My wife and I have been asking what we believe to be a very, very significant question as parents over the last year or so – are we parenting around the principle of Scripture that “kindness leads to repentance” or around the preference of default parenting to “make our kids be good.” Maybe a better way to ask the question would be:
is our family a culture of love and grace or a culture of law and goodness?
There are two fundamental flaws in “parenting to make our kids good.”
FIRST, it carries with it the presupposition that we can control what our kids become. The truth is that we cannot. No parent can. In all of life, in fact, we have zero control over what we reap. However, we have incredible control over what we sow. And we must not try to reap good kids as much as need to cultivate God’s goodness into them and into the culture of our family.
The SECOND fundamental flaw in parenting to make our kids good is the presumption that we can and possibly even are supposed to make ourselves good. This is the lie of human religion. Pure and undefiled religion, on the other hand, at least according to James 1, is not about my personal goodness but about others seeing how near and personal God’s goodness is. And He showed us that by coming near to us in Jesus. And He now sends those whom He is making to become “fishers of men” (Mark 1) to go near unto the lost and lonely to be the family of God with them showing them God’s good and gracious love. What if God did not intend for us to be good trying to live FOR Him, but rather He intended us to give His goodness away as we live and love WITH Him as well as with others?
Jen and I began asking ourselves:
- do our kids feel like we are disappointed in them at all times? (if they do, isn’t it likely that later when they are disappointed with life as well as with themselves that they will not turn to us or the God whom we have promoted to them?)
- what we expect of our kids, is it what God desires in them?
- how we react to our kids, is it selfish anger or selfless kindness, growing with them and loving them patiently as we are loved?
- why would our kids ever think that God-stuff and religion are for the purpose of nothing more than personal betterment if we provide for them an environment where maturity is MATURING rather than perfection?
- when will they ever respond to mistakes with contriteness if we don’t cultivate for a contrite heart in our own home?
Maybe God desires not for our kids to be good as much as He desires for them to believe that He is good. Maybe God thinks kindness will draw our kids unto Him rather than angry reactions. Maybe God wants our kids to never grow up but to rather simply be growing. And maybe God wants our kids to quit thinking that need to perform for Him, and instead nailed their lack of perfection to a cross providing for them an environment where they could come confidently to Him and say they were sorry. Maybe He did all this before our kids and before we ever said we were sorry. Grace.
Am I parenting like that? Am I cultivating daily into my family that kind of love and grace and goodness? Am I loving my kids the way Jesus has loved me (John 13:34-35)?
Check out the video below of Brennan Manning communicating how he was wrecked by the unconditional love of God and how we all were intended to simply believe that we are loved.
And here’s a prayer for us all to be praying as cultivate daily into our families. Because we must pray. Not because we ought to, either. But rather because we need God. We need His help. We need Him WITH us as we parent. Better said, we need to be WITH Him.
- Lord, help us make our home a relational environment where our kids grow up knowing grace & refuge as well as love & mission.
- Lord, help us to treat our kids in such a way that they know we delight in them rather than are interrupted by them.
- Lord, help us to model confession and repentance for and with our kids. (CONTRITE)
- Lord, help us to cultivate for gratefulness rather than resentment.
- Lord, help us to model life WITH You rather than life FOR You, emphasizing Your goodness over our own.
CLICK HERE to view the Brennan Manning video. It’s worth your four minutes.