There is no higher calling for a Christian parent than to instill godly values and principles into their young children. There is no greater feeling than knowing that your child has made a commitment to the Lord. These are two very noble pursuits for Christian parents. Unfortunately, these pure motives can turn into misdirected applications. In this post (our final post in a back-to-basics series on Christian parenting), we will explore some of the more common pitfalls and mental traps in Christian parenting.
1) Making your child’s salvation your goal. What joy to pray the Sinner’s Prayer with your child; to hear them confess their sins and accept Jesus as their Savior! There is no greater feeling. While this prayer embodies all that it means to be a Christian, we need to take caution and realize that there is no special power in the prayer itself. The prayer does not save your child, Jesus does. If we become focused on getting our children to pray “the prayer,” we may feel we have done our job once it is uttered. The prayer is not our goal, but a transformed heart and life is.
2) Thinking your child’s spiritual walk is a reflection of you as a parent. If your child is struggling with heart issues, it is very difficult to not take it personally. We are often quite good at blaming ourselves for our children’s shortcomings. However, if we take ownership of our children’s spiritual temperature, we will think it is our job to adjust it. It is often in the deep valleys of trials and struggles that faith is strengthened. Our children might need to go through some growing pains in their faith in order for it to become real to them. Pray for them. Be available to them. Let God work in and through them.
3) Entangling yourself in your child’s relationship with God. When our children are little, instilling Christian disciplines like daily Bible reading and prayer time are important tasks. At very young ages, these activities are often only done in the context of parental instruction or encouragement (i.e., “Let’s pray about that” or “It’s time to read your bible.”) As our children age, however, we need to release them to develop a personal relationship with God, one that is not dependent on the prodding or probing of Mom or Dad. We need to help them to see that God is their God as well. This is not to say that your job of spiritual guidance is done, just the opposite. You will need to maintain open and honest dialogue with your children about their relationship with the Lord. Talk to them about their areas of struggle. Ask them questions like, “What has God been teaching you lately?” Encourage your children to keep a prayer journal, listen to Christian music, list and study the many names and characteristics of God and read the Bible on their own. Help them see God as a personal and loving heavenly Father.
4) Trusting in the methods rather than the Maker. Legalism is an easy pitfall. If we can check certain behaviors or activities off our list, we feel like we are pleasing God. Remember though, God cares more about our character than our outward behaviors (think of the Pharisees and what Jesus said about them). If you are doing all of the methods or activities of Christian parenting but without a heart filled with faith and love, it won’t amount to much – not for you and not for your kids. Sometimes we think that if we just did “more” (go to Church more, have devotions more frequently etc.), then our problems would get better. More is not the answer. If I want my children to draw closer to the Lord every day, then I need to take a very close look at myself and ask: “Am I?” No one method is going to “save” our children. God will. We need to point them to Him every chance we can get.
I hope this series has been an encouragement to you. I know that God has used it to work in my heart. Sanctification is a process. It is a long road, but one that must be traveled every day. We do right by our children when we encourage them to pick up their cross and join us on the journey.