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The Boy Who Wanted a Father—Not a Friend

By Dr. Don and Debbi Dunlap
Pastoral Counselor
A son rebels when his father tries to befriend him instead of lovingly disciplining him.

Family Counseling Ministries -

Many years ago our family heard an interesting sermon delivered by a pastor friend of ours. He said, very emphatically that he believed God called him to be his son’s best friend. It was a fairly innocent-sounding comment. However, his determination to befriend his son proved to be the child’s undoing.


We had the opportunity to observe this family for the next fifteen years. The father failed repeatedly to administer firm discipline for fear his son would no longer like him. He established boundaries in the child’s life yet he failed to enforce them.


His son soon learned that all he had to do to get his way as a young boy was to whine and throw temper tantrums. As he grew older and realized how socially unacceptable that behavior was, he mastered the technique of looking sad and disappointed, and clamming up in silence to punish his dad.

In his early twenties, this promising young man dropped out of college, began abusing drugs and became a great source of pain and heartache to his parents for years to come. Our pastor friend was sincere in his goals for his son. But he was sincerely wrong.

It is wise to be parents to our children while they are young. We can be their friends when they are grown.

Christian parents are sinners. Consequently, we will discipline our children improperly at times. When this happens we must be willing to confess our sinful behavior to our children and ask them to forgive us. Children do not perceive their parents’ sincere repentance as weakness. Nor does it undermine a parent’s authority when the parent admits that he or she made a mistake.

Children have plenty of friends. They need a loving and unmovable authority figure in their lives.


Even children know that no one is perfect. When we try to portray ourselves as flawless, we appear hypocritical to them. We should model the character quality of humility before our children.


We mustn’t make the mistake, however, of swinging to the other extreme and trying to be our child’s best friend. Children need a parent and an authority figure much more than they need another friend.

It is not the church’s job to teach our children godliness.

We should not expect our churches, our friends, or anyone else to be responsible for nurturing our children’s spiritual growth. God does not charge the church’s children’s ministry or the youth ministry with teaching and training our children to be obedient, fruitful Christians. God charges parents with that responsibility. He calls Christian parents to biblically train and discipline their children with loving diligence and godly perseverance.


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