Responsibility Over Relationship

A Lamplighter Moment from Mark Hamby

Responsibility is a necessary part of life, and all children must learn to do their part. However, we parents sometimes give our children too much responsibility, and for the wrong reasons. Parents who have obsessive, controlling, perfectionist tendencies often use their children for their own selfish purposes.

When my children were growing up, I gave them assignment after assignment and responsibility after responsibility. At one point, we had twenty-two horses and seventy sheep, while I was a caretaker, and attending seminary full time. I thought I was giving my family an experience of a life-time. What I gave them was enough work for ten adults, all in the name of my little-house-on-the-prairie unrealistic dream. As the years went by, the tensions grew, as well as a wedge between me and my oldest son.

Not only was I placing my own life goals ahead of my family, but I was placing responsibility above relationship, which led to frustration. Giving our children assignments and chores is important, but tempering this work with mercy, love, and kindness is the higher responsibility.

The boundaries we set for our children must first be set for ourselves. When we live inside the boundaries of kindness, grace, and mercy, then we can expect our children to live inside our balanced expectations. I think Paul’s words in I Corinthians are a fitting description of God’s call for parents: “But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified” (I Corinthians 9:27). Living within the boundaries that we set for ourselves will be a greater influence then harsh demands and scoldings.

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