A Fundamentally Different Way To Think About Parenting

Posted by Jason Inman

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Kids. Such a crazy idea. These tiny humans in our care could one day preside over a country, invent the next technological breakthrough, and get their own tiny humans. If you’re a Christian, you know their destiny is eternal. Here’s the shocker—the initial shaping and beginning of their eternity happens in our homes, under our love and influence. Maybe your children are grown, and you feel like you screwed all this up. Keep reading. This is for you too.

I’d like to suggest there’s something fundamentally broken about the way we think about our kids. I say “we” because I’m guilty with my children. In fact, it’s right there. I just said it: my children.  Now, I’m not saying we all have to stop saying, “my children.” That would be useless. But, what if we stopped thinking of them as belonging to us? This isn’t my idea. The first time I heard it was from my own mother. She wasn’t trying to get rid of me either! With God’s help, she and my dad raised seven boys who all love God, cherish their wives, and are trying to raise children to do the same.

Let’s talk through this real quick. Your son or daughter zigs when you want them to zag. They’re loud when you need them quiet. They stop when you need them to go. If you view them as your “yours,” this causes deep, personal pain and frustration. None of us would outright call our kids “property,” but look at how our feelings treat them that way. In this scenario, we could replace the child with a horse, dog, or even a vehicle, and our feelings would be similar. We feel like a wrong took place against us. Like we were somehow betrayed. Why? It’s a mouthful, but here it goes. When we mistake our children as property, we mistake disobedience for betrayal, because we’ve mistaken who we are with what we have.

“When we mistake our children as property, we mistake disobedience for betrayal, because we’ve mistaken who we are with what we have.”

There are actually a few mistakes there right? Let’s work backwards.

  • We are not what we have. As Christians, we are not defined by what we do, how well we parent, or what stuff we have. Our identity comes from God’s selfless and grace-filled idea to give up His only kid so we could call Him Father and find our identity as His children.
  • Disobedience is not betrayal. This conversation aside, kids are mainly just looking to understand right and wrong—trying to discover how things work. They’re not looking to put chinks in our identity (which according to point 1, shouldn’t come from them anyways).
  • Kids are not property. This sounds obvious. But when we look at how personally we take it when they disobey, we realize we may have been looking at our children the wrong way. When we realize they aren’t our property, we can step back, see them for who (not what) they are, and help point them in the way they should go.

But wait, Mom, if I don’t belong to you, then am I my own? The Apostle Paul has something to say about that.

Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price … 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 NIV

Mom, does this mean I’m off the hook as a parent? I can just throw my hands up and hope the Holy Spirit does His thing? Proverbs suggests otherwise.

Point your kids in the right direction—when they're old they won't be lost. Proverbs 22:6 MSG

But some of us feel like it’s too late.

Those of you who feel like it’s too late, like you failed your kids for too long, here’s your question for my mom. “Okay, Jason’s Mom, what if it’s too late, and I feel guilt and shame for getting all this wrong?” I think my mom would hug you, then lovingly remind you of something like this. Just like you, your children were bought with a price. It may be harder now to get them to do what you want, but that was never the goal. The goal has always been to point them in the right direction. Now, knowing they belong to God not you, that your identity comes from Him not them, just made your job a lot easier. You get to love them regardless of their behavior, model right living, show them the God of second chances, and pray tenaciously for the Holy Spirit to come get what Jesus paid for. If we’re honest, this is the message all of us parents need to hear. Thanks, Mom.

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