What is the goal of parenting? Simply put, to reflect God’s character to our children. We want our children to tangibly experience the character and nature of God by the way we treat them, by the things we say to them, and by the way we relate to them.
We all know none of us are free of mistakes when it comes to parenting but that is not the point. The point is that we quickly come to the end of our own resources so that we are continually depending on God for wisdom, grace, and patience. Even in our mistakes, teachable moments await us by the way we navigate the mistakes and challenges. For example, if I do or say something that isn’t consistent with God’s character, it provides me an opportunity to model humility, taking responsibility, and show a tender heart towards my children. I can go to them, admit that what I did or said missed the mark, and ask for their forgiveness. Then, they too can learn to do the same when they mess up.
Our goal in parenting is not children’s good behavior. We don’t just simply want them to mind us. We are after their hearts so that they can discern what is good and what pleases the Lord. The only way for this to happen is for us to be intentional in pursuing a vital relationship, personal engagement, time spent face to face, listening to their hearts and discovering what matters to them. Children are very perceptive and they are quick to recognize double standards. We cannot ask anything of our children that we ourselves are not willing to model or adhere to, if we truly want them to subscribe to our requests with their hearts.
I always want my children to know that they are gifts and not nuisances. I will sometimes say to my older son, “Guess what?” To which he will answer, “What?” Then I will tell him, “I really like you!” Children desperately need our affirmation. Do they also need discipline and boundaries? Absolutely! However, I have heard it said, “Discipline without relationship, leads to rebellion!” We are after the hearts of our children and that is always done through a meaningful relationship.