Many of our readers already know that our youngest son is autistic. His talking is delayed and he has a few other habits that are unique to him. For example, when I ask him to do something, he wants to be able to finish what he is currently doing before moving on to the next task. We expect our boys to obey their parents and to obey right away, but we also recognize that autism causes people to look at tasks differently.
We were recently asked how much we let our son “get away” with because he is autistic. The person was asking because he knew of parents who had children diagnosed with certain conditions and those children were allowed to behave terribly.
My answer was that sin is never acceptable and that as a parent I had to punish sinful behavior. At the same time, I recognize that because he has autism, there will be situations where immediate obedience will be more difficult for him than it will be for his brothers. With that in mind, we try to give him advanced notice when we tell him to do something so that he has more time to follow through. In other words, we do not want to put him in a place where we are hoping he fails at obeying his parents, but we also want him to understand that obedience is not an option to be ignored.
Ephesians 6:1 says, “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.” (NASB) Colossians 3:20 states, “Children, be obedient to your parents in all things, for this is well-pleasing to the Lord.” (NASB) But then the next verse says, “Fathers, do not exasperate your children, so that they will not lose heart.” (NASB)
As parents, we must enforce standards, but we must also realize that God has shown grace to us and we must show grace to our children. In many ways, God is like a strict parent who will not tolerate any misbehavior. In fact, He is so strict that he tells us in Romans 6:23 that the wages of sin is death. Yet God is so loving, that Jesus died on the cross for our sins. That payment only benefits us if we believe on Him as we trust Christ as our savior. Once we have done that, we become children of God, but that does not mean that we can do whatever we want. God is still a strict Father. Hebrews 12:5-11 says,
“and you have forgotten the exhortation which is addressed to you as sons,“MY SON, DO NOT REGARD LIGHTLY THE DISCIPLINE OF THE LORD, NOR FAINT WHEN YOU ARE REPROVED BY HIM; FOR THOSE WHOM THE LORD LOVES HE DISCIPLINES, AND HE SCOURGES EVERY SON WHOM HE RECEIVES.” It is for discipline that you endure; God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline? But if you are without discipline, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Furthermore, we had earthly fathers to discipline us, and we respected them; shall we not much rather be subject to the Father of spirits, and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as seemed best to them, but He disciplines us for our good, so that we may share His holiness. All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness. ” (NASB)
God is loving and merciful, yet He still disciplines us for our sins in order to make us more like Him. That should motivate us as parents to be consistent in disciplining our children when they sin. As long as we do not do it in a way that exasperates them, they will be better off because of the discipline.