Ephesians 6:1-4: “Children, obey your parents because you belong to the Lord, for this is the right thing to do. ‘Honor your father and mother.’ This is the first commandment with a promise: If you honor your father and mother, ‘things will go well for you, and you will have a long life on the earth.’ Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger by the way you treat them. Rather, bring them up with the discipline and instruction that comes from the Lord.”
The past couple of months have been a whirlwind for Miley Cyrus. From her controversial appearance at the MTV Video Music Awards to her incredibly risqué new music video, Miley has spent these past few weeks swinging a wrecking ball (both literal and metaphorical) at the “squeaky clean” image she gained as Disney’s Hannah Montana. Her recent behavior has left a lot of parents wringing their hands, wondering how they can explain the former Ms. Montana’s new image to their children. She may have once been an admirable role model, but her current antics just aren’t “twerking” for a lot of people (I apologize… I just could not resist…).
Though a lot of people might wonder what happened to Miley Cyrus, I think the answer is fairly simple. In fact, I think it goes back to something that happened a few years ago. Back in 2010, Miley’s father Billy Ray Cyrus (he of “Achy Breaky Heart”) gave an interview to GQ magazine wherein he explained some of the unique challenges facing his family. With a divorce in the rearview mirror and some early hints of Miley’s now-apparent meltdown appearing, the interviewer asked Billy Ray why his family was facing so many difficulties. While he was quick to lay some of the blame on the success of Hannah Montana, Billy Ray took the brunt of it upon his own failings as a father:
“How many interviews did I give and say, ‘You know what’s important between me and Miley is I try to be a friend to my kids’? I said it a lot. And sometimes I would even read other parents might say, ‘You don’t need to be a friend, you need to be a parent.’ Well, I’m the first guy to say to them right now: You were right. I should have been a better parent. I should have said, ‘Enough is enough—it’s getting dangerous and somebody’s going to get hurt.’ I should have, but I didn’t. Honestly, I didn’t know the ball was out of bounds until it was way up in the stands somewhere.”
In reflection, Billy Ray Cyrus realized that he had not been the kind of parent he needed to be. He had tried to be his daughter’s friend—to focus more on encouraging than disciplining. Though that certainly sounds like a great idea, it was anything but. Reading the quote, I get the impression that Billy Ray regrets that decision even more than he regrets the mullet he rocked in the 90s. His decision to be his daughter’s friend hadn’t brought them closer together; if anything, it was starting to pull them further apart.
There’s this growing idea out there that parents need to be best friends with their children. The parent shouldn’t be the authority in the life of their child; they should be an advisor. After all, they tell us, kids need to learn to make their own decisions. So, all parents need to do is set them free to make those decisions, offering occasional advice along the way. Unfortunately, as the story of Billy Ray and Miley Cyrus illustrates, this style of parenting doesn’t often work. As it turns out, kids don’t need another friend. Neither do they need someone to simply give them advice. What kids really need is a parent – someone to give them direction.
Now, don’t get me wrong: there is a time and place to be friends with your children. When your kids grow up, you want to have a healthy and friendly relationship with them. But, when they are children, you need to be their parent—you need to be their authority. Your children need to see you not as their friend, but as their superior.
That’s not to say that you don’t allow your children to make some decisions for themselves. Children need to grow up and learn responsibility (and consequence) by making their own decisions. Still, when the rubber meets the road, your kids must understand that ultimate authority belongs to you. Parents have a biblical responsibility to be the authority in their home. Ironically, doing this actually seems to help our children make better decisions in the long run. When they see their parents make decisions for them, (and they see the wisdom and heart that goes into those decisions), children become better informed in making their own choices. Ted Tripp said it this way:
“As a parent, you have authority because God calls you to be an authority in your child’s life. You have the authority to act on behalf of God. As a father or mother, you do not exercise rule over your jurisdiction, but over God’s. You act at His command. You discharge a duty that He has given. You may not try to shape the lives of your children as pleases you, but as pleases Him… Some may argue, ‘Children only learn to be decision makers as parents allow them to make decisions. We want children to learn to make sound decisions.’ That misses the most important issue. Children will be good decision makers as they observe faithful parents modeling and instructing wise direction and decision making on their behalf. Preliminary even to decision making is the importance for children to be under authority. Teach your children that God loves them so much that He gave them parents to be kind authorities to teach and lead them. Children learn to be wise decision makers by learning from you.”
Contrary to popular belief, your children don’t need you to be their friend. They need you to be their parent—the authority. Taking that responsibility seriously might just keep you from living in an “Achy Breaky” home.
Questions to Consider:
1. Why are so many parents afraid to step up and be the authority?
2. Read I Peter 1:14-16. Whose authority do we now live under?