We’ve all read those parenting blog posts “7 steps to a contented baby”, “10 totally terrific tips to tame your toddler” and so on – you know the sort. They tend to be lists of more things that you ought to do (or not do) to “sort out” your children. Usually, they just leave you feeling guilty and inadequate.
Don’t worry – this isn’t one of them.
There’s some great stuff out there in the parenting blogosphere, but there’s also some content that leaves you feeling like you’re failing as a parent – that your parenting is just one mistake after another.
If you feel like that, then what you really need to hear is the gospel.
So, this week we thought we’d begin a series of parenting mistakes to avoid. But these won’t be simply more guilt-inducing posts (we hope!) Instead, we believe the gospel can bring a sense of liberation and freedom as we seek to parent, by breaking through some of the simple mistakes that weigh us down as we navigate the tumultuous world of Christian parenting.
So let’s get started with the first.
Mistake number 1: Comparing yourself to other parents
This is such an easy trap to fall in to.
You notice that mum who always seems to be so “together”. She’s made-up, has a plentiful supply of home-made, organic, healthy snacks and her children are so well presented.
Or you see that dad who, alongside holding down a busy and stressful job, seems to have the energy to invent crazy-fun activities with his children as well as thought-through times of family devotion that are the highlight of his children’s day.
Or you notice that mum at church who seems so good at gospelling her children when they’re naughty. She’s so calm when her children tantrum. She seems to be able to juggle parenting, reading the Bible with others in church, sharing the gospel with her friends, all while keeping a tidy home.
Or… what is it for you? What do you spot in other parents that makes you feel lacking, somehow?
It’s okay to aspire to grow and develop as a parent. But if you’re burdened by a sense of guilt or inadequacy because of the parents you see around you, then it’s time to stop playing the comparison game.
Because you are inadequate as a parent.
Our guess is that’s not where you thought this was going. The usual response to our sense of inadequacy would be to say something like “you’re trying your best, and that’s all you can do”, or “you’re doing a brilliant job” or “those other people are only putting up a front – look behind the scenes and you’ll see they’re no better than you”. The thing is though, all of these comforts still leave us with a nagging sense of guilt.
But it’s true. You are inadequate as a parent.
You do mess up. You do fail. So do we – a lot! And so does every other parent. Not a single parent has got this parenting thing down to a fine art.
Well actually, that’s not totally true. There is one parent who has. His name is God. The Father is the perfect parent.
We want to highlight two things about our Father that bring us comfort when we’re confronted with our sense of missing the mark as parents.
Here’s the first: God is a kind father to your children who cares for them even more than you do.
If you look at other parents and wish you were doing a better job of parenting, then know this truth: God cares for your children, and he will always act for their good. He’s the better parent that you’re not able to be. So if you’re going to compare yourself to anyone then compare yourself to him, and when you see just how far you fall short then know that your children aren’t left wanting. In him your children have a parent who will never drop the ball. That takes the pressure off your shoulders – that’s a truth that can help you to sleep at night.
“God cares for your children, and he will always act for their good.”
And know too (and here’s the second truth to cling to) that this God is also your parent, who has dealt with your inadequacy at the cross. He’s seen it, he’s borne it, and he has dealt with it. You don’t need to keep dealing with it by turning it over in your heart when your flaws are thrown into sharp relief by the parents around you. You are inadequate, yes. So are they – but that doesn’t make it any better. You’ve still failed your children even if they have too. But God forgives you, loves you, has dealt with your failure and can use whatever is going on for good, in the end. He’s in control.
So don’t be burdened by an unnecessary sense of guilt. Bask in the glorious sunshine of the gospel that has bought your forgiveness and freedom, and get on with the job of parenting knowing that you have a Saviour and a Father who supplies where you lack and forgives when you fail.