Why Most Christian Parenting Advice Makes a Dangerous, Wrong Assumption

Most Christian parenting advice means well, but it forgets one key thing.

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So last week I began a series on raising spiritually minded children.  I’ve been questioning what I really want to communicate through this series. Because “10 Ways to Raise Spiritually Minded Kids” may be helpful…but it isn’t the best parenting advice I could ever give you.

For that, there’s something I really need to say.

So here goes.

Most of the “Christian” parenting stuff I read seems inherently wrong.

Because: It operates on the basic assumption that the parent is good.

For example:

We want to spend time with our kids but we don’t know how.

Solution: 101 things to do with your toddler.

We deeply desire to speak kindly and show patience when correcting our rebellious child; we just can’t seem to pull it off.

Solution: How to stop yelling in 30 days.

We receive joy at the prospect of selflessly serving our children, even when they are mean and unlovely; but we lack the time to do it.

Solution: Organize your life and live on cloud nine (!!!!!).

But what about when you don’t want what’s right or you don’t desire to deny yourself or don’t receive joy in well doing? What then?

What is inherently missing in the self help sort of approach to writing parenting articles is that it doesn’t get at the root of our most basic issue. It does not answer the fundamental question of “What do I do with my sin?” Because honestly, most of the time it isn’t that I don’t know how to spend quality time with my children; it’s that other things are more important.

Let’s just be honest.

And sometimes I downright resent the demands of my family and am perfectly content to give them my leftovers. What of that?

I am not saying I never enjoy my children or delight in serving them; but there is no point in reading and pinning an article that gives me ideas when what I really need is my sin issue dealt with. No expert can give me 3 quick steps to obliterating selfishness. Neither is there an eBook on miraculously changing my hard heartedness or removing self protection from my marriage bed.

That’s because only the Gospel can do that.

The last thing I want to do on my blog is give 10 steps without giving real hope. Friends, there is hope in the gospel. Let it be heard in sin-sick hearts everywhere.

Your sin issue? Is dealt with. The gospel tells us that we CAN change and we CAN live godly and we CAN reflect God’s glory and we CAN be the aroma of Christ in our home and we CAN change the legacy of our family line.

Because of Christ.

There is an allure to “10 Ways” and “Top Five” and “How to…” articles to be sure (which is why people write them.) But we need to know where to turn when facing the depth of depravity in our own mom heart– the heart that is supposed to nurture, protect, and selflessly serve your own but, in fact, does not.

At best, much of what’s out there can give tips and direction for us after we lay the foundation of the gospel. At worst, much of what’s out there can give us the appearance of wisdom but offer no help in curbing sin and self.

You need to go back to the gospel when you just used your authority to manipulate your child’s heart because she annoyed you. And when you’re confronted with the reality that you do not, can not, will not parent without using shame or condemnation. And when you are stingy with your affection or lazy in your daily routines and a thousand other times. (And if you haven’t been confronted by the depth of your own parenting depravity, just give it some time… you will be.)

Here’s the thing: we are sinners. We are fallen. Not only that, but our sin isn’t just the “little white lie” variety, the sort that’s cute and seemingly harmless. No, our sin is raunchy, deep, and utterly destructive. There’s no 10 step, 30 day, how-to solution deep enough to fix that.

Friends, I need the GOSPEL, for it is the power of God unto salvation.

I need the gospel that tells me Jesus Christ came to save sinners, of whom I am chief, and this is a trustworthy statement that I can rely upon when my heart resents being in a hot kitchen serving ungrateful children.

The gospel I need to hear is that God can take an entire day’s worth of mommy failures and redeem them and make all things new and when I wake up in the morning, even before the sun is up, He is eager and waiting for me and runs to meet me anew with buckets full of fresh grace and mercy.

That’s what I need to know.

I need to know that I’ve been redeemed from my own sin and I’ve not been appointed for stumbling when those temptations come and I’ve been set apart for worthy purposes and given everything I need to live godly and that even when I fail… and I will… God Himself is faithful because He cannot be anything else and He will complete what He started and accomplish what concerns me.

And when I do long to display Christ in my home yet fail… and fail… and fall short of that Glory yet again, I need to know that as true as my falling is, it is not the final word because God says it isn’t the one who works who is justified, but the one who trusts God… because He justifies the ungodly.

Day after day.

Friends, I need the gospel.

I need to know the same God that gave Abraham a promised son is the same God who gives life to dead things even now, even here, and calls into being things that are not. There is, in fact, hope for me. (Romans 4:17)

I need to know that the God who feeds the birds every morning and directs them where to go promises to multiply my seed for sowing today and will produce a harvest of righteousness in me. (II Cor 9:8)

That’s the kind of parenting article I need. That’s the hope of the gospel.

Sure, I can learn from 10 steps and 30 days and 100 tips, and heaven knows I need those menu plans and recipes… but not without the foundation of the gospel. The gospel foundation tells me I CAN eat healthy because God has redeemed me from the worthless. The gospel foundation tells me I CAN relate with my children on a deeper level because Christ is there, whispering in my ear “this is the way, walk in it.” The gospel foundation says that I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Not because I am good and need some self help, but because I am horribly evil and have no hope of helping myself whatsoever and don’t ever have to. Christ has done it all and because of that, I can change.

Hallelujah, we have the gospel!

For the Christian, there’s no such thing as self help. Yes, there’s an allure to it but the real hope is the gospel. Oh how deep, rich, and sufficient it is! This depraved mommy heart needs it.

Desperate momma, get to the gospel! What you need pumping through your veins isn’t Pinterest. What you need in your face isn’t Facebook. Your secret sauce is not in the kitchen and your biggest help isn’t somebody’s blog. Momma, let the word of Christ dwell in you richly… because the gospel is the power of God for your salvation, the moment by moment redemption of a momma’s life.

This post originally appeared at ArabahJoy.com.

Arabah Joy
Arabah Joy is wife to Jackson, adoptive and biological mom to 4 little ones, and missionary to East Asia. Her adventures span far and wide, from eating pig snouts to giving birth in three different Asian countries. Mostly though, she is a broken woman redeemed by grace. She has written several books including the 40 day devotional, Trust Without Borders. You can find out more and connect with her at ArabahJoy.com.

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