Parenting is one of life’s most rewarding but complex challenges. While there are many good parenting books, no two kids are alike. But kids are resilient, too, and you can know that God intentionally chose you to parent your child. So ease up yourselves, moms and dads. You won’t parent perfectly; you will make mistakes. But God loves your children more than you do. So here are 5 truths to set parents free from parenting guilt.
1. You cannot control the outcome of your parenting. You can only control your parenting.
Proverbs 22:6 says:
“Train up a child the way they should go, and when they are old, they will not depart from it.” – Proverbs 22:6
As much as we want to claim that as a promise and cling to it, the book of Proverbs is not a book of promises—it’s a book of wisdom. The Proverbs are “probabilities.” Chances are, if you raise your children in a Christ-centered loving and gracious home with healthy boundaries and discipline, your children will grow to love the Lord. But your children are also individuals granted free will by God. That means you can do everything right, and your children will still make their own decisions. Knowing that you can only do so much frees you up to model Christ, love them well, show them grace, and entrust them to the Lord.
2. Your children save their worst behavior for you.
Because they sense your unconditional love, they know they can fall apart in front of you—you’re their safe person. All day long, kids and teens alike put their best foot forward and do their best to conform to the standards their teachers and friends set for them. So as difficult as it may be when you’re wading through the mess of their meltdown, know that it comes from a place of love and trust.
3. Your parental mistakes are opportunities for you to model a sincere apology.
Children do not learn how to apologize appropriately when you tell them to apologize. They learn by watching you. God doesn’t require you to be perfect to be a parent. He wants you to be humble. You can’t be perfect. You can be humble and honest and tell them that you need Jesus as much as they do. You also validate their hurt when you ask them to forgive you.
4. You don’t have to protect your children from failure and mistakes.
Many parents spend a lot of unnecessary energy trying to swoop in and keep their kids from failing or making big mistakes, but failure is one of life’s best instructors. Obviously, you want to protect them from anything that would cause severe physical or mental trauma, but you can let them forget their homework. You can let them fail a class and miss out on their favorite sport. You can let them leave their coat at home and spend an hour or outside too cold. Chances are, they do the right thing next time, and if you always rush in to save the day, you’re only prolonging the inevitable. Let them fail at home when the stakes are low.
5. Love covers a multitude of parental mistakes.
In his first letter, the apostle Peter wrote:
“Above all, love one another deeply, for love covers over a multitude of sins.” – 1 Peter 4:8
What was true for the first century Christians is true for parents today. You will make mistakes, and some of them will be big. But when you love your children well, you give them a secure foundation on which to build their lives. Your instincts may tell you that, to succeed, your kids need tutors, private coaches, lessons, and discipline. Those are good things, but studies have proven time and again that the number one way you set your children up for a happy and productive life is to love them well. And chances are, you’re already doing that.
God’s wisdom gives us the direction for not only recognizing our mistakes, but also correcting them. In parenting, it is no different. God’s way of life is the abundant life (John 10:10), and this life gives parents the opportunity to watch their children grow up making good decisions and avoiding decisions they may later regret. And learning how to live out these traits in our parenting gives our children a model for living out His abundant life.