A parent centered home is just as much an abomination to the Lord as a child centered home. The difference is that in a child-centered home the world sees tantrums at Wal-Mart and the little girl tell her mommy, “Get me that ice cream. Now!” But in a parent centered home the children are often well-behaved. They will not throw tantrums, at least publicly. They will work hard. They will obey. But for all the wrong reasons. The parents are what the home revolves around. Too many parents discipline and train their children from selfish motives. Why does the parent train the child? Because the parent wants an easier life. The goal is not spreading God’s Kingdom. The goal is not service to others. The goal is not the good of the child. The goal is making the parent look good, making sure the parents aren’t embarrassed, and making sure things are easy for the parents. There is a word for this: selfishness.
But you will say, “Isn’t the problem in our world out of control children?” Yes…in the world. However, in conservative churches the problem is usually not out of control children. The problem is parents who discipline from selfish motives. And the motives matter. The “why” is important. It is easy to assume that if our children are well-behaved we are fine parents. That is a deadly assumption and the mother of a plastic surgery Christianity, where we try to look one way, but the reality is something different. Many Christian parents cover their own selfish motives for parenting with Bible verses and pious sounding phrases. But the child knows.
A child should grow up knowing what the parent does, their discipline, their training, teaching them chores, making them do their homework, making them sit still worship, and playing with them is done for the Lord and for the child and not for the parent’s ease and comfort. The child should know and see that the parent is sacrificing for them. The parents should be pouring themselves out for their children. By this I do not mean, spoiling them with things, though a parent should be a thoughtful and generous gift giver. But all the little acts that cost. The time spent talking and training them. The time to bath them and teach them manners. Letting them play in the mud despite the extra laundry. Taking them to the store with you despite the extra time it takes. Reading that book again and again. Watching a movie the teenagers want to watch instead of what you want to. Taking the five year old fishing even though you will spend more time untangling lines than fishing. Teaching them chores not so you can be more productive, but so the child will grow and mature. In all these works, the parent should be sacrificing for the child. The parent should not be manipulating the child so the parent’s life will be easier.
Also the parent should not sacrifice not so the child will sacrifice for the parent. A parent who says or thinks, “I did this for you, now you do this for me” does not understand grace. No. The parent should sacrifice for the child because it is the right thing to do before the Lord in the hopes that the child will come to understand God’s kindness and go out and sacrifice for others. The goal cannot be the parent’s ease, comfort, reputation, or glory.
Does this sound harsh and offensive? Only to those who think much of themselves and little of their sin. Parents, we fail at this daily. Often what we do for our children is not driven by love but by selfishness. There is good news though and yes it is Jesus. Christ came because we are failures. He came to forgive. If you are a parent and not daily confessing your heart sins there is a problem. He is faithful. He can cleanse us. But he also came to give us victory over our sins, not just forgiveness. So confess that you are too selfish with your children. Thank Jesus for his shed blood. Get up off your knees forgiven by God. Then go out and start teaching and training your children, not for your sake, but for theirs. Not to protect your reputation, but to protect their souls. Learn to ask what is best for the child and not what is easiest for you. Pour yourself out with little thought to what you might gain. “But that is so hard and painful,” you say. Yes dying is.