to respond to being in the care of others. We must help them grasp this important concept.
Why is it important to teach children about authority? Because it is something they will need to deal with for the rest of their lives. In the beginning, parents are the primary authority in a child’s life. As the children grow older, though, more and more authority figures enter their life. Perhaps it is grandparents first, then baby-sitters, later teachers, and much later employers and even government.
It is an important concept to teach children. If a child doesn’t learn to recognize and obey authority, he is headed for a life of clashes with those who are in leadership positions in any activity he is involved in. It is best to instill such understanding early on.
Let’s look at some suggestions for teaching children to honor authority:
First, evaluate your own parenting style. Are you the authority in your home? If your children are calling the shots at home, you need to start there first. Work on establishing parental authority first. Do this by expecting first-time obedience, not by using threat after threat after threat. Train your children in appropriate behavior and follow through with consequences immediately when they disobey. Don’t allow whining and bad attitudes to permeate your home. Be consistent. Children find security in knowing their boundaries and receiving consequences when they cross the line.
Have a talk with your children (assuming they are old enough to understand!). Explain authority to them: God’s authority, parental authority, and delegated authority. Discuss with them that there are times Mom and Dad won’t be with them, and that even when you are, there will be times other adults will give them instructions they must follow.
When another adult gives the children an instruction, you can say something like this: “Sarah, Grandpa told you it’s time to pick up the toys now. Grandpa is a person you must respect and honor. When he calls you, it’s the same as if I had called you.”
When you leave a child in someone else’s care, like a babysitter or Sunday School teacher, restate that person’s authority and remind the child he is to obey. When you are present and the child ignores another person’s instruction, remind the child of his responsibility to obey.
Make sure your children understand how to distinguish between delegated authority and those who have no right to give them instructions. For their own safety, talk to them about strangers- and even friends- who might tell them to do something they must not obey.
As authority is established within your home and outside of your home, you will find parenting to be easier. You will also find that other people will enjoy being around your children. And most of all, you will be preparing your children to respond appropriately to authority throughout their lives. It’s a lesson we can all stand to be reminded of!
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Jill – thanks so much for posting this. Not only do our children struggle with authority but also we as adults. It took me a long time to realize that just because I don’t agree with my authority, I do not have the right to disobey them. By disobeying my authority, I am disobeying God. Now that I try my hardest to obey authority, people have a difficult time understanding why – I have to remind myself that as long as I am obeying God, I can’t worry about the words and thoughts of others. I believe that if we as parents set the example of submitting to authority, our children will follow.
Thank you for reminding me that God has given me the authority to parent my kids. Requiring and expecting obedience is a good thing – just not always easy.