You’d dreamed about being a parent.
You’d picked up a few precious parenting tips from friends.
You’d prepared your home for months. A newly built crib lay silently in the corner of your room, pastel decals floating on the newly painted walls, a stack of neatly folded onesies (size NB) laid attentively on an oak wood changing table.
You’d read books and blogs on parenting.
You’d already entered your email into Babycenter.com, of course, and were ready to track his progress.
You even expertly scoured your childhood memories, searching diligently for any mistakes your parent had made, vowing silently and solemnly you would never make their mistakes to your children.
So, when you returned from the hospital with your newborn you were sure you had brought home an angel.
Years had sprinted by (without your permission), and you swear that this is not the same angel you brought from the hospital…
Doors are slammed, words are yelled, and soon enough you can’t take a trip down the street without refereeing a control contest.
You child is Rebellious, angry, distant.
The Painful Truth: Most Parents will fail to captivate their children’s hearts and cause any lasting change
Why is this?
Of course you know that Parenting is hard. That’s no secret.
Paul Tripp defines parenting as “one flawed person giving flawed wisdom and guidance to grow and mature another flawed person.”
D. Moody points out that failure is inevitable. Though you may live on the mountains of perfection, your chid would still live in the valley of human depravity. In his book “Notes from My Bible” (read free), famed preacher Dwight Moody wrote:
“Saint Augustine said he did not know but that his family would turn out bad, for In the family of:
Adam there was a murderous Cain
In the family of Noah, a scoffing Ham
In the family of Abraham, a persecuting Ishmael
In the family of Isaac, a profain Esau.
In the family of David, an undutiful Absalom
In the family of Elisha, a lying Gehazi.
Within the disciples of Jesus, a traitorous Judas”
He also later observes, “The first grave in the Bible was dug by a brother.”
So parenting is hard. But I’m trying! How come nothing is working? Why can’t I captivate my child’s heart?
Why do we fail, though we try through the stress of work and personal challenges?
Paul Tripp holds a timely, though ancient, answer that may be the spark that ignites a change in your family.
I recently watched a Conference based on his parenting book “Parenting: 14 Gospel Truths That Can Radically Change Your Family” where Tripp introduces you to 2 types of parents. Meet them both:
Meet Parent 1: Dictator Dan
Dictator Dan owns his children.
Dictator Dan believes his job is to form what his children think, and to get from them what he thinks he should get (wording is lifted directly from Tripp’s Conference).
Dictator Dan is the burning center of his children’s universe, and all that exists are his wants, and his perspective.
He gets the family in the car, and expects a peacefully quiet drive. But when his kids start singing loudly, he shouts “Quiet down!”, and flings his arm around, not stopping until someone gets hit.
Dan actually gets mad at a number of things:
- Loud Noises that disrupt his relaxing time
- Bickering that disrupts his football watching coma
- Being asked to do too much after he comes home from work (after all, Dan does so much for the family!)
- Being asked too many questions
- Unexpected chores and errands
- Anything that negatively affects his reputation- including whiny children at the grocery store
- His children not following his every order
- His children not doing every task that he assigns
The calendar pages are ripped off, and his relationship with his children crumbles. They are happy to leave Dictator Dan’s house, because they have lived under a tyrant.
Dictator Dan believes he has done a phenomenal job of parenting, but lives bitterly because his children never visit him.
Oh! Forgot to mention. He went to church his entire life. He is a Christian. But he must have skipped over these verses:
- 2 Corinthians 5 : “he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.”
- Eph. 6:4: “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.”
- Psalm 127: “Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one’s youth. Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them!”
They probably fell out when he threw his Bible at his kids for not paying attention in Sunday School.
I want you to meet another parent:
Meet Parent 2: The Ambassador Alex
Alex has a different view of parenting.
He believes that his job is to “make authority a beautiful thing” (wording from Paul Tripp).
Alex is not the center of his children’s lives. He has given that place to God, the “light behind the son” (C.S. Lewis, “Letter to Malcolm). Alex is more, a bright star: brightly present in dark times, and invisible when the Son is radiant.
Alex knows that his job as a parent is to represent God to His children, to be an ambassador, a representative.
As Tripp describes: “You(parent) are the look on His(God’s) face, the tone of His Voice”, the touch of His hands.”
Alex knows he fails constantly and his sin has consequences on his entire family, but he knows that he will be forgiven.
God never mocks or ridicules Alex, but “moves towards Him with patience and love.”
Alex also knows that “when you see or hear their sin, weakness, or failure, it is not an interruption, never an accident, hassle, not something you own. It is always grace. God loves your child, has put him in a family of faith, and will reveal his need so that you can be a tool of His rescue and transformation.”
Alex knows that when his child colors the walls, catches an attitude, or comes home hours after curfew, that he has a gracious moment to be an agent of change in his child’s life.
His children know it, and their hearts are changed.
They visit him frequently, and he has become their hero.
They wonder why other children don’t visit their parents more often. They’ve asked their neighbor, Dictator Dan, but he always seems to be in a horrendous mood.
Be an ambassador, and watch your children transform
Here is what Paul is trying to say:
“God wants you to see their brokenness and sin and weakness and will expose the needs of that child, and wants you to represent the beautiful things He wants to do in the heart of that child.”
So, be an ambassador to your children.
When you see their weakness, ask yourself, “What is God seeking to do in this moment in the heart of my child, and how can I be a part of it?”
So what are you waiting for? I hear your kids yelling in the next room. Go be God’s ambassador.
Let me know how it goes in the comments below.
Any other Dictator Dans out there? Leave your stories and I’ll be sure to respond.
Don’t forget to look into Paul Tripp’s book, where you’ll discover the tools you need to become an ambassador to your children.