When Carolyn and I were first married, we really had fun together for 2 years. Then we had our first child and everything changed overnight. We found out what an immense job it is to raise children. Suddenly life revolved around feeding, changing, supervising, and later transporting, entertaining and disciplining the children.
Our family in 2001: me, Ben, Danny, Carolyn and Gabe.
I had no idea how big a job parenting was going to be.
I also had no idea how un-moldable children can be much of the time. They have a mind of their own, not to mention a personality, emotions, annoying practices that become habits and so on.
One day a child’s foot came through the ceiling of our church office. He was sneaking around where he shouldn’t be and fell through. The comment of one of our laymen was, “Wouldn’t you know it would be one of the pastor’s kids.” Yep, it was one of ours.
So much for being a perfect parent.
In fact, the only perfect parents don’t actually have children.
As soon as you have children, you realize how independent they are, and how deficient you are. At least if you are honest.
You can be the best parent in the world, but have children that run off the rails.
How do I know this? Because our Heavenly Father is the best, but his kids fall off the rails all the time. Even when given the perfect environment of the Garden of Eden, they chose to go their own way. (See Genesis 3)
Conversely, even the worst parents can have a child who ends up being one of the best. My favorite example of this is my friend Josh McDowell, whose father was an abusive town drunk. Josh almost killed him one day after seeing him beat his mother. But now Josh is a fantastic Christian leader and parent.
So to all parents out there who are trying to do your best yet see your kids messing up, take heart. You don’t have to be a perfect parent and in fact you cannot.
Instead of trying to be the perfect parent, here’s what I recommend you focus on:
01. Just do your best.
God never demands perfection. That may be our goal, but it is never our achievement.
The greatest Christian ever in my opinion, the Apostle Paul, wrote in 1 Timothy 1:15 “Christ came into the world to save sinners of whom I am chief.”
As with all failings, let’s not beat ourselves up when we mess up. Let’s just pick up where we failed and try again.
02. The most important thing is setting the right example.
I think the greatest job in parenting is to set an example. Someone wisely said, “Children more attention pay to what you do than what you say.”
Over and over the Apostle Paul said things like, “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.” (1 Corinthians 11:1 ESV) He wasn’t being haughty; He was recognizing the power of the example of a life changed by Christ.
Setting the right example doesn’t guarantee your kids will do things right. But I believe it is the most powerful way to inspire them to be all they can be.
03. When you mess up, ask forgiveness from your children.
Once in a while my mother would lose her temper with her 5 kids. What else would you expect?
When mom got frustrated, she would say “Ohhhhh, I could just beat you.” Years later as adults, we laughed with her about that line. She never “beat” us. She was not the least bit violent, she was just venting.
Whenever mom vented, I could count on her apologizing.
I remember going to my room after a negative interaction and thinking, “She’ll be up here soon to apologize.” I was usually right.
Of course I was always glad to forgive mom, even though I usually didn’t feel she had that much to apologize for.
Her example was powerful—my mom had the humility to ask forgiveness of her bratty child, Mark. If you want to know how bratty I could be, read one example in my article “Why I Burned My Sister at the Stake.”
An apology can be powerful! So can other right words. The theme scripture for our family as our own children were growing up was: “Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them.” (Ephesians 4:29 NLT)
We didn’t always live that verse perfectly by any stretch, but we tried to. And now we have a wonderful relationship with our three adult sons.
Finally, to all those who believe you are perfect parents, that’s amazing! Even our Heavenly Father has not raised flawless children! So be sure to write and let me know how you did it. Maybe you can even give the Heavenly Father some parenting tips.
Our family last year, 2014.