I recently wrote about the dangers of a casual attitude toward sin. In that post, I also spoke of the need for parents to guard their children from sin instead of placing them in harm’s way. As I thought more about this important topic, I felt it might be helpful to delve into it a little more by describing some of the ways we might be putting our kids in a position to sin.
I don’t mean to imply that we are trying to tempt them nor am I saying they are relieved of responsibility. I simply believe that sin is a powerful and appealing force on a child and as parents we can create an environment that makes it either easier or more difficult to fall prey to that force. Though I think it is usually unintentional, we often place our children in harm’s way. In no particular order, here are some area in which parents are failing to create the safest possible spiritual environment for their kids.
- Entertainment – A great deal of the entertainment we expose our children to promotes values that are contrary to God’s Word. We expose them to bad language, sensual behavior, materialism, rotten attitudes, disrespect and selfishness (to name a few) all in the name of entertainment. And that’s just the material targeted to children. They also see and hear so much more of our grown up content than we realize. Just to be clear – I’m speaking of entertainment that would generally be considered safe for kids. Don’t let down your guard just because a show, song or website is marketed to kids. Pray for wisdom and practice discernment.
- Conversation – With children of all ages, we must be careful of how we speak in front of them. There is the danger of talking about issues or topics that are just above their level of maturity or providing information they shouldn’t have. With careless conversation, we can provide unnecessary exposure to a wide array of temptations like gossip, anger, bitterness, covetousness, etc. When we speak within ear-shot of our children we had better consider what thoughts our words might place in their minds.
- Busyness – Without thinking about the consequences and for often the best of reasons, we overcrowd our children’s lives to the point that they simply are not capable of responding in a proper manner. We demand good grades, good behavior and good attitudes all the while filling their lives with practices, rehearsals and extra-curricular activities. In addition to placing them in circumstances in which it is difficult for them to act righteously, we are also modeling a value system in which God takes a back seat.
- Priorities – Though most Christian parents tell their kids that God comes first, we actually model worldly priorities. Though there are many ways in which we do this, I’m especially concerned about the current trend of prioritizing just about everything above church. I question the wisdom of a parent that keeps their child home from church for homework or lets them skip church to play a sport. Even consistently skipping church for work sends the message that work trumps God. We must prioritize God’s kingdom above everything – including entertainment, work, social activities and even education.
- Confession – actually, the lack thereof. We create a whole host of temptations for our children when we sin and do not admit it. Being a godly, Christian parent is not about always getting it right. It’s about pursuing Christ in every area-including parenting. When you fail, don’t rationalize it or make excuses or stubbornly deny it. Instead, confess to your child that you, too, are a sinner who needs God’s grace and mercy. Confessing, asking forgiveness and planning how you will behave differently in the future creates a spiritually wholesome and safe environment. When we don’t, we set our children up for failure in dealing with their own sin as well as create an environment where resentment and anger easily grow.
- Unrealistic expectations – In Colossians 3:21, Paul instructed parents not to provoke or exasperate their children. One of the most common ways of doing this is to pile impossible expectations on them. I’m not talking about expecting them not to sin. I’m talking about placing behavioral demands on them that are merely based in our own preference. Demanding certain grades regardless of circumstances, expecting young children to be quiet or still for long periods of time or requiring adult-like emotional responses out of children. Especially with young children, we can create unrealistic expectations by putting them in difficult situations and expecting them to not be affected. Pain, sadness, exhaustion, grief, confusion and many other external conditions can all affect behavior. We must realize this and be prepared to teach them how to cope.
Almost every parent claims to love their child and would probably face harm themselves in order to physically protect their child, yet many Christian parents consistently place their children in spiritually dangerous situations. Too often we create circumstances in which it is almost impossible for them to do anything other than sin. While we cannot excuse nor prevent sinful behavior, we do have an obligation to place our children in an environment that will nurture their spirituality, growth and holiness.
Please understand that I am not promoting legalism nor am I trying to judge anyone’s parenting practices. I merely hope to challenge Christian parents to evaluate their own actions in regard to how they may be negatively affecting their children. Let’s seek God’s wisdom as we undertake the huge responsibility of raising the children He has gifted us with.