5. You Might Stifle the Unique Handiwork of God
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Author Caroline Madison explains that growing up in a legalistic environment put a very narrow structure on her acceptability as a daughter of God. When parents put too much stress on performing like “good kids,” instead of humans with a full range of emotions, fears, and questions, kids might feel like God made some kind of mistake.
To guard against elevating perfection over purpose, we can regularly ask ourselves: is this my issue? or is it critical that my child master this to feel God’s closeness?
In other words, spend more time noticing your child’s character qualities such as honesty, patience, or courage, rather than grades, scores, or whether they cleaned their room. If your child becomes obsessed with “doing” things that aren’t anything remotely like how God made them, you risk contributing to their confusion.
Are they sinners? Yes. And so are we.
Are they God’s design? Absolutely. Let’s remember, he’s always at work in them; doing something divinely and significantly unique.
6. You Won’t Show Them Why Mercy and Grace Matter so Much
In closing, I feel this pitfall is paramount.
So much of our Christian faith is misinterpreted as impossible rules and imposter pretending. Yet the entire story is about how God was merciful enough to love us in all our imperfection.
How wonderful to exemplify that you believe this, to your children. Allow yourself to be authentic. To admit that you are only trying and failing and trying again, too. Look into God’s word for answers together.
One experiment to try is to apologize to your child, even if you’ve waited so long they have children of their own now. Ask for their grace. This shows them how much you value mercy; and its potential to resurrect what was lost, broken, or dead.
Even if you’ve fallen into the pitfall of not showing mercy or forgiveness or understanding, it’s never too late. Admit any of your fears about them that are actually self-focused. Remind them that you love them, no matter what.
Of course, it’s good and wise to require things of our children that build their awareness of and respect for themselves and others. Things like showing up on time, planning, or organizing, or reprioritizing when life shifts.
But always consider the cost, and what you value most. A perfectly organized exterior? Or a completely surrendered interior?
You can’t live their lives, so teach and admonish with a light heart. Then pray to God for grace in all the things you think they should be doing, that might actually be on your legalistic list.
You can trust him to show them the way.
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