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My son, Hudson, will be two in November, and while he brings his family tons of joy, his sinful nature is on full display. He has mastered the art of screaming and throwing himself on the floor when he doesn’t get his way. And when he’s really angry, he tries to hit me and pull my hair. Good times.
Caly and MJ—my two girls—are 6 and 4. They are at that really fun age where we can create family memories and build relationally. But they both struggle with emotional self-control and sometimes it feels like they cry all day long. Many days I just want to cry too.
Then I hear the phrase “gospel-centered parenting” and I want to crawl into a hole and never come out again.
It feels like yet another thing I’m not doing very well. Am I really supposed to explain God’s righteous wrath toward sin and the wonders of substitutionary atonement to MJ as she wails in despair because Caly won’t give her a turn with the toy cash register? Does gospel-centered parenting mean I have to remind Hudson of his desperate state as a sinner before a holy God, helpless to change without the power of the Holy Spirit, while he screams on the floor with one eye cocked to see if I’m taking in the performance?
Not to mention these things are happening all day long. If I am preaching the gospel to my children every time they sin, the health inspectors will soon be showing up at our door, because nothing else is gonna get done around here.
Please don’t misunderstand. I believe that all our parenting must be gospel-centered. But I think sometimes our idea of what that should look like gets muddled (at least mine does!). We can easily add on all kinds of additional and frankly unrealistic practices that aren’t in Scripture and then we feel overwhelmed by guilt that we are not “doing it right.”
But God’s commands are not burdensome (1 John 5:3). Sure, motherhood is hard work—the hardest job around. But if motherhood becomes a burden, it may be because we have added our own requirements to God’s commands. And thus, in our attempts to practice gospel-centered parenting we unintentionally miss out on grace.
We have a few more thoughts on this topic, but right now I gotta go. Hudson is throwing a fit.