Without connection, we can use spiritual tools to drive a wedge between our children and their Father. The Pharisees were all about obeying the law perfectly, and Jesus was about the person. We can parent to keep our children in line with perfect expectations, or we can parent the child as an important, valuable, and unique human being who is in training to become a successful adult. One focuses on what they DO, while the other focuses on who they ARE.
I used to parent based on my child’s behavior, modeling the popular WWJD – “What would Jesus do?”. Jesus never hit, backtalked, pinched his sister, slammed doors, disobeyed, etc., so whenever those ‘ungodly’ traits would appear, I would discipline for it. I was a strong believer in raising kids who modeled the outward behavior of Jesus. I probably would have even admitted that it didn’t matter much what was going on inside their hearts because if I could train them to do it ‘right’ on the outside, eventually, it would sink into their heart. Anytime they were out of line, I felt anxious, and in my view, I thought I looked bad to others. If my child had a meltdown at the mall or displayed a lack of self-control at a restaurant, it meant I was a bad mom. It was a fear-based cycle of needing to control their outward behavior so that I felt good about myself as a parent. Their immature choices were more about my feelings than their training and development. I’m not sure parenting ever works that way, but what it produces is legalism and a religious spirit that tells the child that we don’t really care about what is happening inside them; we want them to perform to make us feel good. Kids are taught their behavior matters and they do not. They are taught God is a ruler maker who disciplines imperfection. They are trained to hide their true selves. They are introduced to isolation and loneliness. They feel like something is wrong with them. Can you relate? Is Holy Spirit showing you that there is room to grow in your focus from controlling their outward behavior to parenting the heart? If yes, we have to respond to Him. There won’t be any transformation unless we are willing to let Him move us.
HeartWork – Grab your journal and spend some intentional time today asking for forgiveness for caring more about your child’s behavior than their heart. Cry out to God, ask Him to teach you how to parent the way He parents us. He cares about your heart.