Parenting Challenges

Power Struggles

There are many times in a child’s life where they start to assert their independence. It’s developmentally appropriate for children to push back against their parents as they try to figure out who they are and what they believe. It’s natural but it’s frustrating, especially for the parents! As much as we would like to avoid power struggles with our children, they can actually result in some very positive outcomes if we help them navigate the waters conflict in healthy ways.

As Christians it’s important to have a biblical understanding of what it means to have and wield power in God’s kingdom. As parents, we have been given authority, how we manage that authority is up to us. Will we wield it in a manner that honors the life of Jesus or will we assert it in the flesh?

In John 18 we hear the story of Jesus’ arrest.  One of the themes is the issue of power -who has it, who tries to claim more than they have, and who gives theirs up.

How Jesus asserts power
In John 18:3 Judas tries to assert his might with earthly powers: a detachment of soldiers, chief priests, and Pharisees carrying weapons. When they approached, Jesus went out to them and spoke first saying, “Who is it you want?” And when they said “Jesus of Nazareth” His next words sent them to the ground. “I am he.”  He then told them they could not take the disciples who were with him and they obeyed. Jesus went with them, not because of their authority, but because he was taking “the cup the Father has given.” He was submitting to the authority of the Father, not men.

Again in John 18 before the high priest Annas and in John 19 before the political authority of Pilate Jesus responds to their violence and threats using great restraint by responding with few words and moments of chosen silence. He didn’t need more. Jesus’ authority wasn’t threatened. He knew that the Father is in control and had put all things under his power. (John 13:3).  

How the high priest asserts power
Jesus was brought before the religious authority, Annas a high priest, for questioning by a detachment of soldiers with weapons. The expression of power by the high priest is the threat of violence.

Jesus is questioned by Annas and an official of the high priest slaps Jesus across the face, an act of violence meant to remind Jesus of his “place.”

How Peter asserts power
Peter met the detachment of soldiers and religious leaders with a sword, cutting off the ear of the high priest’s servant.  Jesus admonished him. Jesus has no need for violence. In the Gospel of Luke we learn that Jesus heals the servant.

Later Peter in fear of punishment himself by the powers of the high priest responded with lying and betrayal. He hid his true identity as a disciple of Jesus. Luke reveals that Jesus only needed to look at Peter to remind him that this was predicted. A move that sent Peter into tearful repentance.

How Pilate asserts power
In John 19 Jesus was received into Pilate’s care.  Before even meeting Pilate his officials did their best to strip him of his sense of authority by beating, slapping, and mocking him before a crowd.

Later Pilate used the threat of death to try to coerce Jesus saying, “Don’t you realize I have power either to free you or to crucify you?”

Jesus answers with truth, “You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above. “

John says, that “From then on, Pilate tried to set Jesus free, but the Jewish leaders kept shouting.”  Pilate was moved, but weakly.  He gave up his power and handed Jesus over to the Jewish leaders as soon as they started threatening his position by saying that a friend to Jesus was an enemy to Caesar.

How should we assert our power?
All authority is given from God, but that doesn’t make all authority righteous. Unrighteous authorities use the tools of the enemy – threats, lies, violence, fear, and shame to try to assert or defend their power and position.

As we see in the example set by Jesus, Godly authority is often exercised by the tongue whether from speaking or remaining silent. Sometimes the only reinforcement needed is a look.  Jesus’ real authority was never at stake. He gave up his power for a short while to reveal the full extent of his power so that we through faith can be empowered by the Holy Spirit.

Power Struggles - Gentle Christian Parenting

​All authority we have, He gives and can take away. We have no need for the use of threats, violence, fear, and shame. In Jesus, our power and position can’t be taken, it isn’t threatened. We have power over sin and power over our tongues. We have more power in Christ than most of us will ever make use of. 

" We have more power in Christ than most of us will ever make use of. " #power #Christian Click To Tweet

So as parents, we also have no need to hold tightly to our power over our children. Rather, our families would be blessed if our efforts to hold on to control went towards controlling our tongues, tempers, and temptations to sin in our positions of authority. If we can rest in the peace of knowing our authority is secure, we can lead and guide as Jesus did. We can respond to disrespect with the same patience and peacefulness. We can use kind, wise, and carefully chosen words to say what needs to be said.

By our following the example of Jesus, our children can learn how to navigate conflict, how to work through power struggles, and how to get through it gracefully. They can see a healthy example of what God-fearing power looks like and learn how to assert their own power as they grow into the unique person they were called to be.

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Christina Dronen

Christian mom who practices gentle parenting. Author of the Parenting In Christ Bible study discussion guides.

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