Recently my family has been blessed with the addition of a wonderful baby girl. After three boys, this has been a most welcome surprise. Being the father of four children is daunting, but it is a privilege that I’d like to make the most of.
It is important to remember that God has entrusted four of His creations in my care and I must make sure that I am pleasing him in my parenting. As I’ve been examining my own parenting over the last few months I’ve noticed some troubling temptations that I am sure all parents face on a daily basis. There are three mistakes that we are tempted to make in our parenting.
It wasn’t too long ago that grandpa was visiting the home. At one point, I called the kids over, quickly instructed them and got back to my conversation with my father. He pointed out to me how one child understood my directions but the other did not. As I thought through that moment it dawned on me how often I tend to parent all my children the same way. Like a clown with one set of tricks, I tend to use my one trick on all my children hoping that it sticks. The problem with this way of parenting is that I will succeed only with the children that are more like me.
I remember playing sports growing up and the sub-average coaches would train all the players the same way. They didn’t take the time to learn how their players reacted to whatever situation or whatever type of motivation but rather treated all their players the same. Those who responded well to their type of coaching thrived and others were left discouraged, unmotivated and ultimately unimproved. A lot of times I’ve noticed I tend to parent the same way. Instead of speaking to each child in a way that will most help them, I selfishly and lazily treat all my kids the same even though they are so different. Some are more sensitive than the others, some are more aggressive and seek their own way, others have a harder time focusing.
The Bible teaches us that when we are to help people in the church grow we are to adapt to their needs and not them to ours. Whether it’s 1 Thessalonians 5:14 where it says, “And we urge you, brothers and sisters, warn those who are idle and disruptive, encourage the disheartened, help the weak, be patient with everyone.” Or its Hebrews 10:24 when it says that we should “consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds”. What is implied is that the “how” is something that the encourager must think about and must adapt depending on who he is encouraging and helping to grow.
Obviously, we don’t treat them differently in how we love them and care about them, but we do attempt to help them in a way that is conducive to each child’s personal growth.
The previous point does not mean that the child then becomes the center of the home. Lou Priolo warns about this danger when he says,
“A child-centered home is one in which a child believes and is allowed to behave as though the entire household, parents, siblings, and even pets exist for one purpose—to please him.”
It is very easy to fall into the trap of idolizing our children. The symptoms are obvious. There is a lack of consequences when our children sin, our children may manipulate us into getting what they want, our children don’t understand what proper boundaries are, and in some cases, the children actually tell the parents what to do and not the other way around. I’ve also already felt the desire to defend my children when they sin against others and accuse other children when they sin against mine.
The last thing my children need is to think that the world revolves around them. My sinful nature growing up did that, I believed that God existed but I was very content just doing what I wanted to do. Our children are also prone to be selfish and thinking about themselves, and parents have a responsibility of teaching them that God is supreme and that He should be the center of the household. Paul says in Ephesians 6:4, Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord. Paul’s admonition to fathers is to make sure that as they parent that they are training their children to make the Lord Jesus their priority.
At weddings, I like telling the audience that the groom and the bride love someone else more than they love each other. It just happens to be the same someone else, Jesus. That’s a marriage that will thrive. In the same way, parenting that thrives also seeks to have the right perspective of their children and teaches them to make much of Christ and less of themselves.
It’s so easy to lose my patience with my children. It’s very obvious why, they are little, cute, sinful monsters. They usually think of themselves first, they have a hard time learning how to spell but they have zero problems thinking of mean things to say. They are slow, easily distracted, and sometimes pretty stinky. And yet all these reasons should be reasons why we are patient with them. We didn’t have to teach any of this to them, they came out of the womb doing these things. Remembering that they are born sinful, doesn’t excuse their behavior but it should cause us to be patient with them as we train them.
Romans 3:10-12 is a good place to start if you have a problem remembering the depravity of man. Paul writes, As it is written: “There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands; there is no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.” It’s easy to forget because we are very easily swayed by our circumstances but our kids are sinners to the core and expecting them to come out of the womb obeying us and praising Christ is foolish and unbiblical. Yet it is so difficult not to be hurt when they try to hurt us. A right understanding of the depravity of our kids will lead us to patiently endure evil and to gently reprove and correct them.
There is so much to be written on parenting but these are three areas I’ve been thinking about lately. I hope this is a helpful reminder to you as it has been to me. I’d be curious about what you would add to this list, so please let me know in the comments.
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