Speaking Like a Father

At the beginning the father is not afraid to command in hard and succinct language. One of the signs a man has enough vir-tue to be a father is that he speaks and enjoys receiving direct propositional statements.

Later, he may offer an explanation which is short and direct. This is a nod to the son’s dignity but it is all that is needed and all that is healthy. Young children should be expected to obey instructions this simple. Giving them more, especially at the beginning, teaches them they have a right to understand an instruction exhaustively before they need to obey. It teaches them to lean on their understanding and destroys their capacity for faith.
Of course, there is nothing wrong with fuller explanations at appropriate times.  And the older the child is, the more the father offers explanations in recognition of his dignity.  As the child ages he is elevated closer and closer to the status of friend, where actions are based on content and not on source.  But these are stages of growth and relationship; what is true in one is false in the other.   The child who actually learns to obey will make a good and healthy friend; treat a child like a friend too early and you will never have him for the friend you hope for.

Note what we are NOT talking about here: the typical “…because I said so…” that almost all parents give in answer to the inevitable “why?”.  Indeed, if you are still saying (not just “…because I said so…” to a post-pubescent child, you have already failed and apparently don’t know it.

“Because I said so” is a perfectly acceptable parental position, but if it has to be SAID, there is a relational problem that the answer does not address.


Of course, speaking in clear, simple propositional sentences will draw its eventual credibility from the result the child sees in his own eyes when he obeys your words and finds that he is blessed by them.  If you are going to speak like God (and you should) and expect to be obeyed like God (and you should) then you had better darn well understand that you have the responsibility  to bless like God by these words you utter.
The child will begin to ask “why?” not just from natural curiosity but when the universe you purport to create for him in your words does not look any more attractive to him than the one he lives in when you aren’t telling him what to do.   It is our right to command; it is our responsibility to bless; the one draws its credibility from the other; neither can be neglected.

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