Don’t Mold Your Child into your Own Image, for Their Sake and Yours

Like all of life, it seems more and more to me that parenting is a seemingly endless process of recognizing your own expectations, then embracing reality, then recalibrating your expectations based on what is. Here’s a practical example:

Let’s say that you were a straight A student in school. It wasn’t just that you were academically advanced; it’s that you actually enjoyed math and geography. Consequently, you studied hard, but it didn’t feel like work to you. Because of your experience, you likely brought that expectation to parenting. Whether you knew it or not, you expected that your child would also be a great student – self-motivated, and able to achieve a high level or recognition for their efforts.

But as the years have gone by, you’ve seen something different come to pass. Your child works hard, but as hard as they work, they are always going to be a B student. And so as a parent, you have to confront your expectations, and then recalibrate. We all do. We do it with sports, with dance, with the level of popularity – and it works both ways.

You might never have been able to dribble a football or kick a basketball, and suddenly you’ve got an athlete on your hands. You have to confront your expectations, and then recalibrate.

That willingness to recalibrate is at least part of what it means to not “stir up anger in your children, but bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord” (Eph. 6:4).

Why wouldn’t we do that? Why wouldn’t we recognize our expectations, embrace reality, and then recalibrate? It’s partly because we have this desire to mold our kids into our own image. As parents, we naturally want our kids to have our “thing.” That’s the easy, comfortable way. I know a lot about baseball, and so it’s not a difficult thing for me to show my kids how to field a ground ball, catch a pop fly, or correct their batting stance. It’s a lot more difficult to be the one dad in the group of dads who has to read the instructions on the tent before he tries to set it up, and then to ask for help from other dads because it’s getting dark outside. I want my thing to be their thing for the same reason I want everyone to have my general interests and opinions – because deep in my heart, I’m convinced that I’m right.

Problem is, my kids are created in the image of God. Not the image of me. Oh sure, they might have my genes, but God has individually and purposefully shaped them to be just as He desires them to be. My job, as their father, is to further that shaping for the sake of the kingdom of God, not to relive my own childhood through them.

Plus there is a better image for them to be molded into than ours. Our goal as parents is not to see our kids like the same movies, teams, and activities that we do – it’s to see them molded into the image of Jesus. We are out for seeing “little-Christs”, not “mini-me’s.” It’s for their own sake, then, that we release the idea that our kids will be like us in the most comfortable ways.

But it’s not only for their benefit; it’s also for ours. For us, as parents, this is one more area in which we have the opportunity to embrace the sanctifying work of Jesus in our lives as we think of others as better than ourselves. To die to ourselves. To forsake our interests in following Jesus. Our children, like our marriages, are one of the primary means by which God convicts us of our sin and brings us into maturity. One reason our children are given to us, then, is for our own discipleship.

So today, moms and dads, take up the challenge of dying to self. Put away your selfish ambition and vain conceit. Do it for the sake of your children, but do it also for the sake of your own souls.

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