I thrive on control.
I love projects that can be broken into goals, tasks, and success or failure criteria. Nothing motivates me more than the opportunity to strive toward the successful completion of something. I actually have spreadsheets that outline every hour of my life with a color code for the activity, so I can understand exactly where my time goes. I even have spreadsheets for my kids’ lives!
For a major “control freak” like me, having kids is a real wake-up call to the fact that there are some very important things in life that cannot be controlled via spreadsheet (gasp). I didn’t realize that, however, until a few months ago when I was trying to identify why I was always mad at my twins. Aside from the fact that they were being typical 3-year-olds, they were not behaving according to “my plan.” I had the mentality that perfect parenting could lead to perfect kids. I certainly never thought my parenting was perfect, but every time they misbehaved, I felt it was a direct indictment of the quality of my parenting, and that led to misplaced frustration… at them. When they were good, I attributed it to me, and when they were bad, I attributed it to me even more so.
The problem with this is that it effectively made my parenting all about me rather than about my kids. I realized that I needed to start having a teacher mentality rather than a boss mentality. The key distinction is that teachers are responsible for learning. Bosses are responsible for outcomes. When you think you are working toward an outcome, your focus is on controlling the process. When you think you are working toward learning, your heart lets go of the process to embrace that which will most impactfully grow the student.
How much more so this is true as applied to the development of our children’s faith!
If our motivation for investing in our children’s faith development is even subconsciously rooted in the belief that we 1) can control that outcome or 2) are responsible for that outcome, we will start controlling the process too tightly.
We can’t “make” our children Christians.
Only God can call our children. Not me. Not you.
Only our children can respond to that call. Not me. Not you.
That’s why we could invest 24 hours per day in spiritual activities for our kids, and they could be atheists the day they leave home. That’s why we could invest 0 hours per day in spiritual activities for our kids, and they could be rock-solid Christ-followers the day they leave home.
This shouldn’t be discouraging. It simply means we need to put our children in God’s hands and focus on the responsibility God has given us.
So what ARE Christian parents responsible for?
The three most specific passages in the Bible on parenting all speak to the role of teaching (not to outcomes).
“…bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” (Ephesians 6:4, emphasis mine)
“Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old, he will not depart from it.” (Proverbs 22:6, emphasis mine)
“You shall teach them (God’s commands) diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.” (Deuteronomy 6:7, emphasis mine)
Our hearts have to be precisely right for this calling of Christian parenting. Our time spent in faith development is not a purchase; it is an investment that may or may not pay off with the desired outcome. But God has called us as teachers. We need to let Him be the boss.
Natasha Crain is a blogger, author, and national speaker who is passionate about equipping Christian parents to raise their kids with an understanding of how to make a case for and defend their faith in an increasingly secular world. She is the author of two apologetics books for parents: Talking with Your Kids about God (2017) and Keeping Your Kids on God’s Side (2016). Natasha has an MBA in marketing and statistics from UCLA and a certificate in Christian apologetics from Biola University. A former marketing executive and adjunct professor, she lives in Southern California with her husband and three children.
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