We are beginning today to look at God as a perfect example of what a father ought to be and we are beginning in the beginning. God initially had 2 children, Adam and Eve, and did what all good parents do: He prepared for their arrival. He didn't put a crib together or buy diapers, but He definitely prepared a home for them in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 2:8-9). Then He let them enjoy their new home, but there were two conditions: chores to do and rules to obey (Genesis 2:15-17). Every family needs these two things. Obviously, a newborn can't comprehend either of these concepts, but as soon as they become capable work and obedience become essential to their future well-being.
We seem to have gotten things backwards in our society and it is time to get back to God's plan for the family. The children are not head of the home, the father is and as fathers we must not tolerate insubordination at an early age or we will suffer dire consequences later.
Notice that the work God gave was appropriate to the man and later the woman also, it could easily be done and only after their disobedience did Adam's work become burdensome (as punishment Genesis 3:17-19). It is essential that we realize that even in paradise there was work to be done. It is important that we as fathers give children tasks they are capable of performing. A 2-year-old can't put away the clean dishes or wash the dirty ones, but he or she can pick up toys and put them away (seems only logical since he or she got them out and played with them in the first place). Don't expect, however, that what they pulled out of the toy box over 2 hours is going to be put back in 5 minutes; that's unrealistic. How would you feel if your boss told you to do a month's work in one day?
Next look at the obedience God expected. He did not give Adam and Eve a thousand-page rule book or even 10 commandments. He gave them one clearly stated easily understood rule and that is where it has to start with little children. As they learn a new rule others can and should be added, but in increments to fit their understanding. The first rule our children learned was while they were young enough to still be nursing. That first rule was the equivalent of 'don't bite the hand that feeds you'. A bite would get an immediate "no, don't bite!" and a thump on the cheek just hard enough to cause pain and associate the word 'no' and the pain with their biting. Some took longer than others but soon all learned not to bite.
God's command was not vague. He did not say, "There's some fruit on a tree out there somewhere that I don't want you to eat." Instead He was specific, "But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it". That is clear and easily understood. There is no reason to believe that Adam and Eve misunderstood because Eve told the serpent what the rule was and what tree it referred to as well (Genesis 3:3). It is important for us to have the rule in place first and it can be very helpful to discuss these things with our wives so that each of us can see if we agree to the rules and the appropriateness of them for each child and each age and maturity level. As you can see fatherhood is much more than just reproducing.
In addition to the command being in place and clearly understood, the consequence of disobedience was also clearly stated (Genesis 2:17: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die). We may not always measure up on this one, but we must make a greater effort. Unfortunately, many fathers (and mothers, too) don't tell their children what is expected of them much less what reaction disobedience will bring. All too often a child is yelled at, spanked, beaten, put in time-out, or punished in some other way with no understanding of why or how to avoid having it happen again in the future. In many cases like this the child was not doing anything that he or she had been told not to do, and was not warned that a particular behavior would bring punishment. How cruelly we treat children simply because we never help them understand how to please us. The child mistreated and abused in this way commonly will soon adopt an attitude of resignation that says, "I can't please them no matter what I do, so why try". Oddly enough, some people have this same attitude toward God; likely because of their parents or the teaching they have received at some church or another. The fact is that God makes it as clear and simple as possible for us to know how to please Him.
As fathers we should do the same with our families. Make the chores appropriate to the varying abilities of different ages and maturity of your children. Make the rules simple, plain, easily understood, and realistic for each child's maturity. Make sure the child knows and understands the rule and the consequence for breaking it, and don't punish on a whim or because you are in a bad mood. Romans 5:13 says, "but sin is not imputed when there is no law." To punish a child for an accident or for something that you just decided you don't like after he has already done it is child abuse. On the other hand, to allow a child to break a given and understood rule without consequence is also child abuse. Consistency thou art a jewel. Let's pray that we can be more consistent in the discipline of our children, and be more like our Heavenly Father.
More to come . . . next time.