Imperfect Parenting

The pressure to parent perfectly keeps a lot of us awake at night.

The pressure to parent perfectly keeps a lot of us awake at night. We think we have to be the best parent, and we may find ourselves nervous that we’ll ruin our children. Thankfully, God is our Heavenly Father, and He’ll guide us as we parent on earth.

The Perfect Parent

Parenting. Everyone has experience with this because we’re all someone’s child. Some of us had good experiences with our parents, while others have endured hurt and pain. Whether we have a positive outlook on parenting or are fearful that we’ll mess it all up, the good news is that parenting and perfection don’t go together for us. The even better news is that there’s only One who parented perfectly, and He’s ready to guide us.

God is referred to in many ways in the Bible. He’s the same God, but just takes on a different role. Much like we are friends, brothers, or co-workers, God is Creator, Provider, and Father. And because of what Jesus did for us, we get to be called children of God. In fact, we are co-heirs right alongside Him!

There’s no way to list all that God does and who He is, but here are several ways God is a Father to us:

He Loves Us: God’s love for us is so great as a Father that He actually sent His son to die for the sins we’ve committed. We can thank Him for such an incredible act of love by following Him wholeheartedly, and seeking to love others well in return. (1 John 4:9–11)

He Corrects Us: Nobody enjoys discipline, because it’s painful. But if we’ll receive it, we’ll become a better version of ourselves. Often, being disciplined brings about some of the greatest breakthroughs. (Hebrews 12:7–8, 11)

He Provides for Us: Our Father in heaven promises to provide for us. He tells us that we don’t have to wonder how our needs will be provided for — He just says they will! Let’s seek His kingdom and not worry about the rest. (Matthew 6:25–34)

He Forgives Us: Sometimes, we may think that our sins are too big for God to forgive them. Maybe you’ve felt far from God, and don’t know what to do. There’s some good news: He is always faithful to forgive you when you confess your sins to Him. (Psalm 103:9–12; 1 John 1:9)

He Makes a Home for Us: God has an inheritance for us. Unlike earthly money and possessions, this heavenly inheritance will never run out. Even now, a place is being prepared for us for when Jesus returns to get us. (John 14:1–4)

Let this be a guide to us as we parent our own children. Consider these truths about our God as our Father and see where you need to grow as a parent. Is our love dependent on their actions? Do we try to be their friend and not bring correction? Do we withhold forgiveness after their tenth mistake?

We won’t get it all right, but just because we’ll parent imperfectly doesn’t mean we shouldn’t strive to do our best. Over the next five days of this Plan, we’ll address some of the most important things we can implement into our relationships with our children in order to help them become healthy, responsible, independent adults.

The Value of Consequences

When we hold our child in our arms for the first time, we are in complete awe because they appear perfect. As time passes, they grow into toddlers, who turn into children, who eventually become teenagers. And it won’t take very long for us to realize that our “perfect” infant has a mind of their own. We become very aware of their sinful nature and just aren’t sure how to handle it.

When our children mess up, the most important thing we can do is to make sure they know we love them. And the next thing is to give them the gift of consequences. Few of us like them, but all of us need them. Let’s consider these things when it comes to giving consequences to our children:

The Need: Galatians 6:8 says, “Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction…” When our children choose poorly, the best way for our children to learn a lesson and grow in wisdom is to experience consequences. There’s such value in growing through the pain of consequences, which could deter them from more detrimental choices in their future. There’s an opportunity for us to explain what grace is by letting them off the hook. But, those instances should be rare.

The Appropriateness: The question, “Does the punishment fit the crime?” is something we have to consider when handing out consequences to our children. We don’t want to give too little or give too much. If our child tells a lie and we ground them for a month, the consequence is not only too extreme, but may not be the best option. On the other hand, if our kid starts a fight at school and we take away video games for a day, they probably won’t learn the lesson. It’s wise to choose the best consequence that will help our children not repeat the action.

The Length : When our children choose poorly, we often overreact and ground them for an extended period of time. The length of time we give a consequence to our children should depend on their age. And even with teenagers, it’s wise to keep the length rather short. We do this because all children need the opportunity to try to do it right again.

