I spent many years growing up thinking about my future family and what we would be like. I dreamed of perfect children, perfectly dressed, perfectly behaved, and perfectly lined up in a row. I was focused on being the perfect parent, wanting people to tell me what a good mother I was because of how well-behaved my children were. I learned very quickly into parenthood the eternal dangers of my fantasies.
Many times, parents fall into the temptationto focus on just correcting the behavior of their children instead of looking at the heart. Behavior is outward and visible, but at the heart is the motive. We think that if we fix their behavior, we can somehow create a spiritual life for them. But biblical parenting is more than controlling our children’s behavior. If our children believe they can be perfectly obedient all by themselves, then they’ll miss seeing their need for a Savior. They’ll strive to be perfect instead of holy.
Jesus says in John 6:44 that no one comes to Christ unless the Father draws them to him. God Himself calls us, saves us, and causes spiritual growth when and as He chooses. Our job as parents is to model authenticity in our own relationship with God, and continually point our children to Christ as we train and discipline them.
Instead of just looking at your child’s behavior when he/she sins, focus on the heart and look at the motive. Point out to your child why his disobedience is sin. When the sin is revealed, discipline accordingly and point him to Jesus. Point him to Christ’s grace and mercy on the cross. Point him to forgiveness that’s offered because of Jesus’ sacrifice, and power that’s available through the Holy Spirit to transform us.
I’ve long given up on being the perfect parent with perfect children. Instead, I want to parent to please God instead of people. I want to be an authentic parent. I want my family to see God at work in me. And perfect children? No, I would much rather have children who passionately love God, who know Jesus as their Lord and Savior, and who rely on the Holy Spirit to help them live out God’s Word.
Have you ever fallen into the temptation to raise perfect children? How can you change your focus in parenting to please God instead of pleasing others?