“While he was offering the sacrifices, Absalom sent for David's adviser Ahithophel the Gilonite, from his city of
I remember the first time I held my firstborn in my arms. I didn’t want to squeeze too hard—and hurt him. Neither did I want to hold him too loosely—and drop him. That is a tension that continues through childhood and into the teenage years, and is at the core of successful parenting!
What do I mean by that?
If you smother your child, if you are constantly “putting the squeeze on them,” if you crush their creativity and bind them up by being overbearing, you actually hurt the child. The motive may be pure. As a parent you don’t want them to fall. So, the prohibitionist parent exasperates his son or daughter. They are raised to feel they can never succeed. They try to find favor and get commendation from their father and instead the more they move, the tighter the restraints. The more they do, the higher the bar is raised. Then there comes the day that they walk out of the house—and are crippled by the constant pressure of the demands of perfectionism.
Then, there is the opposite extreme, where you don’t hold them tightly enough. The permissive parent has taken the word, “no” from their vocabulary. They set no boundaries. The careless and casual approach to child-rearing gives a freedom the youngster is unprepared to handle. They are without discipline and direction. So, they reach adulthood and head out on their own—and typically rushing down a path to disaster.
Children then are like soap. When you are in the shower and you take a bar of soap, it is all slippery and if you don’t hold it tight enough, it falls to the bathtub floor. But, squeeze it too tight and it squirts out, with the same result.
Here is the principle stated Biblically, “And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord.” (Ephesians 6:4 HCSB).
Proper parenting involves the “training” or, we might say, positive encouragement for the child to blossom and flourish into all God has created them uniquely to be. We recognize that each child is unique, and a cookie-cutter approach won’t work. There is a certain freedom—with proper guidance—that gives them a “pat on the back” giving them wings to soar.
But, along with this, there is “admonition” or, we might say, proper boundaries for the child to be corrected and molded in building Biblical convictions—that gives them a “spank on the bottom” when needed. This gives them roots to stabilize them.
Roots and wings—they need both. Freedom and boundaries, encouragement and correction—this is to “bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord.” Otherwise, the typical result with be that parents, “provoke [their] children to wrath.”
That is what David did—and he raised a rebel.
Maybe he was just so busy in the affairs of state, to attend to hearth and home. After all, running a nation is big business. There were wars to wage and administrative duties to oversee. His plate was full. We understand, don’t we? Yet, what does it profit a man to gain the whole world’s respect and lose his own son?
It is quite likely that David’s own sinful conduct with Bathsheba weighed on his decisions as a parent as well. He was highly sensitive to sin on one hand because he was intimately acquainted with it and so he could be too harsh at times—as when he banished Absalom and would not forgive him and be reconciled to him. Or, he could be upset about some matter, and maybe because he felt guilty over his own moral failing, found it difficult to correct his son—as when he apparently allowed Amnon to get by with raping his half-sister.
Children need consistency. They don’t just need to hear sermons—they need to see them! Our lifestyle must line up with what comes from our lips. David knew the right things to say, but his moral failure in the sordid Bathsheba affair undermined his credibility in the home. Hypocrisy is always a handicap.
That, however, is somewhat speculative. Here’s what we do know. David raised a rebel. Absalom was not raised in the training and admonition of the Lord. The king provoked the prince to wrath. What a source of heartache that would be!
So, you hold that little bundle in your arms. You are in awe of this precious gift of God. They are so tiny. Soft and defenseless, you know that you would do anything you could to protect them. You would die for them! But, the key question is, “Will you live for them?” Will you pour your life into what is the most challenging responsibility of all? It’s not building a business, or leading a government, or pastoring a church, or directing an army—many can be successful at that who fail in their homes. The Hollywood star who wins the Oscar, the professional athlete who wins the trophy, the Wall Street whiz who rakes in millions…fill in the blank…but, then we hear the pain of broken marriages and dysfunctional children. Nothing can compensate for that grief.
It is easy to raise a rebel. David was utterly, unfortunately successful at it. Despite all his accomplishments and accolades, he would receive no parenting awards. This man had such resources at his disposal—most importantly, the wisdom of God available for the asking, but squandered the opportunity. God help us not to fail in our family life!