As parents, we have a certain amount of power over our children’s lives. We are blessed when we consciously avoid abusing that power. Fenelon, the French educator from the 1600s, said adults should never put unnecessary restraints on their children (the key word here is “unnecessary”; there are plenty of restraints that are necessary). This advice has made me very careful what I ask my children to do or refrain from doing. It is easy to try to control their lives for my own convenience rather than for their good. Frighteningly, I can abuse the authority God has given me and be a tyrant to my children. But I am blessed and will inherit the earth when meekness reigns in my parenting.

The Psalms also give us a definition of meekness. Psalm 37:9 says that they who “wait upon the Lord” shall inherit the earth. When I see a problem in my children’s lives, I often try to rush in and fix it as quickly as possible. I know the disasters that could ensue if the problems are left uncorrected. It’s important to be involved in our children’s lives. But on the other side of the coin, I must wait on the Lord to “fix” my children and cry out to Him in prayer, as He alone is the Great Physician who can make a real change in my children’s souls, rather than just external behavior modification. (That’s not to say behavior is unimportant, but the heart is so much more so.)

“Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.”

In the same way our children inherit our weaknesses, they will also tend to follow in our spiritual footsteps. There’s a beautiful picture of this painted in Pilgrim’s Progress. As Christiana begins her journey from the City of Destruction to the Celestial City, her children make the journey with her. These children grow to adulthood and marry while on this journey, and her grandchildren are born on the path to the Celestial City rather than in the City of Destruction as their parents and grandparents were.

The spiritual heritage we are leaving our children should be an excellent motivation for our sanctification. While we cannot save our children’s souls, we can blaze a trail for them and see to it that their spiritual journeys have fewer potential pitfalls. The benefit to our children adds an extra sweetness to righteousness which should increase a parent’s hunger and thirst. I pray that I will make following Jesus look good every day and show my children that there’s no better place on earth than the narrow road that leads to heaven.

“Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.”

It is a good idea sometimes to remember our failures, as painful as those memories can be. The knowledge of God’s mercy toward us in our failures should help us be merciful to our children in theirs. But we have a tendency to have short memories about such matters.

Ted Tripp tells a wonderful story of a time when he was disciplining his children for being selfish. “How could you be so selfish?” he heard himself asking. God brought to his mind a recent incident when he was carrying two dishes of ice cream, one for himself and one for his wife. As he walked across the house, he was carefully and almost subconsciously measuring which bowl had the most ice cream and therefore would be his. It dawned on him how hypocritical it was to question why his children were being so selfish. He well knew how his children could be so selfish, because that same sinful tendency also rested in his own soul!

Apart from the power of the Holy Spirit, we’re all destined for selfishness in one permutation or another. This realization caused Ted to deal with his children with mercy and grace rather than exasperation. I try to rehearse my own weaknesses to my children, especially when I correct them. This always leads me to mercy as well.