A couple weeks ago, I posted about dealing with sibling fighting and rudeness. Apparently I’m not the only one with children who struggle with bickering, because that post has been viewed many, many times, and I’ve received quite a few comments.
One comment came from a mom who was wondering how to raise her children to love the Lord when she didn’t start out raising them that way. She was discouraged about making mistakes. Her comment got me thinking about how wonderful it is that we are saved by grace! As believers, we were formerly enemies of God and are now His children by His grace. We understand what it is like to struggle with sin. We can encourage our kids when they struggle, because we totally get it!
And that brings me to the title of this post… What do we do when our kids just can’t be good? When bad behavior continues on and on despite our best parenting efforts and even despite our children’s promises that they’re going to start obeying this time?
I told you that my post about sibling fighting was not a magic fix, and that was true. About a week after that post, we were all doing afternoon chores together, and the boys were being absolutely awful. They were doing a lazy job of their own tasks, while simultaneously tattling about the poor work that others were doing. One brother was sullen and pouting because he wanted to play instead of work, and unfortunately, I was being just as bad as them. “Why can’t you just obey? I’m not going to tell you again to keep working!”
Finally, I called all of the boys into our office and said that we were having a meeting. I told them that none of us were acting the way God wanted us to. I asked them what we should do.
“Start doing our jobs the right way?” one of the boys asked.
“No,” I told them, “That hasn’t been working. We need Jesus to help us!”
And then we each prayed for God’s forgiveness and asked Him to help us honor Him with the way we work and the way we treat each other.
As parents, our job is to teach our children what God has said in His word about what He expects from us. And then when they can’t do it, it’s the perfect time to show them the cross.
“But the Scripture has shut up everyone under sin, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe. But before faith came, we were kept in custody under the law, being shut up to the faith which was later to be revealed. Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith.”
As our children hear the commands of God through His word and through our requirements of them as parents, they will discover that they can never obey God on their own. When a child is stuck in a struggle to obey, and struggles with even having the desire to obey, it’s the perfect time to point them to the riches of God’s grace which He freely gives us! (Ephesians 1:4-8)
But it’s important to understand what grace really is. Our culture has a great misunderstanding of grace. Grace does not mean that God loves us along with all of our sins and imperfections and is happy for us to stay just as we are. It does not mean that God overlooks our wrongdoings out of His grace.
Rather, God’s grace is so amazing because of the great cost to God Himself! Romans 5:8 tells us that Christ died to pay the price for our sins while we were still His enemies. We see His grace in the fact that He satisfied His justice by the death of His Son when we were in fact the ones who deserved it. “Enemies” is an important word in that verse! Sin is ugly. We must come to hate it before we can embrace God’s offer of salvation.
Also, God’s grace is dynamic. It changes us and compels us to love Him and desire His ways, and then it gives us the strength to obey Him! We are no longer slaves to sin, but children of God, and as His children, God is continually making us more like Him.
“For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desire and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus, who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds.”
So moms, do not despair when your children just can’t be good! It can be frustrating, I know. I had to walk two disobedient boys out of church in the middle of the service this morning. Sometimes it seems like they’re not ever going to get it.
But maybe today’s meltdown will be just the thing that God uses to turn a stubborn heart into a heart that grasps His grace! Well-behaved children should not actually be our ultimate goal in parenting because what God really desires are children who see the ugliness of sin and the incredible mercy and love of the Savior!
For more on this topic, I really recommend the book “Give them Grace” by Elyse Fitzpatrick. She has a lot of practical thoughts on keeping the gospel at the center of our parenting. While I don’t think that parents need to bring up the gospel in every conversation (some of her model conversations in the book are a little much), the principles in this book are excellent and very biblical. (This is an Amazon Affiliate link.)