One of the things I love most about gentle parenting is that we get to encourage our children to be wholly themselves. It is not rare, especially in Christian circles, to see parents raising children who are not allowed to disagree with them. Putting on a happy face and going along with the program seems to be the only option available. And, unfortunately, harsh consequences also seem to be the norm when this doesn’t happen.

But where exactly did we get this idea that our children disliking our decisions is inherently sinful? God does not command our children to like our decisions, and worse, act as if they do even if they don’t.

Please don’t hear me encouraging your child to disobey you or treat you with utter disrespect. Children are commanded in scripture to obey their parents, to honor them in the Lord. I am not encouraging disobedience, but rather honesty in our communication. We as parents ought to be confident enough in our parenting that we do not need our children’s approval of the decisions that we make. They don’t have to like our boundaries; they just need to abide by them. Valuing the art of disagreeing in a home where they are safe to do so will prepare them forz the many disagreements they will face in their upcoming jobs, friendships, marriages, and relationships with their own children one day.

It struck me one day recently as I was thinking on this that God has commanded our children to obey and honor; he has not commanded us to force it out of them. As my children grow in spiritual maturity in a home where they are valued, listened to, and secure, my hope is that they will see that my desire is never to place arbitrary boundaries around frivolous matters just to prove my authority. Rather, in the same way God the Father has placed meaningful boundaries around matters of importance in my life, they will come to cherish “the law of the land” in the same way I am learning to cherish God’s law for my good. It is not my approval of God’s commands that prove me faithful to Him, but my obedience to them. And yet, it is in my obedience that I begin to internalize and cherish their value anyway. My prayer is that my children may do the same.

I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. –Ephesians 4:1-3