Parenting Series: Believing the Best Before Assuming the Worst
According to I Corinthians 13:7, agape love “believes all”. This can pretty much be summed up with the word confidence. When we believe God, we are putting our trust in His ability to do the things He says He will do on our behalf. When we show confidence in God, we act in a way that aligns with our heart beliefs.
Parenting with the love of Christ is contrary to our normal go-to parenting moves. God’s example of grace, mercy, and patience is a high standard. We aren’t expected to achieve perfectionism, but we are to make every effort to grow in the knowledge and wisdom of Christ. It will take work to train ourselves to practice building confidence in our kids, even as their own growth disappoints at times.
When my son was entering his first day of first grade, the parents were allowed to walk them to their room, see their desk, and then say goodbye. I was the last parent to leave as I had a PTA job to do, and I was in the hallway looking in at my son standing in front of the teacher looking confused. The teacher hollered for everyone to take their seat. She gently turned my son by his shoulders to usher him to his desk. He quickly returned to stand in front of her and this time she huffed and scolded him to find his seat. I tried not to intervene, but the situation was frustrating to watch. As my son came to stand in front of her again, she sort of snapped. He finally spoke up and said that he was trying, but she was standing right in front of his desk! She muttered something and moved aside for him to take his chair.
This story illustrates our tendency as adults to doubt a child’s ability to follow directions or show confidence that they are trying to do the right thing. We may miscommunicate and jump to the wrong conclusions at times without stopping to listen to their voices. We want to bark orders without allowing them an opportunity to act obediently.
Imitating the love of Christ means believing the best before assuming the worst.
In what ways do we struggle to practice “believing all” with our children?
Here are some ways that we might unknowingly allow mistrust to taint our relationship with our kids:
- Do we catch ourselves growing hypercritical of all of their actions based upon past behaviors and actions? While they might exhibit patterns that need to be addressed, we have to guard against forming negative intentions toward them before they act. Just as God does not hold our past transgressions against us, so we must learn to start anew with the daily discipline and love we offer to our kids.
- Do we hear ourselves labeling them a certain way to our friends and family? Labels box them in and often hinder their growth as they form a deep-seated thought/belief that they aren’t capable of overcoming and changing. Do we value their uniqueness or make it a negative?
- Do we always assume that they are up to no good and go charging in to scold before hearing the whole story? Be slow to speak and slow to wrath. Listening is an important parenting tool.
- Do our negative attitudes about a child cause us to doubt the possibility of God using them or maturing them in their faith? We need to ask God to remind us of His great love for our kids and the power that He has to change lives.
- How often do we hear ourselves saying, “you NEVER ______”, “you ALWAYS ________”, or “why can’t you do ANYTHING right?”. We are to encourage one another to good works and not become a stumbling block to their growth through discouragement. This includes our children.
- As parents, do we feel a rift or separation with a specific child (children) because we have forgotten to believe in our children? Have we lost the ability to see them clearly through the eyes of Christ and the image bearers they are?
Practice Rejoicing in the Truth
I Corinthians 13:7 also says that love rejoices in the truth. In order to apply this to parenting, we need to know what truth is. Scripture is clear that children will behave like children (I Cor. 13:11). They are valuable and blessings for us to enjoy (Psalm 127:3). It is our job to train and plow the ground to make it fertile for seeds of truth to sprout up in their hearts and minds (Ephesians 6:4). They are wonderfully made and never to be seen as anything less (Psalm 139:14). God warns those who mistreat and discourage children from coming to Him (Matthew 18:6). We can be guilty of not believing all or failing to rejoice in truth toward our kids if we aren’t purposeful to avoid the pitfalls listed above and intentionally seek to train our minds with Scriptural truth. We can never have too many reminders!
With God as our example, what do we know to be true?
- God is for us (Romans 8:31). Therefore, we need to seek to be for our kids. They need to actually know that we are rooting for them to grow and succeed and not fail. Words matter here.
- God sets us up for success and equips us with what we need to live unto godliness (2 Peter 1:3). How are you setting your kids up for success? If we know they have a hard time behaving when they are tired, do we seek to give them the rest they need consistently or do we drag them around until they are ready to drop and then scold them for being immature, tired humans.
- As undeserving and unreliable as we are, God chooses to use us to fulfill His purpose in the world (Romans 8:28). Think on that for a moment. This speaks to His belief in us to be faithful and obedient to His will for our lives. He already knows we will stumble at times, but yet He shows confidence in us through giving us a purpose. God gifted us with His Spirit to lead and guide us to stand and be faithful. How can we honor the gifts that have been placed in our own children? How can we nurture their spiritual gifts to be used for spreading the gospel to the world? How can we show confidence in their gifts by allowing them to stretch and grow without fear of failing? A home should be a place of hope and grace. Hope that God is working and not done with any of us yet. Grace to forgive and encourage one another to get back up and keep moving forward. Christ never deems us unsalvageable. May we never condemn our kids but believe that God has them and is always working on their behalf.
Choosing a Better Way
Let us make every effort to train ourselves as parents to “believe all”; to believe the good before jumping to the bad. To have a faith that God knows what He is doing by giving these children specifically to us as parents. May we work to believe in their abilities and gifts, their ability to change and mature, and to be quicker to listen than to accuse.
This is the way of Christ. Aren’t you thankful He loves us this way?
What is one small thing you can do today to shift your negative attitudes toward your children from one of mistrust to hopeful belief?
As a parent of two adult sons, and now as a grandmother of six, I try to choose my words wisely because I know from my own childhood how painful poorly chosen words can hurt. Thanks for this insightful post, Terri.
Yes, words are powerful and can linger for a lifetime. As the book of James says, our tongue has the power to destroy or give life. As parents, we should always seek first to speak life! Thank you for taking the time to read and enter the conversation!