A friend of mine pointed out a post by Mr Andrew Kerns entitled The Psychology of Dominion at The Circe Institute blog. After reading the article I was moved to comment in a bit of counterpoint to the general theme of Mr Kern’s article. If I understand him correctly, Mr Kern believes that a part of the problem with “youth culture” today is that we don’t expect teenagers to act like adults, nor to adopt adult responsibilities. The solution he suggests is for parents to get out of the way of their teenager’s appropriate independence. While I might generally agree with Mr Kern’s advice that we not “over-parent” our young adults, it seems to me that he has misconstrued the nature of godly dominion which is ostensibly his primary concern.
Mr Kern begins his post as follows, and my comments are below.
I have a sixteen year old son who does not like being told what to do. He’s actually a very pleasant son, very funny (though overly sarcastic, which he must have got from his mother for I would never be sarcastic myself), amazingly helpful around the house, and an independently home schooled kid this year. I hardly have to involve myself at all.
In fact, when I do involve myself, he can get pretty testy. I, of course, being the father, whoop him good when he doesn’t treat me with reverence, awe, and deference every time I speak to him.
I have no desire to provoke my son to anger, and I think one of the best ways to do so is to continue to parent them after they don’t need or want it.
When the God of Genesis made the first man He said: Let them have dominion.
To understand the Judaeo-Christian view of man, one of the first things to remember is that he was created to rule. This is, to misapply Dr. Seuss, a wonderful, awful idea.
I offered the following comments to Mr Kern at his blog as follows.
While I agree with your assessment of the disaster that is “youth culture” I think you may have missed a critical component in the solution. Let me illustrate this from your opening comment regarding the testiness of your son. God requires of your sixteen year old son a due reverence in heart, word, and behaviour toward his parents. As best I can understand, testiness is not a godly response to the involvement of his parent in some matter. As best I understand the fifth commandment, you have a responsibility before God lovingly to shepherd your son in keeping his duty of reverence. Your son has a duty before God lovingly to show reverence to his parents. He learns how to honour and revere other superiors throughout his whole life, in no small part, by how he learns to honour and revere you. Obviously, your shepherding of your sixteen year old son would be both loving and age appropriate: no, you wouldn’t “whoop” him. I understand your use of hyperbole here. But even with that in mind you seem to imply, first, that his testiness is appropriate in light of his dominion impulse and, second, that correcting him would do him a disservice. But even on your own terms, you are to exercise dominion in your home to the blessedness of your son. No, it would not be blessing him if you kept him from growing in his decision making skills, but neither are you blessing him if you leave him to foster a sinful attitude toward your involvement.
My concern is not to major on a minor point of your article, but to point out what seems to be lacking in this talk of dominion. If we wish to foster “godly dominion,” we must first learn godly submission. Indeed, godly submission is always the way of godly dominion. It sounds as though you think that a primary component of godly dominion is independence, or perhaps you mean that this is a key component that is lacking in the upbringing of our children. If I have understood you correctly, I think you have mistaken “independence” for the godly traits of self discipline and personal responsibility. I press this because “dominion” (or sometimes “manliness”) has been used frequently to excuse all sorts of ungodliness in our children (not to mention adults).
Dominion on God’s terms involves dying to self, and thankfully living in obedience to God’s law. No, we mustn’t over-parent. However, godly dominion for a sixteen year old son is learned from the inside out, for example, by being man enough to put to death the natural surliness he might feel when his father offers unwanted instruction, and rather to express such strength of character as to require of himself what God requires, a loving and patient embrace of his father’s instruction. A young man with that kind of mastery over his own soul is being prepared for every form of outward dominion.