Giving consequences to our children when they’re truly remorseful is difficult. But, we have to consider their future self and not just their present self. Galatians 6:9 says, “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” We can’t just parent for the convenience of the moment but must stay strong by training them to be respectful, responsible, and independent adults. When we avoid giving consequences, we’re crippling their success as adults.

Relationship First

The Apostle Paul writes in Romans 3:23 that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” That means every single one of us, including our children, will make mistakes. Sometimes these mistakes will have severe consequences, and sometimes they won’t. While it’s our role as parents to provide instructions and guide our kids when they’ve failed, we must keep our relationship with them in the forefront of our thoughts. Consider these things as you learn how to place the relationship first:

Don’t Forget: It’s rather difficult to move past the mistakes and sinful choices of our kids. We can get so discouraged about their sinful actions that we completely forget: we were once kids, too. Remember those moments of waiting for mom or dad to get home? Let’s do our best to be empathetic when it comes to our children. Let’s forgive them just like Christ has forgiven us (Ephesians 4:32 NIV). Most of the time, they’re not trying to mess up. They’re just dealing with a condition that we all deal with — humanity.

Let the Vision Guide: Most families set rules in place to keep kids safe and help them with life choices. Some rules are meant to stay because they are valuable. Others might have a place for a season. But sometimes, hard and fast rules create rebellion. It’s in these times that we have to remember the point of the rule and ask ourselves, “Is this even necessary anymore?” It’s hard for parents to “ease up” on their decisions because either their pride has gotten in the way or they’re fearful that the children will see them as too accommodating. But, we must push past those things and do what’s in the best interest of the future relationship with our children.

It’s Not About You: As hard as this aspect of parenting is, it’s vital that we grasp it. When our children fail, it’s not about us. It’s a challenge for parents to not take their children’s actions personally. We feel in some way that our kids are trying to mess up our lives. They aren’t. As mentioned above, they’re just trying to deal with their humanity problem. They don’t need guilt trips from us. They just need parents who understand that they are trying to figure out how to live it in a world that neither caters to them or even cares about them.

We have to remember what it was like to be a child. Just like we can “approach God’s throne of grace with confidence” in order to receive mercy and grace when we need it, let’s be the kind of parent who encourages our children to do the same (Hebrews 4:16 NIV). Our kids are trying to grow up and part of that is making mistakes. When our kids are down, let’s remember that the relationship with them is always the most critical consideration.

Study Your Children

Most of us have been educated in our lives. Maybe we received a high school diploma or graduated with a college degree, even a master’s or doctorate. Or perhaps our studies in life have been “on the job” training that helped us in our current career. When we pursue something to gain educational information, it makes us very knowledgeable in a field.

What if we took that same drive to learn and implemented it into our parenting? What if we chose to study our children so that we could “bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord”? (Ephesians 6:4 NIV) We’d learn what fuels them, what breaks their heart, how they’re motivated, and what makes them feel loved. It’s a worthwhile effort, regardless of how old our children are. Here are some suggestions to help you do just that.

Discover Their Personality Type: There are so many ways to learn how people are wired. From books and assessments that measure a personality to those that indicate strengths. Is your child an extravert? Do they enjoy plans? Do they get their feelings hurt easily? These kinds of things aren’t meant to label our children, but to help us figure out how they respond to life and relationships. Let’s not allow any tool to define our children, but to help us get to know them better.

Discover Their Spiritual Gifts: Every single Christ follower has at least one spiritual gift. These are given to us by the Holy Spirit as He decides. Yes, that even means your infant or your five-year old. Maybe you’ve started to see traits in your child that make you recognize certain gifts. These gifts are determined by God, but we can play a part in seeing the development of them in our children so that they can “use whatever gift we have received to serve others” (1 Peter 4:10 NIV).

