I know all my fellow moms will find this confession hard to believe, but sometimes my children do things that embarrass me. For instance, the time my son pointed to his great-grandma’s coiffed halo of white curls and said at two-year-old boy volume, “Whoa! Gwandma has CWAZY hair!” ranks as one of those moments. I’m sure your children have never done anything like that, have they?
While this was a truly mortifying offense, it was also a completely innocent one given his level of social awareness at two years old. Sometimes, though, my kids’ behavior embarrasses me because it’s sinful—perhaps disrespectful, disobedient, selfish, or unkind. When my children embarrass me with not just social blunders but actual sinful behavior, I often feel tempted to make excuses for their actions, respond harshly to them, or retreat from the situation in shame. But why am I tempted to respond this way?
The reason is that my motivation in parenting can easily become muddled. Instead of remembering that my goal is to raise children who reflect the glory of God, I often become focused on raising children who reflect the glory of me. And when they fail, rather than being grieved that they have sinned against God, I am offended that they have hurt my reputation and pride.
This is not to say that how my children behave doesn’t matter, or that I have no influence over it. It does, and I do. The Scripture is full of exhortations like Proverbs 29:17, “Discipline your son, and he will give you rest; he will give delight to your heart,” suggesting that I have a responsibility to point my children in the right direction and discipline them when they stray.
But my motivation in doing so matters as it does in all things for the Christian. As believers, we are not simply to perform the right actions, but to have the right inner posture behind those actions. So as I seek to raise respectful, obedient, generous, kind children, my goal must not be to have children who make me look good, but to help equip my children with the habits and tools to behave in ways that please God.
When I allow myself to become distracted from the aim of glorifying God through teaching my children obedience, I am more likely to feel embarrassed when they fail because I begin to view that failure primarily as a reflection on me rather than a break in their relationship with Him. Then, my pride is wounded and I respond with excuses, harsh rebuke, or humiliation.
As I teach and train my children, I must remember that they were made in God’s image, not mine. My role is to teach them how to live in right relationship with Him, not to make me look good. And when they fail to live up to His standards, this is an offense against Him, not me. When I remember this truth, I can avoid the pitfalls of becoming puffed up when they behave well and of being completely deflated when they don’t. I can deal gently but firmly with their disobedience, pointing them to their need for God’s grace which is the same need that I have, as a fellow fallen image-bearer of God. I no longer see their actions as a reflection of me, but our actions—both theirs and mine—as they relate to God. I can grieve over our shared inability to please Him on our own, while also rejoicing in His grace that is available to us both.
It is not my job to raise children who reflect the glory of me and my parenting. Rather, it’s my duty to raise children who reflect the glory of God.