After speaking to almost 200,000 parents, I will be blunt and tell you that working with Christian families wrecks me emotionally sometimes. We are the ones who should have the most peaceful homes and the best relationships with our kids and spouse. And yet the opposite is often true. We have the best INTENTIONS and want so badly to have this great Christian family…but why are our intentions and reality so far apart?
There is one common factor in almost every home where strife, yelling and constant frustration with a child’s behavior permeate the home: it is parents who live under the law and not grace. I need you to answer this question honestly.
Is God’s acceptance of you and kindness toward you based on:
A. Your behavior, your faithfulness to His Word, your following his commandments or
B. God’s mercy and grace.
No, I don’t want “the right answer” that you know in your head. What do you REALLY believe and feel and act on each and every day?
This is critical. If we think that OUR Father’s kindness and acceptance is based on our behavior and following His commands, then guess how we will parent our own children? I believe that MOST Christian parents, out of good intentions, live and parent based on the law. It’s why we love to pull out Old Testament scripture and even say, “I’ve got to lay down the law.”
No, you don’t! Paul called the Law the “ministration of death” (read II Corinthians 3). Some Christians fight so hard to keep the Ten Commandments posted in public buildings. Why? Paul said the letter of the law “kills.” This is the very law that was nailed to the cross of Christ. So why do we want to resurrect and live under this law that brings death to our relationships?
Is it because it makes us feel safe, to have these rules? Does it give us some assurance that if we just follow these rules and raise our kids to do so, then we will be seen as good parents, they will have a good life and we’ll be accepted by God? Is it pride? After all, if I am blessed in my life, then it’s because I actually follow God’s commands. I can feel more spiritual or better than those “other” people who don’t. But if I live by grace, then I have nothing to do with it. It is Christ’s goodness, kindness and forgiveness that makes me who I am. That’s scary, though, isn’t it? Because now we don’t feel “in control” of whether we are loved or blessed or not.
Does the law comfort you because that’s how your Dad raised you? “Seemed to work back in the day when kids didn’t talk back, so it should work today.” Yes, we had lots of outward compliance based on fear, not respect. Does the law comfort you because you can’t accept that you are worthy of being treated well by someone else–so you think at least you can be a good wife, a good Mom, a good kid and please your parents?
If you struggle with this, then stop right here. Until you know grace, until you learn how to accept and show grace in your relationships, I don’t want to focus on your kids. Otherwise, you will be obsessed with your child’s apparent “disobedience” and “rebellion.” You will parent out of fear that our kids aren’t going to be “good,” that we will be embarrassed at church, that we will be rejected, that our kids won’t follow Christ. And that will destroy your relationships.
Change patterns of behavior
Most you are saying, “I’ll just do this myself,” but we always fall back into the same old patterns-I know I did. If you need help breaking these patterns, definitely contact us and learn why we created 20 hours of CDs–so you can listen over and over again to renew your mind and change behavior–and take the 40-Day Calm Challenge. We give you step-by-step strategies so you and your kids can learn to control your own emotions.
Let’s not take the Christmas season for granted. It is God’s mercy and kindness that changes us. Accept grace, live by grace, parent with grace. If you found this message helpful, please forward this to friends and family.
P.S. Of course I respect the 10 Commandments and there is value in teaching your kids these. But read what Jesus had to say about those who kept the commandments. Pretty thought-provoking.