The exercise of authority, whether in business, politics, or at home, is a difficult task, at least for those who wish to exercise it for the benefit of others and not merely for self-aggrandizement and the raw use of power. People in authority are in positions of service no less that those at the bottom of the authority chain. For many people the question of authority simply means the exercise of power over others, but authority should be exercised for the benefit of those under their care. That parents exercise authority over their children presents many modern parents with a conundrum.

In reality, there is no conundrum; parents have authority. Their natural right and responsibility to guide their children has been enshrined not only in societies throughout history but also in the Ten Commandments: “Honor your father and mother.” To relinquish control of child-rearing to the state or any other institution goes against the grain of the natural order of creation. Parents deny their God-given responsibility when they fail to be the parent or relinquish control of parenting duties to someone else.

Authoritative versus Authoritarian

A definition of terms is in order, but understanding how to exercise parental authority demands precision. Authoritarian parenting lays down the law, micro-manages every aspect of a child’s life, and allows no discussion about rules. Authoritative parenting also provides rules and regulations but also provides insights for the children to understand the reason for such regulations. This neither insures that the children will go along with the rules, nor does it mean that you will change the rules. You are still the parent with the responsibility to guide your children’s moral and spiritual upbringing.

Authoritative parents exhibit their authority also by adhering to the set of standards expected of their children. Let us not think that children won’t imitate our bad examples. “Do what I say, not what I do” must be completely erased from parents’ thinking.

It has been demonstrated that the greatest element of leadership is the love and warmth exhibited by parents. Even if you maintain a rigid authoritarian style, demonstrating warmth and love not only let’s children know that they are valued but also encourages them to see that the rules are established on a foundation of caring.

Some Decisions Aren’t Up the Kids

Many today can’t see the connection between authority and loving. Because we live in an age demanding children’s rights, parents shirk their responsibility. Rather than insist that children obey and adhere to standards of behavior, some parents fail to assert what they know is best for the kids. Leonard Sax insists that measured by long-term results, this dynamic duo of authority along with love produces a better outcome.

Parents must decide which things are non-negotiable as well as which behaviors clearly reflect the child’s rebellion against their authority. Parental authority in such matters must be asserted despite protestations to the contrary. For example, Sax remembers a time when teachers might correct behavior in school and parents would support what the teacher said. Today, however, parents rush to school and defend their children in the name of loving and protective behavior.

He also tells the story of a set of parents negotiating with a child about getting a test for strep. Rather than insisting that the child get the test for the sake of her health, one mother promised a reward if the child would only undergo the test. The child, being a natural manipulator and lobbyist like most children, realized that such negotiation provided her with a choice in the matter, and of course refused the test with much hullabaloo: no test, no reward didn’t matter.

Be the Wall

Just like driving on the right side of the road (left in Britain) and between the marked lanes gives drivers a fair amount of safety, so too parents must provide the appropriate behavioral lanes in which to operate safely. When the children want to challenge or change the lanes, parents are called to be a wall they run into. Kids may resent it, and parents may feel guilty about the kids’ resentment. Parents will do well at such times to grow some vertebrae and think more about the long-term outcome of their child’s life. Children actually flourish with rules. The rules help them define their limits and even free them to make better choices.

Be the parent! Don’t try to be their buddy. You can still exhibit your love without giving up your right to be the authority in their lives. Just as importantly, in today’s climate, don’t allow the government or the school system to usurp your God-given role. They are your children.

© 2023 Robert T. Weber, The Lazarus Chronicles and Words Done Right LLC

Photo: © <a href=’’>virtosmedia</a>, <a href=’’>123RF Free Images</a>