As my daughter-in-law Rebecca approached the birth of her first child, she listened to the comments of young parents around her, looking for a hint of what her life might soon be like.
While paying attention, she noticed a dismaying trend.
Many parents would make a laundry list of complaints about the difficulties of raising children, then finish with the remark, “Oh, but I wouldn’t trade being a parent for anything.”
Really? thought Rebecca. Because you make it sound pretty miserable.
Well, good news—parenting doesn’t need to be miserable and exhausting! In fact, it’s meant to bring you great happiness.
Yes, those early months wreak havoc with your sleep, and there are sacrifices to be made. But on the whole, being a mom or dad is designed to be a rewarding, fulfilling, joyful responsibility.
Here’s the problem, though. If you buy into the world’s way of doing things, you’ll experience a lot more stress than you will joy.
That’s because our culture saturates you with false messages about what a good parent looks like.
There’s pressure to put your children first, involve them in endless activities, worry about their performance in school, stress out over their self-esteem, and so on.
To counteract these false messages, here are two parenting precepts to keep in mind:
1. You’re a parent, not a playmate.
Parenting, especially in the early years of your child’s life, is not primarily about friendship—it’s about loving authority.
The God-given parental authority which you exercise over your young children keeps them from harm and shapes their character.
Our culture would have us believe children are naturally wise. God says exactly the opposite—they are naturally foolish and therefore need discipline (Proverbs 22:16).
Later on, as your son or daughter grows into adulthood, you can enjoy a wonderful friendship with him or her—but that’s determined by your willingness to be the parent now.
If you try to be their BFF while they’re growing up, you will rob your children of what they need most from you.
Of course, you can spend time with your children simply playing with them–but that’s not your primary role or responsibility.
2. You’re a parent, not God.
No dad or mom wakes up in the morning saying, “Today I think I’ll take the place of God in my kids’ lives.”
However, we can go there by trying to carry the weight of our children’s well-being.
When we buy into the notion that our kids must always feel happy and successful and awesome, we fail to allow them the real life experiences of disappointment, criticism, frustration and failure.
Instead of shaping their characters (which is our job), we actually get in the way of the process, nudging God aside in an ironic attempt to feel better about ourselves.
Remember, while you parent your kids, God parents you.
He allows you to go through hard stuff, right? He doesn’t spare you from everything. He lets your feelings get hurt sometimes. He isn’t threatened by your temper tantrums.
And he’s the one who gave you the children you have.
You’re a mother or a father to them—not a playmate, and not God.
May your joy increase this coming year!