Oh, BTW, OP, I agree with you that parents should be “human” in front of their children.
When parents make mistakes in their discipline and treat a child too harshly, or impose a punishment on the wrong child, or whatever, YES, that parent should come to their child and apologize and ask for forgiveness.
That’s one of the best lessons that children can learn–how to admit wrong-doing and ask for forgiveness.
BUT…parents should never, ever EVER be “just friends” with their children. It is from parents that a child learns the concept of “authority.” Parents must somehow teach a child that the child must respect and obey those who are in authority.
A child who does not learn that concept very early, from toddlerhood, will be a terror to the family, to their school, and to society. A child MUST learn that the teacher, the policeman, Grandma and Grandpa and most adults, the coach, the pastor, the President, and most importantly, GOD–must all be respected and obeyed.
I think that nowadays, parents are almost afraid to teach this vitally-important concept to their children because they’ve seen so much abuse of authority. In your case, you saw it in your parents who were abusive towards you. It seems that every time we turn on the news, we hear another story of an abusive pastor, coach, or teacher, or even policeman. And many of us have a difficult time with our current President and we really don’t feel much respect for him.
BUT…just because there are monsters doesn’t mean we can turn up our noses at authority, and children need to know this, and they need to see their parents respecting and obeying authorities. Even if we disagree with the President or some other authority, we should still respect their position and respect them as fellow human beings, and not trash talk them or totally disregard any of their reasonable commands.
It’s a tough task–parents have to train children to respect and obey authority, and also train their children not to obey a command to commit sin, or to participate in sin, or in any unwise or hurtful activity. E.g., if a coach is demanding that their young athletes give up water for two days before their competition, that is a dangerous action and the child MUST disobey.
It’s tough. The idea is that the child should feel comfortable with their parents so that they are able to come to Mom and Dad and ask them if it’s OK to disobey.
We worked hard on this with our children, and I used stories of the Nazi Holocaust to help them understand. I read them stories of people who had disobeyed the laws of the land and had chosen to help the Jews rather than persecute them.
One evening, I decided to let my girls try out the AWANA club at the church where I grew up (Baptist). I was hoping they would enjoy it and have fun.
I don’t know if they still do this in their meetings, but back then, they opened AWANA club with a pledge to the flag, followed by a pledge to the AWANA flag. The pledge involved holding up the hand in a straight-arm salute.
I was incredibly proud of my daughter, who was about 5 years old at the time, because after the meeting, she told me that she had not raised her arm or said that pledge. She said that it felt like she was worshipping a flag instead of God, and she felt uncomfortable because the “salute” looked just like the Nazi salute to Hitler.
So even young children can learn to think for themselves when parents spend time with them and tell them meaningful stories, give them examples, and work with them to help them think things through.
Again, all of this is so much easier when parents agree with each other and back each other up in a balanced, fair way, and work together to train up their children in the ways they should go.