Parenting is not an easy task. That is especially true, if the toolbox we draw from for help is limited. If our own experiences with being parented were weak and painful then the process becomes even more challenging. We find ourselves doing the same things that our parents did. And we find the same results that they often got with us. How are we to break the cycle? What is supposed to inject life into a family heritage of difficulty, heartache, and tension?
The only answer would be to somehow experience what its like to be parented by someone who genuinely loved. We would have to somehow discover what it would be like to be loved by a parent of a different kind. Enter God, the Father.
He parents in a way far different than that of our parents. He loves differently. He forgives, accepts, understands, is patience, shows grace, lavishly gives gifts, and sacrifices all that is important so that we could enjoy His love. He shows the extent of His love while we are still disobedient. He doesn’t get hurt feelings. He doesn’t wait for us to be good before He shows favor. He doesn’t withhold good because we’ve been bad. He parents very differently.
And He invites us to be His children!
This God invites us to call Him, “Daddy”; to come to Him with our struggles; to run to Him in our despair; to not fear His hand. We’re allowed to enjoy His favor, be free from the pressure to be perfect, and to experience freedom from ever feeling condemned or rejected. The more I experience His Fathering, the more I discover a new way to parent my own kids!
Today we look at 6 mistakes that parents make as they relate to their children. Though they are often done with the best of intentions, they are inconsistent with they way God Fathers us, and can lead to greater heartache.
1. Make your favor something to be earned.
God loved us while we were still sinners and undeserving of being loved. This is what makes His way of loving so wondrous. Favor with God is not something to be earned. It is lavished apart from performance.
For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. Ephesians 2:8-9
We do our kids a disservice when we make our loved something that has to be earned. By doing so we teach them that our love for them is based on their ability to be good. We make them think that when they fail or are weak they are no longer loved as deeply. We should never let our love, joy, delight, and pleasure in our children be determined by the things that they do. Lavish your children with love at all times – when they do well and when they fail. Overwhelm them with your love!
2. Use guilt, threats, and fear to motivate.
Guilt, threat, and fear all come from a single source. That source says, “You’re not doing enough.” The child that lives under the dominating force will have built within them: insecurity, resentment, uncertainty, and rebellion. While parents may use these to motivate, they are powerless to ignite inside a genuine desire of passion. The half-hearted motivation that follows only exists as long as the guilt, anger, threats, and fear exist.
Deeper and longer lasting motivations grow out of love, peace, and joy. When a parent overwhelms their child with these regardless of their response, what is ignited inside is a flame of desire that will last throughout their lives.
There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear, because fear has torment. He who fears has not been perfected in love. 1 John 4:18
Make your greatest goal to help your child know the depth of how much they are loved. Remove even the most remote possibility that they would experience guilt, threats, or fear in relating to you. This is how God Fathers.
3. Give off an air of of general disappointment.
One of the tools that parents use often to motivate their children is the heavy tool of disappointment. If this is how you were parented, it is understandable that you would choose this tool. It is what has been given to you. This however is not in the toolbox of God as He relates to His children. The depth of His love removes our failures as well as the pressure to perform. There is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus and there is no disappointment. The only way disappointment could happen is if there were expectations and conditions. Because of what Christ accomplished at the cross, those no longer exist. We are free from it!
Many parents default to this motivational approach. They assume that if they show their children how hurt they are, how bad they feel, how disappointed they are in their behavior that it will motivate them to do better. While there may be some temporary positive effect, the long-term results will not be helpful. To avoid your disappointment, they will avoid being honest. To avoid your disapproval they will hide what they do. To avoid your displeasure they will cut themselves off.
4. Let your children know that what others think is more important than reality.
One of the struggles many religious families face is a pull toward looking good in front of others. They may fight, struggle, have issues behind the scenes, but they never let anyone know they exist. They put on a front, put on a mask, put up a good image in hopes of gaining the favor of others. The group that Jesus spoke most sternly too in the New Testament were the Pharisees. They were known for their mask, facade, and desire to cover up the struggles they faced inside. Parents invite greater problems in their life when they model this same behavior with their family.
No one is perfect. Everyone will fail. The question is how a family will deal with the failure. Is there a place to talk about struggles? Is there forgiveness? Is there hope after failure? Can weaknesses be talked about without fear of anger?
5. Don’t ever let them know you’re pleased.
The only audible words that God spoke during the lifetime of Jesus were these, “This is My Beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.” These words filled Him with passion, desire, and life. The beauty of what Christ accomplished at the cross allows us to hear those same words now by faith. They are not something we have to wait for. They are not something we have to prove first. They are not something we have to earn. They are ours now!
The parent that never lets their child know they are pleased in them is missing out on one of the greatest joys of a parent – passing on the wonder of being pleased to your children. Many parents think that if they ever let their children know they were pleased, then they would stop obeying and would go wild. This could not be further from the truth.
6. Don’t create an environment of peace, rest, and honesty.
As children of God we are invited to come to the place that He lives. We are invited there without fear, shame, guilt, or threat. We are invited to a space that is shaped by grace, hope, and peace. Many parents think that they are helping their child by keeping a certain level of distance, pressure, and fear in the relationship. This however, is contrary to the parenting of God the Father as He relates to us.
Therefore let us come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need. Hebrews 4:16
The heart of every person longs for a place of love, acceptance, hope, and forgiveness. That place is where God dwells! His throne room is a place of grace. Imagine the potential if we made our homes a place where our children and their friends knew there was indescribable love; a place they could come to when they struggled; a place they could run to in their time of need. Let us run to the throne of God and let us create homes filled with that same grace!
For more on the subject of parenting, see:
15 Ways to Show Your Kids the Heart of God
15 Ways to Not Parent Your Child