I Am Not A Perfect Parent By: Jessica Mudger July 21, 2020
Hebrews 12:11, NIV “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.”
Recently we hit a major milestone in our house: my oldest son became a teenager. After a few teary breakdowns and near-panic attacks, I pulled myself together (or rather, Jesus put me back together) and made peace with a new season of parenting. We have moved from the perception of unquestioned parental authority to questioning if mom and dad even have a clue what they’re doing. *GASP* He’s onto us.
Just yesterday, in the heat of the moment (because that’s when the enemy just loves to step in and take over), I reacted to an opportunity for discipline with much harsher words and tone than were necessary. Before I had even finished the task that had been interrupted, I was feeling the tug of the Holy Spirit on my heart. In berating my son for his habit of picking on his little brother, I had demonstrated a level of hypocrisy that genuinely earned him the right to question my parenting. “You Need To Be Kind To Others!!” … *facepalm*
When children are younger, they tend to think Mom and Dad know everything. Whether or not they can verbalize the belief, their parents are the ultimate authority on the determination of right and wrong. It is a lofty position we find ourselves in; having such influence over the tiny humans in our care. In fact, studies have shown that a person’s worldview is basically established by age 12. If we as parents are truly the greatest influence on our children, we must be awake to the messages we are sending to them, especially regarding issues of justice and mercy. I can’t think of any more demonstrative tool than discipline to teach our beliefs on such things.
As children grow closer to puberty, however, it’s not only their bodies that begin to mature. As they observe and reflect on what is happening in the world around them, the pieces of the puzzle start to come together. To their astonishment, not everything in the world works the way Mom and Dad says it should. Not every problem has an easy solution. In fact, some people don’t even believe the same things Mom and Dad have been saying for their entire life up until this point. Children entering adolescence start to see even small discrepancies in what parents do versus what they say. We’re supposed to do all things without grumbling and complaining, but Mom certainly had a few things to say while she was cleaning up the mud someone tracked across the clean floor. We are supposed to obey the laws, but the number on the speedometer read quite a bit higher than the speed limit that time we were late to practice. How are children supposed to know the difference between when what we say is true, and when we need to make justifications? Does this mean there are justifications to be made about when to obey Mom and Dad, too? Like I said, cue the panic attack.
The best solution is what has been all along: the truth. If our children are old enough to question whether we are always right, then they are old enough to know the ugly truth. We are not always right. The point of discipline is not that perfect advice is being taught from perfect people. The point of discipline is that godly advice is being taught by people who also need to be reminded of its principles. The truth is, we are no more perfect than our children are, and they deserve to know it. We are sinful people serving a perfect God, and by his grace we are able to keep alive the children He blessed us with for another day. It is not our ideas and rules that we hope to impart, but God’s guidelines for how to live our best lives.
So, with a humbled and contrite heart, I sought out my son and apologized. I told him that I was wrong to speak to him the way I did. I am not perfect, but God always is, and he is the only Parent we can trust to always do the right things. I told him that what I should have said instead is that I love him and his younger siblings immensely, and I am passionately adamant about them learning to love each other well. This isn’t because I always do it right, but because I know I should. Then I gave him some space and told him he is allowed to be mad at me (we don’t control their emotions, remember?) but I hope he will forgive me soon. It took him about twenty minutes.
My hope and prayer is that my son is learning that I am not a perfect parent, but my hope is in the One who is. I hope he learns that I discipline him because I love him, much like the way God deals with us. I hope he knows that I am trying my best to teach him what is right, and that I am no stranger to having to seek forgiveness either. We have only just begun our journey through the teen years, but I hope I am setting our foundation on the solid, unchanging rock of our perfectly good Father.