Loving Our Children Enough to be Honest
by Kristina Matz
When our oldest was just a little guy and learning how to talk, I had a dear friend who had been a preschool teacher for many years. Our son had poor pronunciation and she once advised me to simply correct him every time he spoke a word incorrectly. I can still remember how I kindly responded with some sort of halfway acknowledgment, but ultimately knew I was not going to do what she had recommended. I thought the idea was unkind. I believed that he would “figure it out” over time and it wasn’t necessary to hurt his little feelings in the meantime.
As parents, and probably mostly as moms, we can often look for ways to avoid “harsh truths” with our children in order to spare their feelings. While our son’s speech is one clear example of this, I admit I did it many times when he was much younger. Not forcing him to say “hi” because he was too shy. Not wanting to correct his childish statements and observations that simply were not true. But with the help of incredible mentors throughout the years and, most importantly, an increased intake of the perfect Word of God, I have grown to see the problems with the early approach to my children’s’ feelings.
Short-Term Ease, Long-Term PainEach and every time that we avoid a truth, we will inevitably deal with the consequences. This is no less true when we are talking about our children and how we present truth to them. With my son, for example, my inactive role in correcting his speech led to real and difficult problems when it was time for him to learn how to read. As he had learned to hear and say words incorrectly, he was unable to rightly hear and read key sounds such as “s” and “p”. I can remember watching him cry as he struggled to read and thinking back to that sweet friend of mine. She had given me wonderful and wise counsel, but my fear of “hurting” my son had led me to ignore her. In doing so, I did a far greater disservice to him that the original act of simply telling him the truth.
While we may cause short-term pain or discomfort to our children by sharing harder truths with them, we are ultimately rescuing them from the greater consequences of ignoring those truths. And isn’t this true for every Christian? Every act of self-denial for the sake of obedience is painful. But the slight pain of denial cannot be compared to the devastating pain that we feel as a result of indulgence in sin. Helping our children to walk graciously through these short-term pains is another wonderful opportunity that God has provided us to train them for a life submitted to Christ.
Loving Ourselves Rather Than Loving Our ChildrenOften times, the hardest reality to face is that we are being entirely selfish when we “shield” our children from the pain of these truths. Yes, I still believe that there is a part of us that truly wants to protect our children from something difficult. But if we are honest we can see that the person we are really trying to protect is ourselves. It makes us uncomfortable to see them uncomfortable. It causes us pain to see them in pain. We blind ourselves completely to any long-term effects from shielding them from these truths because we are so hung up on the short-term pain we will be causing ourselves.
What if Paul had nurtured his spiritual children in this way? Paul was the father of many churches and he bore the pain and grief that came along with this role. Yet he never shielded his “children” from the truth when it needed to be told. He was a man of unabashed truths drenched in unceasing love. And this is the model that we need to look to when it comes to telling our children difficult truths. When our children have learned to trust our love for them, they will learn to trust the truth we deliver to them.
The Most Important TruthIf we are unwilling to correct our children’s speech or force them to say “hello” to a new adult, chances are that we won’t be telling our children they are sinners. Maybe we will in the very broad, “all have sinned and fallen short” way of telling them, but we won’t go any deeper. And please understand that I am not belittling the very serious reality of Romans 3:23, but I am suggesting that we also need to be specific with our children.
If our children only grow up thinking that all of humanity has sinned, it may be difficult to connect their own personal sin with the need for their own, very personal Savior. It is vitally important that we help our children to understand that they are sinners who sin every single day. Every single day they need to be rescued from their sinful state before a holy God. When they talk back to you, that is sinful (Philippians 2:14). When they yell at a sibling or friend, that is sinful (Proverbs 15:1). When they fail to obey you right away, that is sinful (Ephesians 6:1). When they fail to put someone else above themselves, that is sinful (Philippians 2:3). All throughout the day, we will have opportunities to call sin, sin.
Maybe even as you read this you are starting to recoil and think of us as incredibly harsh parents who only discourage our children. I get it. I know I would’ve felt the same way when our oldest was a little guy struggling with his “s” sounds. But I think we struggle because we picture this being done in a harsh and unloving environment. Imagine, though, sitting your child down after a time of correction for their sin and reminding them that their behavior is indeed sinful, but then pointing them back to the solution for their sin (1 Corinthians 15:3-4). Imagine coming alongside them, as a sinner yourself, and reminding them of your own need for a Savior. Even as saved Christians, we still need our Savior daily to help us to obey and to forgive us when we don’t. We need to remember that Paul was overtly direct but fierce in his love, even willing to trade his own salvation for the sake of those who were lost (Romans 9:3). When we make our children aware of their sin in a loving and biblical way, we draw them that much closer to Christ with each truth. We even draw them that much closer to us.
“Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy.” - Proverbs 27:6Real love always revolves around the truth. And if we truly love our children then we will always tell them the truth, no matter the cost.