by Diane Dierks
As a therapist, so-called parenting expert, mother, and grandmother, I am the first to admit that I have made a lot of mistakes. Despite them, God granted me favor in that I have two wonderful adult children and two amazing grandchildren. Thank goodness for Romans 5:2-5 that tells us there is hope through suffering (I assume even when it’s caused by our own mistakes) because it builds character. In that regard, I have obtained a boatload of character over the years!
I often get asked interesting questions by parents who are fearful they will make innocent, unpardonable, irreversible mistakes that will ruin their kids’ lives for good. My short answer is typically to tell them that, by virtue of the fact they are even asking the question, I suspect their kids are probably going to be fine. Parents who worry about this kind of thing usually don’t have kids I worry about.
The longer answer has to do with the character built by our mistakes; I don’t think children benefit from parents who pretend they have never made one. Those parents often quote the Bible, expect their children to memorize Scripture, create strict standards of behavior and morals, but have trouble modeling these things in their own lives. There’s nothing wrong with the former, but kids are so very perceptive and intuitive; they know when it’s not personal to us. They know when our concern is more about our own image than with their souls; they can feel it in their spirit. Of course, we don’t want to admit a lifetime of mistakes to our children in detail (for fear we will give them permission to make the same ones we did!) but we can be Christ to them in so many beautiful ways – including sharing what we’ve learned from our own mistakes.
How do we do that exactly? There is great value in following Colossians 3:12-14:
Clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you and above all these virtues, put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.
This is how we live the gospel every day. It’s what Jesus did for us, and continues to do for us, every day. If we parents lived this Scripture – truly lived it (in our marriages, in our parenting, in our assessment of world news, in our treatment of God’s people and others, and if this was all we did for our children) – our kids would learn how to be good partners, good friends, good citizens, and ultimately good parents. Even if we have a difficult past, a difficult spouse, a difficult life – this Scripture can be a guide to raising awesome kids – on our own or with a partner.
We know, from years of research, what creates positive wellbeing for children in childhood and beyond. It’s two-fold:
Having at least one parent/guardian who is stable, consistent, dependable, and predictable; and
Having the opportunity to be children; without worry about adult cares and responsibilities.
This doesn’t require perfection; it requires sacrificial love – the Christ-like kind that we are so very blessed to possess through the saving grace of the Holy Spirit who has been given to us (Acts 2:38-39).
So, let’s not worry about being perfect. Let’s just be the best imitator of Jesus to our kids we can be and let Him do the rest.