My wife and I are in the throes of parenting and are surrounded, in our church and among friends, with other parents in the throes of parenting. So my parenting radar is hot. I’m learning, growing, and repenting every day as I ask the Lord to make me a faithful dad. And here’s a list of five common mistakes in parenting I’ve observed many Christian parents making.
1. We overexpose our kids to the culture.
The Bible doesn’t use the term “culture,” but there is a very similar word – “world.” This is a loose definition of the prevailing thinking in a given society. Typically, the values of the culture run counter to the way of Christ. We can be passive in allowing them to form ungodly convictions based on what everyone else is thinking and saying. What’s more, there are corrosive images that can hurt their souls. This is why we have to be wise to monitor the media they consume, how much time they spend online, and the amount of time they spend with friends.
2. We underexpose our kids to the culture.
This is an equal and opposite danger to overexposure. It is easy to adopt a fortress mentality as parents. There is a tendency to overprotect our kids so much that we fail to prepare them for their mission in this world. If our only parenting mode is protection, we fail to teach them how to apply the Scriptures to the reality of life in a sinful world. What’s more, we rob them of the God-glorifying act of enjoying, consuming, and creating the best of culture: art, beauty, and grace as expressed by artists whose talent points to a masterful Creator.
3. We mediate all of their petty disputes.
I wonder if there is a more difficult thing to resist than the impulse to dive in and solve all of my kids’ interpersonal problems with their friends. But I’ve found that when I become my child’s defense attorney all the time, it not only harms my child’s ability to make good choices; it destroys the fragile unity among Christian parents.
4. We focus only on short-term behaviors.
I’m learning this lesson as my daughter Grace gets older. She’s eight now and we’ve given her some liberty to go a few houses down and visit with her friends. These are good families with whom we have good relationships. At times we’ve gotten upset with Grace because she made poor choices, such as going past the boundaries we’ve set. But we also are trying to teach her to draw her own boundaries. If we make every decision for our kids, we give them no space to fail. And that robs them of learning experiences.
5. We overcompensate for our perceived childhood gaps.
Every generation tends to react to the mistakes of the previous generation. We want to avoid the reactive, seesaw parenting if we can. It’s good to highlight areas where we think our parents might have missed the mark, but we need to be careful to not overcompensate. Like our parents, we are fallen sinners in need of God’s grace. Our parenting will have huge gaps. So let’s have some humility.
About the Author
Daniel Darling is the Vice President for Communications at the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission. He is an author, speaker, and columnist.