Have you ever found yourself tempted to use your beliefs about God to control your child? If so, you are not alone. However, using guilt and shame to get our children to obey probably isn’t God’s best for them, or for us as parents. Here’s why.
First, we want our children to trust God. We want them to know Him for who He is. Because when they know Him, they will desire a relationship with Him. Jesus tells children to come unto Him. Ask yourself if you would want to go to Jesus, if you thought He was sitting up there ready to “Zap” you all the time.
It is our responsibility as parents to teach our children how incredible God truly is. The Bible tells us to “Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.” (Proverbs 22:6) Generally, when we bring up a child knowing Christ and His Word, it dramatically increases the likelihood that they will follow Him throughout their life. That doesn’t mean some children won’t stray. Everyone has a free will, including our children. Sometimes, parents can do everything right and still parent a prodigal child. Don’t give up on that child. Continue to love them and pray for them. God’s timeline isn’t always ours.
Second, we want our children to trust us. We need to have a relationship with them, so that when they have hard questions, difficult life struggles and pain, they can come to us and feel comfortable doing so. They need to know that no matter what, NO MATTER WHAT, our love for them is unchangeable. We will always love them and always desire a relationship with them, even when they stray from our values, our love for them should not change. We can experience disappointment and hurt, but even through those things, our love should remain steady.
That is not to say, children shouldn’t have boundaries, responsibilities, and consequences. But, if we say things like, “God sees everything, and He is watching you,” then suddenly that truth about God seeing all and knowing all, is somehow skewed and our children will see Him as someone who is out to get them, or is against them.
Instead, they need to know that He lovingly watches over them, even when we can’t be with them. They can have courage when they leave for school and they can feel peace when they take on new things and go to sleep, because their loving heavenly father is always with them.
We want to encourage our children to obey us because we have their best at heart. We want them to live by God’s principles because His ways are always best.
Third, children need to know that even when they mess up and fall away, that God is ready to forgive them and continue in relationship with them. Likewise, so should we be. When your child apologizes for misbehaving, don’t withhold affection or love. Quickly embrace them and hug them. Let them know how happy you are they came back and made things right.
Last of all, we should model God’s principles. Remember our words never mean quite as much as our actions. If our words say one thing and our actions another, we appear hypocritical and untrustworthy. We want to mirror the same principles we are promoting. The only way we can do that is to stay in God’s Word and close to Him in prayer.
1 Thessalonians 5:23-24 says, “Now may the God of peace make you holy in every way, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless until our Lord Jesus Christ comes again. God will make this happen, for he who calls you is faithful.”