When your children are small, you make most of their decisions for them. If they were left entirely to their own devices, they would not live long.
Obviously, though, you can’t control their lives forever. Eventually, they must become self-sufficient — and hopefully God-honoring — adults.
My son, if you receive my words and treasure up my commandments with you, making your ear attentive to wisdom and inclining your heart to understanding; yes, if you call out for insight and raise your voice for understanding, if you seek it like silver and search for it as for hidden treasures, then you will understand the fear of the LORD and find the knowledge of God. For the LORD gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding (Proverbs 2:1-6).
We desperately want our kids to love the Lord and make godly choices. How do we influence them to do this?
Caveat: No Guarantees
You can (and must) plant, and you can water, but only God can provide the increase (1 Corinthians 3:6). Salvation and its fruits are of the LORD; He only calls us parents to be faithful to Him as we raise them.
We parents, especially we moms, tend to tie our identities to our children. When they succeed, we feel complete, and when they don’t…well, not so much. It is imperative that we remember our identities are in Christ (Galatians 2:20) and that our chief end is to glorify God. Your worth, dear Mom, comes from the precious Savior who died for you! Your child’s success is a good goal, but it’s a terrible god. You are not ultimately responsible for your child’s choices, which is a good thing! The LORD is good, and He does good (Psalm 119:68). Trust Him with your child.
One of the most frightening verses I know of is Philippians 4:9 a: “What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me — practice these things…” Do you live such a life before your children that you can, with Paul, encourage them to follow your example of godly conduct? Does your life show a consistent pattern of growth in holiness and love for the LORD? If not, your effectiveness in influencing them to make godly choices will be minimal. If there is a huge discrepancy between what you expect from them and what you do yourself, you will likely exasperate your children (Colossians 3:1) and facilitate rebellion, not godliness. What they have learned, received, heard and seen in you they likely WILL practice, for good or ill. What are you exporting to your kids?
I Blew It
Yep, me too. What now? Let me ask you some questions.
How many times (that you know of) have you sinned against your child in the past month? How many times have you asked his or her forgiveness in that time? Are these numbers different? If so, why?
A lot of times, we parents feel the need to appear to have it all together, especially in front of our kids. Why is that? My kids live with me, so they know better than anyone other than God and my husband what a big, stinking sinner I am. They have my number, so to speak.
When I am willing to say along with Paul, “The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost” (1 Timothy 1:15), I am humbling myself and showing my utter dependence upon my Savior for any righteousness whatsoever. My child is not a bigger sinner than I am. I MUST be willing to admit this, and to seek forgiveness when necessary. In openly confessing my sin to them and to the LORD, I am teaching them to run to the cross when they sin, too.
With this comes an added bonus: my advice at other times will carry a lot more weight if I approach them in humility when I sin. No one wants advice from a self-righteous person.
Can You Hear Me Now?
“You never listen to me!” Sound familiar? Could it be true?
“If one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame” (Proverbs 18:13).
Do you dismiss your child out of hand when he or she brings a concern to you? If so, you may be communicating that you cannot be trusted with “the fine china,” as Paul Tripp brilliantly calls it, of his or her heart.
Make it a habit to listen first, doing your best to understand the situation from their point of view, and looking for and encouraging any wisdom they have exhibited (even if it’s small!) before bringing any correction. Respect and listen to them, and they will be more likely to respect and listen to you in return.
I am praying that many of you are reading this well before your kids are teens. If that is the case for you, you have a head start on the rest of us! Praise God!
If your kids are older, though, and you have not handled your relationship with them well, please don’t despair. Repent to the Lord and to your family for the sins you have committed, rest in the Lord’s forgiveness (1 John 1:9), and move forward, joyfully trusting the Sovereign Lord of the universe to do all things well. He is not done using you in the lives of your precious family members; He will complete what He has begun in you, and in them (Philippians 1:6). May He bless you richly as you seek to honor Him.