Perfect parenting. Is it even possible? It feels like my mindset at times is not perfection but survival. I remember this feeling like it like it was yesterday. I get a call at the office from my wife who is obviously upset about the actions of a certain two-year-old boy who we usually claim to be ours. I put on my “Mr. Fix It” hat and begin to get the details of the issue so I could provide the proper solution (because that’s what dads do, right?). I discover that my son, in his anger, decided to rip the curtains in our living room. His mom then talked with him about the importance of being responsible for our actions and informed him that he would be paying for the curtains with the money from his piggy bank. That apparently revealed the idol of money in that child’s heart because he lost it! He was screaming his head off when I received the call. My sweet wife was very clear that this young man was testing the limits, so I asked her to give me the phone so that I could speak with him. I hear her tell him to talk with daddy, and then abruptly… CLICK! I immediately called back, got the play-by-play from my wife who told me that my son took the phone, ended the call, and threw the phone across the room.
In this moment I was reminded that dads don’t have all the answers. In fact, it felt like being dad gave me a responsibility that I in no way knew how to handle. So, in light of being a fundamentally flawed parent, relying on the grace of God to do anything good in mine or my kids’ lives, I want to offer 3 steps to perfect parenting. I hope they’ll be an encouragement to you:
I always thought growing up that when I was a dad I would do it right. I’d correct all my parents’ mistakes, and my kids would think I was Superman (thankfully they are still at the age that they actually do!). What I’ve realized is that this parenting thing is probably the thing that God is using most to show me my own failures and my need for Him. Paul Tripp writes, “Like everything else God calls people to, God doesn’t call people to be parents because they are able.”(1) I am realizing more and more that perfect parenting doesn’t exist, because no one’s perfect. Instead I’m substituting perfection for progress. I want to see progress in my parenting over the years of investing in my kids. The only way this will happen is to see progress in my relationship with God over the same time. God does not demand my perfection in parenting, but he desires to see progress in my intimacy with him throughout my life. So step 1 is this: Pursue progress, not perfection. The pursuit of perfection can be crushing, but through God’s grace we are not defined by our ability to parent but by his perfection in our place. With our perfection settled on the cross, we can seek progress in our growth as children of God and parents of kids.
Parenting is Not About You
The second step is to realize parenting is not about you. We all have selfish tendencies that make everything about us, yet in marriage and parenting we truly see that life is not about us. Parenting pushes us to give our lives to the service of those who depend on us, and in that, we are able to be Jesus to them. Providing for, teaching, and being patient with our kids are all qualities of how our Heavenly Father is to us. As parents, we have to fight the tendency to make parenting about us. Our kids are not trophies to be displayed, nor are they people to disregard. We make them trophies when we allow our pride to fuel how we push them in school, sports, and appearance. We disregard them when we fail to give them the attention they deserve because we are too tired from work and other activities. God calls us to not let the culture we live in dictate the way we manage our home, but to let his word guide us. Check out how God speaks to the people of Israel about parenting:
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. These words that I am giving you today are to be in your heart. Repeat them to your children. Talk about them when you sit in your house and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Bind them as a sign on your hand and let them be a symbol on your forehead. Write them on the doorpost of your house and on your city gates.” (Deuteronomy 6:5-9, CSB)
A good question to ask ourselves is, “What parts of our parenting are really about us?” When we identify those areas, we can repent and make changes to let our parenting better reflect our Lord.
You’re Not Alone (Unless You Choose to be)
If you look back at the scripture you just read and check out the verses before it, you’ll notice that God is speaking to all Israel, yet he uses words that are in the singular. He talks about the commands he is giving, “you, your son, and your grandson.” It’s a bit confusing that God would speak to all these people and use singular words, and it’s even more confusing in the Western culture in which we live. God views Israel, and now the Church, as one people. In 1 Peter 2:9 you see that we are a chosen race, a royal priesthood. God had brought us into one family, and he views us as one body in Christ.
This means that as followers of Jesus, we are never alone in our parenting. First, we have the Holy Spirit, who is moving in us and through us (we will leave just how big of a deal that is for another blog!), but we also have the community of believers in the church. This means that if we are parenting alone, it’s not because we have to but because we choose to. I would encourage you with this: God has something better in mind. God has created this unique community that we would collectively reflect His glory to the world, and this includes our parenting. It may be difficult to commit to join a Community Group. It may be difficult for you to be at church every single weekend. Just because it’s difficult doesn’t mean it isn’t good. In fact, joining a Community Group and being vulnerable about your parenting struggles may be one of the hardest and best things you’ll ever do. In community you have support, insight, prayer, and love. Every parent needs that.
I am so excited about Parent Commissioning coming up February 23rd-24th, as we see parents declaring these truths over their lives. Through Parent Commissioning, Community Groups provide brunch and pray over their new parents. The parents are saying, “We are going to raise our kids to fall in love with Jesus,” and the groups are saying, “We are here to help you the whole way.” As a church, we offer parents resources to help them in the journey, many of which you can find on our Family Resource Center page at our website (click here). If you are interested in joining a Community Group click here, and if you’re wanting to join us for our next Parent Commissioning, check out all the info and sign up here!
-Brant Gordon (MH Kids Director)
- Tripp, Paul. Parenting, 2016, p. 35.