Do you ever have days with your kids that it seems like nothing you say or do is getting across to them? That despite your best efforts to see your children make good choices, they have neither the ability or desire to do what you would hope they would (or to stop doing that thing you told them to stop a hundred times already)?
The fact of the matter is that we as parents must face the reality that while we may for a time be able to change our child’s outward behavior, we cannot change their heart’s desires. Only God can do that.
One thing we have tried to stress with our kids is that in the battle against sin in their lives, we are on the same side. We are not against them, imposing rules that are hard for them to measure up to, and inflicting punishment when they inevitably fail to do so. Instead, we are here to support them in ever way we can so that they can both do the right thing, and desire to do it.
Here are six little things we try to do to help our children know we are on their side as they struggle against sin in their lives:
1. Talk to your kids about why they are in trouble. We want our kids to know what they did (or didn’t do) and what they should have done instead. This implies that we must be proactive to communicate our expectations to our kids. We also want to make the connection for our kids so that they can understand their behavior not just in terms of disobeying mom and dad, but also in terms of disobeying God. This is not a means to pile on guilt, but to teach our children that it is about more than what mom and dad say.
2. Don’t discipline in anger. Anytime I do, I know I will be apologizing to my kids later. Parenting is no doubt one of the most significant ways God works in our hearts to expose our own sinful attitudes.
3. Forgive your children, and tell them so. In Christ, our sins are forgiven before God. If God forgives our sins, we must be quick to forgive our children’s sins. After a time out, or other forms of correction, we immediately remind our kids that we love them and forgive them. It’s a clean slate. They can start fresh. This is also a good way to teach your kids to be quick in forgiving you too.
4. Acknowledge your own sin to your children. If we are on the same side of this battle, there will be times that you will need to confess your own sin to your kids, whether your short temperedness, your bad attitude, or even your own hypocrisy (that teenage kids seem to see so well). Acknowledge it, ask for their forgiveness, and ask them to pray for you. It is stunning how healing this can be at times.
5. Pray for and with your children. We may be good about praying before the meal, but do you pray for your children specifically? Do you address the concerns they have in your prayers? Do they know that you are petitioning the Father on their behalf? A few times now I have prayed with my son when he seems to be stuck in a rut of doing the same wrong thing. It’s not a magic fix, but God is the only one who can give him the strength to resist sin.
If we fail to teach our children that the power to overcome sin, comes not from themselves, but from the power of the Gospel at work in their hearts through the Holy Spirit, then they will either become proud at their ability to please mom and dad, or they will be given to despair at their inability to ever measure up. And the truth is we are all on the same side when it comes to God working in our hearts to make us ever more like Christ. Do your kids know you are on their side?