“Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.” Ephesians 6:4 NIV
When my children were younger, I struggled to keep my head above water. They required so much of my time and attention and were naughty (like a lot). It seemed to escalate every time we were with friends or in public, and I felt overwhelmed when they misbehaved. Out of desperation and pride, I constantly tried to stop and control bad behavior. I wanted “microwave kids”—to push a button and make them instantly holy. I was weary and longed for quick results.
A well-meaning person told me to discipline my children every time they disobeyed, talked back, or displayed a wrong attitude. It was explained that if I didn’t punish every single time, it would allow rebellion to run rampant in our home (rebellion is like witchcraft, you know). We had a handful of kids at the time, so you can imagine how impossible this was. But I believed her and wanted to be a “good” mom so I diligently tried to follow her advice.
It grieves my heart as I remember: I became a policeman in my own home. I “arrested” the kids all day long, keeping track of their “crimes.” I thought I could somehow force them into submission.
However, our children can’t be made instantly holy. They can’t even be “good” by God’s standard until the Holy Spirit comes to live inside of them. What they need is for us to show them “the Way.”
My own methods could never create a true heart change. What I was focusing on only strengthened their sin! When you concentrate on punishing and correcting bad behavior all the time, that’s what happens. What if God always watched and punished us immediately for every wrong thing we did? I’m pretty sure most of us would no longer be alive!
Yes, what my children really needed was more of Jesus—to be discipled in His Truth, with words of life and blessing spoken over them. I needed godly vision to see, to minister genuine kindness and loving instruction. They needed love—a love that showed pure enjoyment in our relationship, one that cherished and nurtured their tender hearts just as Jesus daily exemplified to me. I needed to live a life of servanthood and be an example of patience, even in the middle of disobedience. They needed quiet confidence in their right standing with me—that they will always be loved, no matter how badly they behave. They needed me to pull them out of their sin, and to help lead them to the one who bore all of their sins.
Parenting like Jesus won’t bring “instant” holiness. Instead, it takes lots and lots of time and commitment. It takes repentance and the Holy Spirit.
Sweet, sweet mama, be careful who you listen to. When we become overwhelmed and desperate, we do crazy things we regret later. Our children are precious, created with dignity and made in the image of God—just like we are. We will give an account someday of how we steward the ones He entrusts to us.
Below are a few practical keys listed that help me to this day. I hope they will encourage you too on your mothering journey! They are simple yet profound and all of it comes from God’s Word. His wisdom is far greater than ours and so practical. Truly His ways are genius and life-changing!
- Relax: Make an allowance for your kid’s faults because you love them (Ephesians 4:2). They are going to mess up, and it’s ok. Jesus already knows, and that’s why He came! Lead them to the one who gives them the power to overcome sin.
- Be Humble: Don’t parent out of pride. If your kid misbehaves in public or acts up around your friend’s kids, smile and tell them, “So sorry, we’re trying to work on this right now.” Admit it when your kids are wrong but don’t shame them.
- Be Gentle: Proverbs 15:1 (NKJV) says, “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” Try not to raise your voice, and instead try to speak gently. This totally works!
- Be Patient: James 1:19 (NLT) says, “You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry.” Hear with your heart, not your head, and filter, filter, filter with love.
- Be Led By The Holy Spirit: Galatians 5:18 (NKJV) says, “But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law.” Wow, think about this! In the middle of a conflict, pause for a while and ask God what He thinks. Carefully listen and then obey. The Spirit gives life, but the law strengthens sin.
- Choose to live in peace: (Ephesians 4:3b). Don’t be worried or troubled—instead, trust God with your kids. Let the Shalom of God reign in your heart!