Most Christian parents believe that their goal is to raise successful, happy children who embrace their faith. However, few parents feel that they achieve this. Young parents report being blindsided by the intense hard work of parenting. Many parents in the trenches are numbed by the continuous demands. Veteran parents report being plagued by guilt and regret.
I propose we re-state the goal to one that is achievable. That is, we allow God to grow our character as we operate in His strength to actively raise our children. This goal focuses on our own choices and actions. The question changes from, “Am I a successful parent?” to “Am I being a faithful parent?”
In a recent article in Christianity Today, “The Myth of the Perfect Parent,” Leslie Leyland Fields addresses this issue. She states that many Christian parents have bought into the secular idea that we can determine the outcome of others’ behavior by our choices. She coins this “spiritual determinism” based on Proverbs 22:6 “Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it.” It is important to remember that the proverbs are probabilities, not promises. King Solomon himself, who wrote this saying, turned his heart from the God of his father, David, at the end of his life. He was negatively influenced by his non-believing wives. This highlights the many influences that shape behavior. The upbringing is a very important contribution, but not the only one.
That said, it is important to develop our faithfulness as parents. We need to be willing to deal with the problems of our children. Too many parents are reluctant to face burgeoning issues and would rather ignore them in order to keep the kids happy. If we are focused on results, the truth is painful. If we are focused on faithfulness, the truth is helpful. Proverbs 19:18 says, “Discipline your son for in that there is hope; do not be a willing party to his death.” The word “discipline” means to instruct or correct. The latter phrase is a reference to helping our children avoid destruction. Our children may still make poor choices, but we will know we have been faithful in doing our part in setting limits.