06 Sep Put a “Therefore” in Your Parenting
We’ve all been there. We’ve all reached the end of a long day with our kids where we have been asked twenty seven times “why” they have to do something we have asked of them. And we respond with “because I said so”.
After the twenty-seventh “why”, “because I said so” is an acceptable response. You can come back to the reasons tomorrow after both of you have slept—unless of course the “why” involves their bedtime. However, “because I said so” should not be your default approach after the first “why”—if it is, then you are falling short of your responsibility as a parent by not laying down foundational reasons for their conduct rooted in the character of God.
General Morality vs. Good Theology
When we ask or tell our children to do something we can root their conduct in general morality or good theology. If we root their conduct in general morality we can modify their behavior. But only rooting their conduct in good theology will build distinctively Christian character.
The word “therefore” in Romans 12:1 indicates there are glorious gospel reasons for our conduct as Christians that are rooted in the character and work of God. Paul writes about these glorious reasons underneath our conduct in the first eleven chapters of Romans and then works out their implications in chapters 12-16. To build Christian character in our kids we must lay a gospel foundation with good theology in our homes.
But many times the default mode of our parenting focuses only on the surface conduct and never pours the foundation for their behavior to rest on. If we aim to raise moral and law-abiding children we may find some success in making the default mode of our parenting the “because I said so” approach to their behavior.
However, if our aim is to raise Christian children with distinctively Christian character who live to worship and obey Jesus, we must begin to parent with a “because God has” approach. We must learn to put a “therefore” into our parenting.
There is a category for obedience based on authority. But even when we operate on sheer authority we need to see—and they need to see—that we have authority as their parents because we submit to God’s authority.
When we tell them they need to pick up their toys and they ask us “why” we can say, “because I said so”. Or we can take the time to talk to them about how, as their parent, we are under the authority of God and in authority over them. And the reason it is this way is so we can teach them how to be under the authority of God themselves.
We can say, “I am under the authority of God and in authority over you…therefore picking up your toys is learning to live under the authority of God.” This is not just general morality but good theology.
There is no guarantee that putting a “therefore” in our parenting will have the outcomes we want but it is still our responsibility as parents. The formation of distinctively Christian character in our kids requires a work of God’s grace in their lives to save and mature them in Christ. Our parenting cannot save them but it can be a tool in God’s hand to mature them.
Laying a Gospel Foundation for Our Kids
Perhaps one reason we don’t parent with a “because God has” approach is because putting a “therefore” in our parenting requires effort on our part. It means we need to think through the foundation under the framework for ourselves. At first it may feel mechanical like we keep spilling out canned Christian jargon. However, over time, it will feel more natural as you think through the reasons under their Christian conduct and yours. The more you teach these reasons to your kids outside of times of correction the more natural this will feel. This effort will result in rooting the conduct of our kids in the character of God rather than in general moral principles.
This starts at the youngest of ages as we put a gospel foundation under the framework of good behavior even before they can fully understand all the concepts.
Let me give you a few examples:
- General Morality & “Because I said…”: We can tell our kids to be kind to their siblings because it is the right thing to do. You can tell them being cruel & mean is bad and being kind & merciful is good. Or…
- Good Theology & “Because God has…”: We can take the time to talk to them about how kind God has been to us in Christ and how it is the kindness of God that leads us to turn from sin and turn toward Jesus. God, in Christ, has been kind and merciful to us…therefore, be kind and merciful to your brother or sister.
- General Morality & “Because I said…”: We can tell our kids to share or give away toys to others because we want them to learn to be generous. We can tell them being greedy is bad and being generous is good. Or…
- Good Theology & “Because God has…”: We can talk to our kids about how God has been so generous to us in the sending of His Son and the pouring out of His Spirit. God has been so generous to us by sharing Himself with us even when we didn’t deserve it…therefore, be generous and share.
- General Morality & “Because I said…”: We can tell our kids to befriend others that everyone else ignores or makes fun of because it is the right thing to do. We can tell them ignoring those who are left out is bad and including them is good. Or…
- Good Theology & “Because God has…”: We can talk to our kids about how God who was really high came really low in Jesus to seek out people no one wanted anything to do with in order to befriend them. God has come after and befriended us in Jesus…therefore, seek out those everyone else forgets.
- General Morality & “Because I said…”: We can tell our kids to avoid sin because it is the right thing to do, it will ruin their reputation, and it will destroy their lives. We can tell them moving outside “behavioral boundaries” is bad and staying inside “behavioral boundaries” is good. Or…
- Good Theology & “Because God has…”: We can talk to our kids about how God in Christ has taken our punishment for sin and freed us from sin’s power. God in Christ has suffered for us and set us free…therefore honor God, live as a free person, and flee from sin.
What about you? Are you settling for modifying your kid’s conduct & behavior or are you aiming higher? Are you aiming to raise kids with distinctively Christian character?
What “therefore” do you need to put in your parenting this week?