The idea of authority in dealing with children has fallen into disrepute in recent years. And it's no wonder.

I'm Dr. James Dobson with Focus on the Family.

The moment you even use the word authority, there are people who mistakenly think you are referring to harshness and anger. They picture a father who rules with an iron fist; and when he speaks, everybody jumps because they're afraid not to. Properly defined, however, authority means respected leadership. Without respect for leadership, you have no leadership, and without leadership you have anarchy, chaos and very real danger.

One day when our kids were younger, I remember watching their hamster run around the edge of his cage. He was gnawing on the bars, and trying to lift the cage door - doing everything he could to escape. Then, about five feet away, I noticed our little dog Siggie, watching the hamster from the safety of the shadows. His ears were pointed straight up, and I knew exactly what he was thinking: "Come on baby, break through to freedom. I'll give you a ride you'll never forget!" Now, if that little hamster had been so unfortunate as to achieve his desire for freedom, he'd have been dead in seconds.

Even loving discipline can seem like a cage to a child sometimes. But young children lack the perspective to see what awaits them beyond the bars. If you love your kids, lead them. You have the authority to take charge at home. Use it. I'm Dr. James Dobson for Focus on the Family.

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