You might have heard it put this way: “Obey right away, all the way, with a happy heart.”
I believe obedience is important.
One place where I think this philosophy breaks down, though, is when we have higher expectations of our kids than we have of ourselves. And not just a little higher.
We want our kids to obey perfectly 100% of the time. OK, 99.999%. Some parenting gurus say that their very souls depend on it, and that if we don’t follow a certain model of discipline for every single infraction, we disobey God.
Yet Father God does not punish his kids instantly for every infraction—
Oh wait, we commit infractions?
Aren’t children supposed to obey “right away, all the way, with a happy heart?”
WHAT? Christian moms don’t obey our Father God like this?
The thing is, we should. And our kids should obey us. But we don’t. And they don’t. Like our children, we are sinners who disobey our Father.
When we follow this philosophy, we operate with a huge double standard. If we’re Christians, we expect more from our children in their relationship with us than we expect of ourselves in our relationship with God. And when we mess up, we expect God to forgive us instead of dropping the hammer—but we can be so quick to mete out punishment to our kids for the smallest things.
Or maybe we do expect God to drop a hammer. Maybe we believe that He is always ashamed of us or waiting to punish us. Maybe we think that His love or favor depends on our performance, and that He withdraws when we mess up. So it seems logical to do the same to our children.
Here’s the thing. Jesus didn’t come to drop a hammer on you. He came to offer forgiveness.
We do mess up, all of us. We need someone to rescue us. We deserve punishment. I look at my sins and heck yeah, I think someone needs to knock some sense into me sometimes.
But the Jesus way is so much more gentle. He just wants us to come to him and tell him how sorry we are, so that he can say, “I already paid for that. I forgive you.”
Is that how we approach our children? When they sin and mess up, do we drop the hammer? Or do we understand their weakness and guide them toward truth?
I’m not saying that there should be no boundaries or consequences. But what’s our heart toward them? Retribution? Anger? Rigid expectations of perfection?
Are we surprised when they mess up? Do we feel that we deserve better behavior from them?
Or do we get that we mess up too?
Do our children know that we will quickly offer grace and forgiveness?
I don’t have this down pat. Just as once upon a time I was too hard, maybe I am sometimes a little too lenient now. Sometimes I fall back into old patterns. I’m finding my way.
But I know this. I don’t want to raise my kids with a double standard. If I do, when they look at me they will see one thing: hypocrite. That’s not what I want my kids to see, and I bet it’s not what you want yours to see either.
So how about it? Instead of focusing on outward behavior, let’s guide our kids toward the great Heart-Changer, shall we? Let’s give them grace!
How do you see God? How does this influence the way you raise your children?
Look for my eBook, Fearless Mothering, this fall.