Obey thy Parents…?

An important key in Biblical interpretation is distinguishing between principles and “magic formulas.” It is a good principle that if we raise our kids right, they will turn out well. That usually works: and it is certainly better than the alternative. However, Proverbs 22:6 is not a magic formula. It’s not telling parents: 1) if you find just the right technique, your kids will be perfect, or, 2) if your kids “destroy” their lives, that was because you didn’t get the formula right. It’s a principle: love and guide your kids. It is important for their future well-being. As a principle, it is good wisdom.
Another principle is that if one honours parents and authority figures, and obeys them when appropriate, life will go well for them. This is good wisdom: you won’t get far in life by disrespecting every authority figure you find. However, it does not mean: 1) honouring is equivalent to obeying, 2) adult children need to keep obeying their parents, 3) children who do not obey will be cursed, and the universe will conspire to destroy them, 4) children who make adult decisions and have an adult life apart from their parents are rebelling or dishonouring them.
As a principle, Ephesians 6:3 is good. But as a “magic formula,” this same passage can be used to try to cross boundaries (which are already tough to navigate) between adult children and their parents: as though parents should still be making decisions for their adult children — sometimes even when they are married! This teaching very unhelpfully goes against the teaching (established in Genesis 3) that adult children should “leave” their parents and “cleave” to their spouse (or, just leave if they will remain single). It even makes some people feel like they will be “cursed with bad luck” if they go against their parents: a very unbiblical idea. It places undue pressure on the parents, and can be weaponized to place an incredible amount of control on the children.
Taken this way, this passage of ancient wisdom can be turned into a powerful tool of spiritual abuse.