Is there a chance I’m sinning against my child if I place expectations on them that God has not developmentally equipped them to accomplish? 

This might sound hard to answer – especially if you grew up in a culture where failing to obey was considered spank-worthy at ages as early as 9 months old. But let it sit with you for a minute and consider some of the things that Jesus commanded of His followers…

“Do to others what you would want them to do to you…” Matthew 7:12

“Love your neighbor as yourself…” Mark 12:31

“Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger by the way you treat them. Rather, bring them up with the discipline and instruction that comes from the Lord.” Ephesians 6:4

The list goes on for quite a while when it comes to the way Jesus clearly expects His followers to treat people. 

Unfortunately, culture and defiled religion has done a pretty good job of separating how parents should treat other adults and how parents should treat their own children. We can’t separate those things. Children bear the image of God because He created them in His image. A child is no less a person than an adult–and because of that, we learn how to treat our children the same way we learn to treat everyone else. Except, perhaps the standard is even HIGHER for how much we are to value and treasure and protect our children because God has given them to us as gifts. 

Beginning with that first questions really does lead us to some more (really good) questions…

What IS developmentally appropriate behavior? There is not a cut and dry formula across the board all of the time–there just isn’t. And that can be hard. Most parents do want to feel in control, I know I feel that sometimes. It can be really hard to try to understand what is going on in the little minds of our ever changing children. But we do have a lot of good resources to help us do a little better in understanding how those minds work. This can help a lot! Two of our favorite books on this topic are:

Are my expectations reasonable some of the time? None of the time? All of the time? 
Sometimes it can be tough to realize that the expectations you were held to as a child were not reasonable. Often, the things we hold our kids to even when they aren’t quite capable is because somewhere deep down our brains remember that that type of behavior was a hard NO. Get in the habit of asking yourself if the expectation you have set is actually reasonable or not. 

How can my responses change in order to honor God’s developmental design? 
This is a great area for growth for all of us! Get to know God in a personal way. Learn from how he teaches you. Meditate on the fruit of the spirit, the characteristics of love, the way God is. Take it to heart and dwell on it. Look for opportunities to apply it. 

What would repentance look like in my relationship with my very young child? 
Repentance is a beautiful piece of the gospel that is often misunderstood and misrepresented. As parents, we have the perfect opportunity to demonstrate repentance and restoration. Repentance is not (as many of us were shown) a person being forced to say they’re sorry and then feeling bad about it. It is one of the first steps toward living peacefully with one another and working toward that peace. Guess what, as parents, we mess up and rob peace from our homes sometimes. It is a great opportunity to model humble repentance without shame or fear. I encourage you to evaluate where there are instances in your family that you can demonstrate this repentance and restoration process of the gospel to your kids.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again…the realistic goal isn’t to immediately be a perfect parent. It isn’t possible.  

The psalmist sums it up well for us–

“Turn from evil and do good; Seek peace and pursue it.” Psalm 34:14

Maybe that looks a little different for all of us. But we are working at imitating the same person–Jesus. Please be gentle with yourself. And if you need to see people just like you, breaking these abusive cycles, learning to heal, and seeking peace + kindness, come join our online community! From family mentoring, prayer times, and suggestion boards we have each others’ backs. We’d love to have yours too. Learn more about The  Mentorship here


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