Picture this scenario:
David, an elder in the church, walks into his pastor’s office, lips pressed in a thin line, raking his fingers through his hair.
“What’s up?” Pastor Greg asks.
“I just don’t get it! It’s like my son Josh has completely ignored everything I’ve taught him. He talks back to me; he doesn’t do his chores until I practically force him to; and this morning, I asked how he did on his history test, and he said the teacher canceled the test. Well, I just got a call from Mrs. Anders saying we needed to talk about the history test Josh failed yesterday. He lied!”
Pastor Greg knows David and his family well, and he knows that David and his wife, Jennifer, are already doing these things:
• Incorporating rules, setting boundaries and enforcing consequences
• Modeling what to do, not what not to do
• Teaching their children about the Lord at home and through church
• Carefully monitoring ungodly influences
So what can Pastor Greg say to help David? His current parenting practices are already based on reasonable, and biblical, principles.
This article discusses three mistakes parents make that are based on legitimate parenting practices and includes a discussion on why each practice sounds right to a parent, what the parent is missing and how you can teach him to parent God’s way.
1. Making parenting all about rules
Why this mistake is understandable
God gives us rules, which is how parents know that rules are good. It makes sense that parents establish rules for their children. The trouble comes when establishing and enforcing rules is the center of one’s parenting strategy.
A better approach
In order to use rules the way God does, parents need to be reminded that God created rules so we’d recognize that we need Him to save us from the consequences of breaking them. Rules remind us that we need a Savior.
Dr. Jim Newheiser, director of The Institute for Biblical Counseling and Discipleship, says, “Gospel-centered parenting is going to be continually reminding us that none of us can keep the standard, that the law reveals our sinful inability to keep the law. So gospel parenting can show grace when there’s failure because I’m a sinner who’s received grace, and we offer grace and we offer forgiveness. But it’s also going to point the failed sinner, our child, to the Cross as the real solution for the problem.”1
Parents cannot expect their children to obey perfectly. And while parents use rules to maintain order in the home, ultimately, the rules should demonstrate to the children that they need God, the only One who can change hearts. This means that when our children fail to obey, it may be a good time to use their failure to point them to the gospel.
For instance, here is a parent/child dialogue of what that could look like:
Mom: You know that Dad and I do not allow you to go inside Maddie’s house because their family watches some TV shows and listens to music that we don’t want you hearing. But you went anyway. You disobeyed us.