Tonight I was filling cups with ice in the kitchen for our Wednesday night meal at church. Three year old Emerald and her buddy Kendall were sitting on the counter next to me, chatting. When it was time to bless the meal, I told the girls to bow their heads and close their eyes. They did. But, right as the prayer started, I peeked at the girls just as Emerald leaned over toward her friend and whispered, I don’t like praying.
I shushed her again and giggled to myself about the pastor’s child feeling the need to say that out loud during the blessing. But, in my younger years as a mother, a comment like that from one of my kids would have shook me up. I probably would have wondered what I’m doing wrong or if she is already beginning to resent church. But, the longer I have mothered and the longer I have watched my children grow and change, the more I have learned that comments like this mean very little about the spiritual health of my kids. So, I thought it might be helpful to compile a small list of things that should NOT make you panic as a Christian parent.
Christian Kids Having Doubts
This topic comes up from time to time in our house. Our ten year old has been a Christian for several years, but she will occasionally come to us and bring up some objections that people have to the truths of Scripture. She will ask us how we know that God is real, and that Christianity is true. This is not something that should cause us, as parents, to freak out and decide that if our kids are bringing up these questions, then they don’t truly believe.
The fact is that it’s great for kids to ask these questions and to have their faith strengthened by the answers. Christian parents sometimes live under the false notion that if kids want further proof of the truth of Scripture, then they don’t have enough faith or they don’t understand their salvation. This is not necessarily true. Children, like all people, grow in knowledge when they ask questions, especially weighty questions. When my kids ask, What about this? What about that? it shows me that they aren’t just blindly repeating back to us what they’ve heard in Sunday school, but they’re critically thinking through their faith and what Christianity means and how it came to be and why it matters. Christianity is not just a faith of the heart or soul. It’s also a faith of the mind, and we shouldn’t be worried when our kids want to engage in discussions that show they’re thinking. In fact, we should be encouraged by it.
Kids Not Wanting to Go to Church
We would all love to have our kids cheer with excitement when we say we’re going to church, but that doesn’t always happen. It doesn’t mean that our kids are being scarred for life or that they are having a bad experience in church.
Sometimes kids just aren’t feeling it. They would rather stay home and play with their toys. They find parts of church boring. When Adelade was a baby, she actually had a personality conflict with another baby in the nursery. It was the weirdest thing. But, it happens.
It’s always a good idea to talk with your kids and make sure that nothing is going on at church that needs to be dealt with. But, in most cases, kids are just moody little beings, and they don’t always want to go where we want them to go. We don’t panic when our child who loves McDonald’s is in a funk and insists that he doesn’t want to eat there. So, there’s really no reason to read too much into a child’s protests about going to church. Our job as parents is just to be faithful to have our kids there, and if the programming needs improvement, if we can see why our kids are complaining, then we should step in, volunteer, help out, and try to make it a better, more fun, more inviting environment for them.
Kids Lying, Talking Back, Being Stubborn, Being Selfish
Sinners are gonna sin. We should absolutely hold our kids to high standards of behavior. But, we can’t and shouldn’t decide that because eight year olds will occasionally tell a lie to try to get themselves out of trouble, that they are not being called and changed and sanctified by the Holy Spirit.
I’m not saying we shouldn’t care. We should care more than anyone else when our kids are sinning. We should care, and we should establish firm limits and we should be consistent in our discipline. But, we should not blow things out of proportion because of our fears or our embarrassment. As Christian parents, we always have to keep in mind that our kids need grace just as much as we do. Not a lack of discipline, but understanding in conjunction with the discipline, because we all know how it feels to sin, to disobey, to be corrected. When we panic about our child’s behavior, we tend to overreact, get sinfully angry, and fail to teach the appropriate spiritual lessons that would point our kids toward Christ.
Kids say and do lots of things in the course of their childhoods. Not everything is a red flag. If we parent with prayer and backbone and grace and lots of deep breaths, then I think God can use us to consistently direct our kids in His ways. We are called to this job, so that means if we keep seeking His face, He will equip us to do what’s best. Happy panic-free parenting!