All of us parents have something in common - we want to raise good kids. We hope and pray that they will grow up to be the kind of men and women who have a firm handshake, and look people in the eyes. People who are brave and generous and honest and...well...good.
But why? Why do we want our children to be good? I think it's important for us to examine our motivation because whatever underlying hope is propelling our parenting will hugely affect the way we approach these years.
Have you ever found yourself saying any of the following phrases?
"That's not how we act in this family."
"We are educated so we don't need to use language like that."
"Don't embarrass us!"
"What will the neighbors think?"
"You come from a long line of (fill in the blank) and we expect you to carry on the tradition."
We all want our kids to be good and to make us look good, but let's face it...humans aren't that good. I mean, have you met a human lately? Even the best kids will occasionally shame or disappoint or embarrass us and if "looking good" or presenting the "perfect family" is our main motivator then these less-than-perfect moments may tempt us to throw in the towel. Or, if like me, you come from an exceptionally great family, it could be easy to feel pressure to carry on that legacy, but this is not a healthy goal.
There is a better goal - a higher motivation.
Rather then hoping that our children will BE good, we can help them to reflect a God who IS good.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness,
faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.
We all want our kids to be loving and joyful...faithful and kind... all of the things listed in the above passage. But notice that these attributes are attributed to God's Spirit. These qualities belong to and define God Himself and when God's Spirit lives within us He begins this miraculous and transformative work to make us more like Himself! We cannot parent our kids into good people. (We can't even turn ourselves into good people - I've tried!) Instead, we can pray our family will be filled up with a good God.
There are a thousand ways this changes the dialogue in your home - but here are just a couple examples:
When your child uses an unkind or crass word you don't have to say, "Educated people don't speak that way". Instead, give them the best motivation: "That type of language does not reflect what God is like."
When your child struggles with hoarding and greed you don't have to say, "Our family has always been generous and we want you to be generous too." Or, "What will your grandma think when she comes in your room and sees SO MANY TOYS!?!" Instead we point them to the Lord. "God is generous and we want to reflect His generosity in the way that we live."
Or how about when people compliment your child's good behavior and you are tempted to say, "Well, we only feed them organic food" or "We home school" or "We work really hard on obedience"? The better, more truthful answer, in my case, is that God is doing a good work in their hearts and I am so thankful.
Do you see? By shifting our motivation, we are able to point our children to the Lord and His goodness and we are freed from worshiping our families. A good family with good kids is no longer the highest goal. We parents are released from the pressure to be superheroes and are kids are too. Jesus is the Hero of our home and we look to Him as we live and move and breathe.
I want my kids to be good, but even more than that, I want them to be godly.
And in the end it's really the same thing because my God is so, so good.
In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.
So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise.
1 Peter 1:14-19
14 As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, 15 but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, 16 since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” 17 And if you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one's deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile, 18 knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