Lately, I find myself as a parent coming down hard on my children with stronger and stronger punishments. It’s not that I really mean to take away the television for a week or someone’s video games for that length of time (or longer). I just often feel like whatever I’m doing isn’t working and like I have to come down hard.
It’s a fear-based parenting. I’m trying to mold behavior or to get obedience to me–often in a completely wrong fashion. Reading Paul David Tripp’s Parenting has reminded me that I am often placing my faith in the “Law” and in my rules and punishments to change their hearts and actions.
Not only am I basing my faith in my parenting on the “Law,” I often find that:
Somehow, someway, God’s law gets replaced by our law–a law that’s sadly driven by our craving for affirmation, control, peace, success and reputation.
Then, I find myself being selfish and angry with my children, and in my anger sinning. What I forget is that we all have sin struggles. I’ve never stopped sinning and my children won’t either. What I forget is that we don’t intentionally set out to hurt one another. What I forget is that they aren’t aiming to displease me. What I forget about is the power of indwelling sin in our lives.
It is here that I found a quote from Tripp that I want to remember forever. However, I’m reformatting it into list format because I need to see it as a list. Here it goes:
But without the intervention of God’s grace, your children will not be who they are supposed to be or do what they are supposed to do.
Remember, it’s sin that messes everything up.
It’s sin that makes your children resist your guidance and authority.
It’s sin that causes your children to constantly be in conflict with their siblings.
It’s sin that gets in the way of your child’s learning in school.
It’s sin that causes your children to be attracted to what’s hurtful and destructive.
It’s sin that causes your children to be entitled, demanding, materialistic, and complaining.
It’s sin that causes your children to act as if they are the center of the universe and that life should do their bidding.
It’s sin that causes your children to say hurtful things to the parents, siblings, and peers.
And it’s sin that makes parenting difficult, demanding and exhausting.
I cannot expect to break through this wall of sin with a few rules and some punishments for disobedience to my law.
It’s sin for me to show my children’s God’s law without also showing them God’s mercy and grace. God’s grace is essential in my parenting, and is the only thing that can break through and change our hearts.
I must always keep in mind that my children are sinners by nature and that I can’t eliminate sin through a systems of rewards and punishments. Their struggles with sin are going to be a lifelong battle for them–just like my struggle is for me.
I don’t want to just “manage” their sin. I don’t want to teach them what “sin” is acceptable or how to have acceptable behaviors and sinful hearts. Instead, I want to show them God’s love and God’s grace. It is essential, and I find that it is something that I often forget.