After I became a mother five years ago, it didn’t take long for me to realize my need for divine wisdom in order to train my children. I began downloading books in a frenzy trying to find the best tips and tricks in order to produce the responsible, loving, God-fearing future adults I hoped for. But I’ve realized quickly that any fruit I’ve noticed in my children’s lives is by the grace of God through my imperfect parenting. He is the only one who can successfully work and move in their hearts. That realization—that it’s not all dependent on my “perfect” parenting skills—is what motivated me to go to God’s Word with the desire to discover the way He parents His children. He is the only perfect parent, so His example is the one I desire to emulate.
As I prayed and asked God to teach me how to parent these children His way, the story of Adam and Eve immediately entered my mind. Here are a few things I gleaned as I studied the way God instructs His very first children.
He sets clear boundaries.
In Genesis 3 we see God giving clear instructions that Adam and Eve were free to eat from any of the trees in the garden except for one. The Bible says all of the trees God made were “pleasing to the eye and good for food.” He created a pleasant place for his children to live, work and enjoy. But he gave them one firm boundary.
This tells me a few things as a parent:
- Boundaries are good and necessary.
- Boundaries are meant to protect and preserve us.
- God desires pleasure for His children, but also obedience.
My husband and I have been placed by God into a position of authority over our children. It is our job to establish clear boundaries in order to protect and preserve the lives of our kids. However, these boundaries should not be so plentiful that our homes become unbearable places to live. Just as God desired pleasure for Adam and Eve and wanted them to enjoy living in the garden He created for them, our homes should be places where our families can relax and have fun! This thought challenges me to evaluate the boundaries I have chosen to put in place in order to determine the reason behind them.
- Is the boundary there to protect them physically or spiritually?
- Is the boundary there to produce Christ-like character?
- Is the boundary simply there for my own convenience?
With three children five and under, my own convenience is sometimes necessary in order to simply survive these challenging years! However, if I am constantly making up rules that truly don’t serve anyone but myself I see a problem with my motives that needs to be addressed.
He determines clear consequences.
When God gave the instructions not to eat of the fruit He added, “or you will surely die.” Adam and Eve knew what would happen if they chose to disobey God’s command. This challenges me to think through appropriate consequences for my children’s disobedience and make sure to explain these consequences to them before they have a chance to overstep the boundaries. I don’t want the consequences to come as a surprise.
Some questions to ask ourselves might include:
- Have I decided on set consequences for when boundaries are crossed?
- Have I made those consequences clear to my children before they cross those boundaries?
Establishing clear boundaries also helps me to keep my cool in the heat of the moment. I and my children already know what will happen when an infraction occurs.
He encourages personal ownership of sin.
Adam and Eve’s natural response after their disobedience was much like that of our children. All of a sudden they realized they had done wrong by eating the fruit God forbid them to eat, and their guilt and shame caused them to run and hide. Doesn’t that sound like something a child might do when caught in sin? And what did God do? God didn’t angrily corner them with hands on His hips. He calmly came to find them and asked them what they had done (even though He already knew).
“Where are you…have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?”
Before God dished out the consequences, he expected them to own their choice to disobey. (And Adam and Eve responded in typical fashion by playing the blame game 😉 )
When our children are caught in sin it is our job to encourage them to own the role they played in the situation. We must help them see the problem deep down in their hearts that caused them to choose disobedience. Was it selfishness or a rebellious spirit? Obviously very young children are not always capable of this kind of self-evaluation. But we can still begin the process of helping them to recognize and own their sin in age-appropriate ways. Once they see their heart problem, we can move on to the next point.
He follows through with discipline and grace.
One of the biggest struggles for many Christian parents is knowing how to discipline and showing God’s grace and unconditional love at the same time.
God is just. He must punish sin. The ultimate consequence of Adam and Eve’s sin was death. They would eventually die physically, which was not part of God’s perfect plan for them, and they also experienced spiritual death. All of a sudden there was a wedge in their relationship with the One Who made them. And in an act of mercy, God sent them away from the garden so they would not eat also from the Tree of Life and live forever in their sinful state.
Sin always separates and divides. Sin also breeds shame and guilt. Romans 2:4 tells us that God’s kindness is what leads us to repentance. Proverbs 3:12 and Hebrews 12:6 tell us He disciplines those He loves. These truths cause me to ponder several questions when it comes time for me to enforce discipline:
- Does my discipline breed shame and guilt or does my kindness in discipline draw my children to repentance?
- Are the words I use in discipline placing a greater wedge between my children and myself or am I speaking in a way that restores what has been broken?
- Do my children know that it is out of my love for them and for their own good that I discipline them?
God began working toward the ultimate restoration of our broken relationship with Him by paving the way for Jesus to come and live the perfect life we can’t live, in order to die the death we deserve. The heart of our discipline should always be to show our children their great need for a Savior. They can’t live sinless lives and always make the right choices on their own and neither can we. Discipline provides the perfect opportunity for the gospel to shine through to our kids.
May we not simply raise rule-followers! Instead, may we strive to raise men and women who recognize their brokenness apart from God and allow Him to take control of their hearts in order to become the people God created them to be.
*Please leave your thoughts and comments below. And if any of our posts encourage you along the way, we’d love for you to share them with someone else! Thanks for reading along!