It’s true that we are the most influential people in our children’s lives. It’s also true that we tend to treat strangers with more kindness than our own families because it’s impossible to keep our “nice” masks on for long at home. These two facts lead to a third truth: Our children’s negative perceptions of God are often shaped by our behavior toward them.
You don’t own your kids.
Sorry, but you don’t. If we met in public you’d agree with me. But in private it’s a different story, isn’t it?
Many of us say we want our kids to be independent, but our actions prove the lie: We want to control our kids. We want them to do exactly what we say. Like something we own.
The dangers of this kind of mentality are subtle: Parents believe they have the right to control their children well into adulthood; children defer their hopes and dreams to satisfy parents; parents do what they think is best for their children rather than what they know God wants for their children. Don’t believe me? Go to an AA meeting and listen to people describe their relationship with their parents.
The Biblical concept of stewardship is critical to our spiritual walk. It means that I’m in charge but I don’t have ownership. It means I’m responsible to someone else for what happens to the things I care for. I don’t just answer to myself; I answer to God. I’m not the final authority; God is. The world is His, and everything in it. Or so the saying goes. But c’mon…you and I both know that more often than not we act like what’s ours is ours, not His. Including our children.
By understanding parenthood as stewardship rather than ownership we can avoid some of the relational and developmental pitfalls that plague children through adulthood. I believe the suggestions below can help all of us be better stewards of the children God has entrusted to us:
- Imagine yourself borrowing your best friend’s most prized possession. Imagine how carefully you’d treat that object. Now think about how your treat your child, God’s most prized person in the world
- Pray: “Thank you Father for letting me care for Your child”
- Let your children make their own mistakes, no matter how painful
- In the morning tell your children to ask God what He wants them to do that day, then let them do it
- Give them autonomy early and often. Remember, you don’t own them
These steps are hard to live out and even harder to live with (sometimes). But by seeing ourselves as stewards of our children I think we give them the best possible start to a healthy emotional and spiritual life.
What are the ways you live out your parental role as steward of your children?