How often when dealing with a particularly offensive transgression have you asked your child, “Why did you do that?” If they couldn’t answer in a satisfactory way, did it make you even more upset?
I have had that happen to me. It feels like if we could just get that “why” answered we would understand where things went wrong and be able to prevent the problem from ever happening again.
“First time obedience” is a phrase I see a lot of parents talk about. The idea being that you tell a child, once, and they obey. But the problem is that no matter how consistent we are with expecting obedience and with discipline, children mess up.
But so do we as parents, as “neighbors”. It’s because at the root, the “why” is that we are all fallen.
Why do kids lie to try to avoid trouble? Is it a character flaw? Some parenting deficit?
Or is it possible that it’s the ultimate character flaw? They’re sinners. Baptized saints and sinners still.
As Lutherans we reject the idea of an “age of accountability”. There isn’t a time where children are sinless. There isn’t a phase of life that they will reach where they will be less sinful. Both of these ideas are so pervasive, so damaging, so damning.
It’s easy to compare the best moments of other families to the worst of ours. Have you seen the family in church with little sweet children, carefully groomed, sitting quietly and attentively? Do you notice them more when you are dealing with a toddler who desperately feels like they need to be up front making noise, not the pastor?
No matter how hard we try, how many books we read, how consistently applied our method, our children will struggle and we will struggle. This parenting thing is a blessing but sometimes that statement is one of belief, not experience.
How do we parent sinners, as wretched sinners ourselves? Do we just allow them to destroy and damage and “live” it up, Old Adam leading the way?
Of course not.
We want our children to be raised in the faith. To be kind. To not do things just to serve themselves, but their neighbors.
At the core of Lutheran parenting is the wonderful gift of forgiveness. Why do kids do wrong? They’re sinners. Forgive them as they repent. Seek forgiveness for yourself. Teach them how to go forward and know that they’ll take steps back.
And be ready to forgive them when they do.