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Parental Discretion is Advised

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Are Parents Blind?

A number of years ago I spoke with a man about the deplorable state of many youth in America. This man went on for quite some time depreciating parents whose children were callously living in multiple vices. I remember clearly one statement he said: “Are these parents too blind to see how there children are acting?!” Then came the reality:

A Humbling Lesson

Not more than several weeks later, this particular man discovered that his own son was a local drug dealer. Selling narcotics to others and making a boatload of money. I could only think: What a humbling lesson to learn! Something that exacerbated the situation is that it appeared everyone but his parents knew of his shady lifestyle.

We are left to ask: Are parents too blind to the vices of their children?

Not My Child!

One could wish the above story was an isolated event. Sadly, however, it’s not. In recent news a young man was killed after he supposedly acted in an aggressive and violent way towards another. The young man’s mother responded: “I know my son. He would never do such a thing. He would never be disrespectful to another person.

Being a father, I can understand such a charitable assessment of children. It doesn’t matter if you look at your six, sixteen, or twenty-six year old child, they will always be that, your child. Parents don’t often view their children by isolated events; but they gauge them over a lifetime of memories. Memories of the first time they held them. When they first walked or talked. When they would crawl up on a lap to cuddle. When they spoke freely of all their insecurities. When they viewed you not just as a parent, but as a friend. All these memories affect the way we assess our children; and all too often, we see things with rose-colored glasses.

But such charitable assessments can have many negative repercussions. (1) We can delude ourselves as to the true nature of our children. Children, of many ages, are often men-pleasers. They know how to win your condolences as fast as they know how to incite your rage. (2) We can call into question the honest testimony of another because we don’t want to blame our children. (3) We raise our kids with an understanding that a parent’s personal opinion is the standard by which their actions can be dictated. (4) We do a disservice to our children by not showing and giving them opportunities to be challenged and grow and mature.

Discretion Advised

So how do we as parents honestly assess our children? Here are six guidelines to help your thinking:

First, understand that you are not objective in your assessment. There are times (many times!) when a child’s isolated act will inevitably not be in accord with your lifetime of memories. Acknowledge this. Realize your weakness. Rely on those around you to help you assess; this is one of the many benefits of the body of Christ, our mutual obligations in helping each other for our good and God’s glory.

Second, distance yourself from seeing your child’s actions as your fault. Raising children is an intimate vocation. We all desire to “father” children in our image (Gen. 5:1). We train them to be like us. And so when they don’t act like us, we sense the tension that their bad actions reflect back on us. But this isn’t true. Your child is a sinner. And acts like a sinner. And as a sinner, s/he doesn’t know how to reflect even your broken image.

Third, don’t embitter your children (Eph. 6:4), but also don’t spoil your children (Prov. 13:24). Raising our children as Christians is a discipline in moderation. We aren’t doing our children a service if we esteem them, their actions, their thoughts in the greatest conceivable light. We must have a balance. Understanding that our children aren’t perfect. They aren’t innocent. And they do fall short.

Fourth, acknowledge that your children are sinful and their hearts are deceitful (Jer. 17:9). Being the sinners they are, there is no temptation that is too great for them. They are not above acting in very contrary, divisive, abusive, ironic, or immoral ways. This is where their heart is always directing them. Sin is never logical. It is always illogical. We ought never to be surprised at the sins of our children, but to understand the truth that from cradle to grave our children live with a sin nature (cf. Rom. 7:25ff).

Fifth, be humbled that all of your children’s flaws come from you. God created everything good and upright (Eccl. 7:25). It was man who sought out vice and sin. And because our children descend from us, they inherit our sinful natures (cf. Rom. 5:12). To esteem your children as “perfect angels” is to think that you too are above sin. If we hope to have a realistic assessment of our children, we must have a realistic assessment of ourselves (see Rom. 12:3; 1 Cor. 10:12).

Sixth, spend time getting to know, teaching, discipling, and engaging your children. Perhaps the reason so many parents have such a charitable assessment of their children, is because they don’t actually know them. Perhaps the time they’ve spent with them has only been in a controlled environment like the dinner table, weekend at grandmas, or a yearly vacation. Invest into the lives of your children. Invite them into your life. Walk with them. Talk with them. Do things with them. It wasn’t without reason that Jesus’ disciples spent nearly 3.5 years living life with Jesus. There are few ways of getting to know someone so intimately and personally, as living life with them.

Gracious Example

In conclusion, it is helpful to always remember the greatest example of assessing one’s child. Not only has the Father assessed his Son (Matt. 3:17), but God also assesses his children who come to him through Jesus Christ. And we ought to be thankful that this assessment is realistic. So realistic, that he sent Christ to die because of how sinful we are (Rom. 5:9–10). So realistic, that our salvation required divine omnipotence and grace and mercy in order to make it effectual. Were it not for God’s honest assessment of us as sinners, there would have been no hope of salvation.

When assessing our own children, let us remember this, we are to teach them to see their sinfulness, that they might find their righteousness in Christ alone.

 

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