During a recent car ride, nearly all of my kids were fighting and one girl in particular was displaying extremely unkind behavior to some others. We had been going strong for several days with lots of late nights and we were all tired. Another late night was ahead of us and I was irritated that we were dealing with sibling fighting only three minutes out of the drive way.
Upon my request, David pulled over and so I could give full effect to the guilt trip I was about to deliver. I told the biggest offender that I had no problem turning the car around and sending the rest of the family on the fun outing. She and I would stay home. I watched her eyes fill with tears and heard apologies begin to fly around the van.
You would think I would have felt satisfaction. I didn’t. I slumped over in my seat, disappointed with myself. I’ve been walking the path of freedom and grace in parenting for eight years now and STILL there it was:
Fast forward to a different day. One of my sons decided to engage in a power play with one of his sisters. I stuck myself in the middle of their controversy. Acting as both judge and jury, I swiftly decided my son was guilty and wanted to make sure he knew it. Not only did I want him to know how displeased I was with his unkindness, I wanted to bring him to sorrowful repentance by using harsh words and a displeased face. There it was again:
In the first scenario, I created false repentance from my daughter. She wanted to go to the activity, so she apologized. She wasn’t turning from her sin, she was avoiding consequence. In the second scenario, I disobeyed God and exasperated my son. He hardened his heart toward me. I wasn’t even a part of the original conflict, but now it was all about me! His body language showed me that he was DONE with any instruction from me.
The tragic thing in both of these stories is that I not only sinned against my children, I sinned against my Lord. Ephesians 6:4 clearly spells out my part in the parent~child relationship and I failed.
Do you find yourself failing in this way as well? Do you find yourself controlling your children instead of building godly wisdom? Are you building a culture of true repentance in their hearts? Or demanding a false repentance that bears no lasting fruit? Are you intensely irritating children when their sin makes you feel annoyed or angry? If so, please hear me:
There is hope.
I was angry with my son. However, when I saw I was losing his heart, I became concerned. My need to be right was going to drive him away from any wisdom I might have. A lifetime of these interactions would drive him away from not only me, but God. And then the Holy Spirit convicted me of my sin and told me to take the plank out of my own eye. I was mad at my son for trying to control his sister, while I attempted to control him! Such hypocrisy! I cried out to God for help, a softened heart, and I removed the plank in my eye by humbling myself.
“I need to confess something to you Pal. The way I was talking to you earlier was totally out of line. It’s not the kind of Mom I want to be. It’s not the kind of mom God wants for you. I’m sorry for sinning against you.” He forgave me and I watched his heart soften. We were then able to discuss his behavior. He apologized to me and told me he had already gone to his sister in repentance.
I went on, “I’m thankful you forgave me. My sin wasn’t against you alone. I sinned against God as well. He has told me in his word not to exasperate you, and I did. Will you pray with me while I confess my sin?”
Moments later, we sat down in a public restaurant with the other kids who had gone in before us. My son silently bowed his head in thanks for his food. After the meal, he stood next to me and tenderly placed his head on mine. Our hearts had come back together. We were restored to each other and to God. And he was able to again receive instruction in the Lord from me.
The BEST of parents mess up from time to time. YOU will sin against our children as I did, but in your own way. We are so, SO fleshly and still being sanctified.
So what do you do about it?
When you fall, turn your hearts to God and admit it! Confess your sin and walk in humility. If you are in need of God’s intervention in your parenting as I am, (and I suspect you are) you will need to do this kind of work, over and over and over and over and over again. But do it! Walk with God! Keep your kid’s hearts!
Over time, your do-overs will decrease and your victories will increase!
My sons were in a major battle. One of them slammed a door on the other. David and I heard the kind of yelp that causes panicked middle-aged parents to run as if they are in 5th grade again. As the details unraveled, we saw pride and deceit in the son who slammed the door and caused an injury on the other. My Mama-Bear instinct was strong. I was enraged to see a child of mine had been hurt by another individual’s temper. I was livid to discover I had been lied to on top of it. My instinct was to spew shame filled messages to the perpetrator of the crime.
Thankfully, my muscle-memory kicked in and I knew that I could help my child in his sin without sinning against him. Quickly, I offered up a silent plea for God to give me love, grace, and forbearance. After tending to my hurt son, I walked over to my other son and gently rubbed his back. David and I asked gentle, but pointed questions as to what was going on in his heart. Without excusing his behavior, we were able to communicate: “It’s OK to admit you have done something wrong. Bringing your sin to the light is necessary for healing. You need forgiveness. Our love for you hasn’t changed because of the temper, the pride, or deceit you displayed. And God’s love for you hasn’t changed. In fact, God’s love was demonstrated while you were yet sinning, by giving His son as a sacrifice for you.”
His heart didn’t soften right away.
The boys requested time alone to discuss things with one another. After they talked, they went back to life. Forty-five minutes passed when the son who had hurt the other, came inside, with a sorrowful and contrite spirit. He apologized to his brother for hurting him. The Holy Spirit was able to work in our son’s heart because we hadn’t exasperated him. There was no effort to control him or force a change of heart. True repentance brought forth beautiful fruit from a heart that had been softened by grace.
Let the gospel of grace transform your hearts as you parent. You won’t do this perfectly. But if you humble your hearts and let the God of love and truth guide you, you will be transformed. And his power will begin to change you-and your kids; slowly, beautifully, over time.