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3 Ways We Parents Wrongly Teach Kids to Earn God’s Approval

approval

As parents we hate to see our kids live with the burden of trying to gain approval. Or worrying if they are going to be accepted by their looks, their dress, their performance. Or struggling with the pain of wondering if others will love and accept them.

As Christian parents we know we have a message of approval, so we declare that message to our kids. Messages like, “God loves you period. There is nothing you will do that will make me love you more than I already do. You don’t have to earn God’s love or my love. You already have it.” Those are the messages we so badly want our kids to hold tightly to in a world filled with the pressure to achieve and fit in.

We declare those messages because we believe them. We know those messages personally. We know we are loved. We know we stand right before God because of Jesus’ sacrifice for us. The glorious good news of the Christian faith is that because of Jesus we are approved by God and don’t live with the impossible burden of earning God’s approval. We now live because we have already been approved not so that we will be approved.

Yet even in the midst of our good and true declarations, there are subtle things we can do as parents that undermine the message we are declaring. There are things we can do that contradict the message of grace; things we can do that cast doubt on the good news that our kids are already approved. Here are three ways we wrongly teach our kids that they have to earn God’s approval.

1. By finding our approval in their performance

If parents find their worth in how their kids perform on a field or in the classroom then how can those kids be expected to find their worth in something else? If parents find approval from their peers based on what college their high school senior gets accepted into then how can we think those high school seniors aren’t going to find their approval in their college acceptance process? Our kids often mirror back to us our own struggles and if we are still seeking to earn approval through the things of this world, that message is heard loud and clear by our kids.

2. By needing their approval

If we need the approval of our kids to feel alive and important and as if our lives matter, then our kids will inevitably sense that in us. They will sense our striving for their approval and wonder what is lacking in our lives that causes us to need them to like us. One of the best ways to teach our kids to live from a posture of already being approved by God is for us to parent from a posture of already being approved by God. When we parent with the humble confidence that our identity is secure no matter how our kids behave we give our kids a picture of resting in the approval that has already been given.

3. By teaching character over Christ

If we approach the Bible with our kids as a moral guide to learn character traits, we teach them the Bible wrongly. The Bible is fundamentally one story about God coming to rescue us because we cannot rescue ourselves with our moral character. Yes, there are great lessons in the Scripture but the main hero of the Scripture is Jesus.

Sadly, people can use the Bible to teach kids to behave rather than teaching them the beauty of Jesus. And teaching our kids to behave apart from their hearts being transformed by Jesus is to enslave them with commands they will be unable to follow and character traits they will be unable to emulate. They must meet Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith. They need to see that Jesus came here for them, and did not give them a map on how they could earn His approval.

This article originally appeared here.

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Eric Geiger is the Senior Pastor of Mariners Church in Irvine, California. Before moving to Southern California, he served as senior vice-president for LifeWay Christian. Eric received his doctorate in leadership and church ministry from Southern Seminary and has authored or co-authored several books, including the best selling church leadership book, Simple Church. He is married to Kaye, and they have two daughters: Eden and Evie. During his free time, Eric enjoys dating his wife, taking his daughters to the beach, and playing basketball.