The overriding principle is that authority is for building up.
2 Corinthians 13:10 says:
This is why I write these things when I am absent, that when I come I may not have to be harsh in my use of authority–the authority the Lord gave me for building you up, not for tearing you down.
Note the important qualifier: authority is to be used to build up. This cannot mean a random, harsh use of authority that leaves behind a trail of discouragement and disillusion. This is the kind of authority that leaves behind a reaction like this:
“I’m really glad Dad spoke to me about that; I really needed his help.”
If your wife or children seldom have this response to your authority, it is time for you consider repentance and a different approach. Here are three things that go hand-in-hand with authority that builds up.
First, listen with an ear to learn what is helpful to build others up.
See Ephesians 4:29 and Proverbs 18:13
These two verses underscore the importance of being a skilled, aggressive listener. Your goal is to be able to repeat the words you hear back to the speaker in such a way that he can affirm that you really do understand what he said. You don’t always have to agree, but you must always understand. This attentiveness shows respect. It also indicates that you view your authority as a trust given to you so that you can be a servant. Answering quickly, without fully understanding the intent of the words you hear, shows a lack of concern for others and, according to Proverbs, is shameful behavior.
Second, when you do speak, use language that is pleasant and gracious. Harsh tones and sarcastic answers do not build relationships.
See Proverbs 16:21 and Proverbs 15:1
The father’s role is to make God’s wisdom attractive to his family. Harsh, sharp language indicates that the father is pushing his own agenda rather than God’s. Pleasant language, even if firm, focuses on what is needed for growth. Harsh language can reveal a on self-righteousness. Which type of language do you think is more appealing to your hearer? Which type builds up?
Third, beware of anger. Anger and authority should seldom be seen together.
Anger is not the tool of a builder. Anger puts the emphasis on the fact that you have been offended. Rather, the focus must be on God. As a father, you should want to point your wife and children to Christ. Verse 20 of James 1 reveals the intentions of your heart. Man’s anger does not promote God, but man. Don’t excuse your anger because you think others deserve it. Anger will drive those close to you far from you.
These three principles will help fathers develop relationships that will build up those under their authority. (These principles also work well for moms.)