Were you ever just struck by the absolutely crazy things that parents do, and you think oh, I would never do that? How about this one. Wait for it….did you see it? LOL….took me a minute too!
It’s funny we each have our own things we do that no one else would do. Case in point, I slide down my steps on crib mattress with my kids. My mom is horrified by this, but we had fun! Laughter does you good, so starting with something funny seemed like the way to go.
Now let’s get down to business, ever feel like a failure as a parent? If you said no, chances are you haven’t been one very long. I think those of us who try to parent well have all felt like a failure….especially when our kids mess up. Ever had that happen? You are out at the store and your kid is pitching a fit, and you feel like the failure mom who can’t control her kid. Or you are over at a friend’s, and your daughter slaps you across the face. Or you ask for the truth 10 times, but you still get a lie. (All of those have happened to me by the way.) Or your child gets in trouble at school, and you know you have taught them better. Or your child sees Disney princess movies and wants to kiss daddy or her little brother like Ariel kisses Prince Eric. And then you begin to ask yourself, what did I do wrong? How did I fail them?
The correct answer is you didn’t. You may have taught them perfectly well, been the most stellar example of parental excellence, and your child can still choose to go their own way. Case in point, my parents never smoked ever….not once did I ever see that example, and they warned me to stay away. I chose in my teenage years to do that any way. Even better example, God is the perfect Father, yet we choose to go our own way and do our own thing all the time. Your child’s choices are NOT a reflection of the quality of parent that you are. And the sooner you divorce yourself from that reality, the better off you will be and the better you will be able to handle their choices to disobey and redirect them without anger but in love. Their choices are a reflection of their own free will, and obedience has to be a choice. If it isn’t, once they get out of your presence, they will go crazy to prove their independence. Obedience has to come out of love not duty, or it will only happen until the pressure to obey is removed. And we have to start seeing failure as a new opportunity to learn for them and us.
I am going to take this one step further. I think it is time to stop being horrified by our kids’ choices. Why? Because it leads to shame, hiding, and a feeling of separation rather than love. Your kids are on a journey, just like you are. We are all learning in our own way to handle the different arenas of life, and the truth is sometimes, we mess up just like they do. God isn’t horrified at us. He steps in and reminds us of who we really are, not who our actions say we are. God didn’t call Abram a failure when he conceived through Hagar, instead He changed His name and said I am not done with you yet. Your descendants will be as the sand by the sea. He didn’t throw David aside when He had Uraiah killed and fathered an illegitimate child with Bathsheba. He called Him a man after His own heart. I sometimes want to be horrified at myself when I have certain thoughts or decide to go my own way, but God reminds me this is part of the human, flawed condition. We are affected by sin, and it will be in our minds and our deeds at times. We will daily have to make the choice to crucify our flesh for our own good, to choose His way over our ways, to live by His thoughts and not our own. But He is not finished with me, and if I run to Him rather than from Him, He will forgive me, love me, and correct me in a way that builds me and makes me want to obey.
So news flash, your kids are going to mess up! Don’t be horrified. Tell yourself this truth! They have a free will and their choices are not a reflection on the quality of my parenting. (If you aren’t sure, pray and ask God…parents are human. We make mistakes and maybe we need to teach better, but chances are your kids know better and have just made a bad choice.) When you do that, you can take a step back and say I do not approve of what you have done. There will be consequences, but I love and approve of you! And this is not who you are. God isn’t finished with you yet. Pray with them and love them. Restore them instead of shaming them. Shame will separate. I am not saying there won’t be times when you are angry and probably with every right to be, but take a time out….get yourself under control or ask your spouse for help before you attack your kids.
I am so thankful God does that with me. He gently reminds me when I fail or I have a very contrary thought that I am human, and my thoughts and actions are human because I have a flesh in a sinful word. He never excuses them, but He never rejects me. He reminds me not to berate myself, but to remember that I always have choice to live by my flesh or by my spirit. And living by my spirit, out of my heart, leads to life, but living out of my flesh leads to death of some kind, albeit subtle at times. So follow His lead. Don’t excuse the behavior. Don’t be horrified at your child or yourself. Remind yourself the choice to obey is theirs and the choice to shame them is one you don’t want to make. Instead teach them. Give them consequences and stick to it. They need boundaries for sure. But love them and realize they are on a journey, too! The more we love and teach and guide and give boundaries, the more their choice to obey will be out of love rather than duty.
You aren’t failing as a parent when your kids make poor choices. It’s your chance to choose to live by the grace of God to continue and know that even in parenting, you will be more than a conqueror. And that the Holy Spirit will never leave your kids, and they will want the good and hate the wrong. It’s never too late to tell them the truth of who they are in Christ! Remind them that through their choices they will either choose life or death! Remind them to choose life! ❤