After the Prodigal Son came to his senses, he said, in verses 17 to 19: “How many of my father’s hired men have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! I will set out and go back to my father and say to him … ‘Father I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired men.’”

The lost son knew that his father was a fair man, and that he was better off being his father’s hired hand than out on the streets. So the Prodigal Son made his decision to go home based on what he knew about his father: that he was a man of honor and character. He knew his father would treat him at least as fairly as he treated his hired hands.

What if the son didn’t have that example of fairness to fall back on? Imagine if he had said, “What if my dad publicly humiliates me the way he publicly humiliates his employees? What if my dad turns his back on me the way I’ve seen him turn his back on others who have disappointed him? I don’t dare go home, because my father will treat me the way he treats everyone else.”

Your kids notice the way you treat others. If you’re fair, they see it. If you’re unfair, they know it. And it affects the way they relate to you. Now, the son knew his dad wasn’t a pushover. It didn’t even cross his mind to say, “Maybe I can go back home and talk dad out of more money, so I can go back to living a wild lifestyle.” He knew he couldn’t manipulate his dad, and he didn’t try. He knew that his dad would treat him fairly, because his dad was a man of character.

As parents we cannot allow our children to call the “shots.” We are not in the business of being a friend to our children, but are focused on the high calling of parenting .Sometimes being a parent means speaking the truth, and not smoothing over our child’s feelings. Consider how the child handled it when the other brother protested because they father was hosting a party to celebrate the return of his wayward brother. Despite his other son’s feelings, he celebrated. He did what was right for the prodigal.

The father in this story gave his sons an example of fairness. It was an example that the prodigal son could cling to, even in his darkest moments. If you desire to be an effective parent, deal with your children the way your heavenly father deals with you. He exemplifies fairness. He’s not a bully, but neither is he a pushover. He’s fair. That’s the example your children need to see.