Discover Their Love Language: Author Gary Chapman wrote a book called The Five Love Languages. In it, Chapman shares that our relationships will grow stronger when we learn how to give and receive love. He followed this up with The Five Love Languages of Children, which helps parents learn to speak their child’s love language. Both books offer such great wisdom and insight, and will help us uncover the best way to love our children in a way that they’ll hear and experience our love.

Becoming a student of your child will not perfect your parenting, but you’ll be farther along in your relationship and understanding of them if you hadn’t. So, choose today to invest in your personal knowledge of your children by spending time with them, studying them, and before you know it, you’ll be Dr. Mom and Dr. Dad.

Character

Having character is more than what people think we are. It’s actually who we are, especially when no one is around. We all have character. The question is, what kind do we have? Are we honest and kind or selfish and rude? To have the kind of character that will bring success in our lives will take effort.

The thing about good character is that we know when it’s present in someone’s life and when it’s not. As parents, we want to see our children grow in character and exhibit “love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control,” which is the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22–23 NIV). So, how do we build character in our children? Show and tell.

Show: If we want to see a strong, resilient character in our kids, we must demonstrate it. As the adage goes, “More is caught than taught.” Our children are watching our every move, and if we think we are hiding things from them, we must think again. If we want them to live honest lives or show kindness to everyone, then we must live that way. If our children are going to be the kind of people who can apologize for their mistakes, then we must be those people, too. Even if it means we are apologizing to them and asking for their forgiveness when we fail them.

Tell: In addition to showing our children good character, we must teach them as well. We are given such a short amount of time to train them before they begin to live their own lives. So, let’s make every moment count. We must teach them how to work hard and earn things in their lives. They will make mistakes and fail, so we guide them in getting back up and trying again. When they succeed in an activity, we explain to them that they should receive prizes and compliments with gratitude, not arrogance.

We’re given a huge responsibility by God to train our children on this earth. A huge part of that is who they become. In this, we have to decide if it’s more important for our kids to succeed in school, sports, and popularity, or for good character to be built. We can trust that “suffering produces perseverance, perseverance, character; and character, hope” (Romans 5:3–4 NIV). While we can’t make our kids become someone, we can most certainly do our part by investing in them and trusting the Holy Spirit to do the rest.

Letting Go

We can find hope and inspiration from parents who’ve gone before us. We receive hope and encouragement when the road gets difficult. And when we feel like we can’t go on, our Heavenly Father is saying, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9 NIV). So, when we’re at our weakest is when His power works best.

One of the more challenging seasons of parenting is when our kids become preteens and continue into their teenage years. It’s in this season that we can see a change in attitude and feel them pulling away from us. But, they’re doing exactly what has to happen for them to become healthy, responsible, independent adults. So, what’s one thing we can do? Let them.

Let them choose and build this muscle of making choices and experiencing consequences. If your 10-year old wants to spend his allowance on candy and has no money left for the week, let him. It won’t matter in the grand scheme of things, but it’ll teach him a lesson in the process.

Let them ask questions about their faith. All kids have them. They ask because they want answers. Don’t be afraid to say, “I don’t know.” And also don’t be afraid to try and find out. But mostly, just listen. Remember, we’re also trying to become students of our children and what makes them tick.

Let them fail and learn the lessons. This will be one of the more challenging things for you as a parent. You have life experience and see ahead what consequences could come from their choices. But, how will they learn if you constantly control the outcome? Maybe their summer job requires them to be at work at 6:00am. A few days of oversleeping and dealing with the consequences will help them learn a valuable lesson.

Letting go doesn’t mean you give up, nor does it mean you don’t intervene. There’s a time for that, even in the lives of our adult children. Before you do, ask yourself this question, “Is the potential outcome for this something that would be hard to recover from?” If the answer is no, then keep your opinions to yourself. If the answer is yes, then decline your child’s request or respectfully say something to your adult children.

The bottom line in all of this is that from the moment we become parents, we have to begin the process of letting go. And it is a process. It goes against everything in us because we want to protect and shield them from struggle. But, our motto as parents should be, “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:13 NIV). It’s often the struggle that brings about an amazing product. Both in us, and in our kids.

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