Never Forget: You Need What Your Kids Need

Life without Limits

I’d been watching my son, Tim, over several days increasingly lose control of his life: spending endless time watching videos on his phone, scattering his belongings all over the house, inhaling any and all baked goods in huge quantities—in short, living a life without limits. 

I knew I needed to bring this to his attention, but I also knew it could easily feel demoralizing, especially if I came across as having my act together. So I chose to tell him about a recent night where I had lost all self-control. 

Sunday nights can be a real struggle for me with the television. As a pastor, Sunday is the end of my week, and instead of being a day that eases into my day off, it’s the point toward which my whole week has been building. It’s a very public day shared with several hundred people that often climaxes with preaching two services. At the end of it, all I want is some kind of numb, and the TV promises to deliver just that. 

It’s so easy to mindlessly surf the channels, moving from one station to the next to the next to the next—not because I care about any of the things I’m watching, but because when I’m watching, I don’t have to think, I don’t have to feel, and I don’t have to process the day. It’s essentially an electronic drug. And just like other numbing drugs, you can never get enough.

So I told Tim about the night when I had been bouncing back and forth between The World Series and Sunday Night Football till they both ended, at which point I started in on reruns of Elementary and Person of Interest. And I told him about how I knew I needed to stop and just go to bed, but I kept watching anyway while the clock hands spun around from 11:00 to 11:30 to 12:00 until I was finally able to turn it off at 12:30. It sounds ridiculous, but I needed the power of God to manage even that. That’s the level of my need.

Building Bridges with Confession

It was helpful for Tim to hear he’s not alone in his struggles, and that I get how impossible it feels to say no to yourself—and that Jesus doesn’t abandon us even then. We can still run to him for help and change because he still loves us. 

We had a good conversation without any hint of defensiveness. It was similar to other times when I’ve told on myself for gossiping, bullying, being violent, stealing, eating too much, drinking too much, seeing things I shouldn’t, lying, and manipulating. 

Similar to the apostle Paul’s experience, I’ve seen those confessions build bridges simply by acknowledging what is obvious to everyone: that I don’t have my act together, but I know someone who loves me anyway and is working overtime to change me.

Being vulnerable has also had the unexpected effect of getting help for me. The very next Sunday after our conversation, Tim poked his head into the den on his way to bed and said, “Make sure you get to bed before 12:30 tonight, okay?” 

And I did. But only because I had someone boldly step into my world to speak honestly to me—someone who understands my weaknesses and has learned to step into places with his words to help others who struggle the same way he does. Without him, I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have made it that night. 

You need what you’re offering to your kids. And they need to know that you’re aware of your own needs and even more aware of your Savior, who meets each one.


Content adapted from Parenting with Words of Grace by William P. Smith. This article first appeared on Crossway.org; used with permission. 

Photo of William P. Smith

William P. Smith

William P. Smith (PhD, Rutgers University; MDiv, Westminster Theological Seminary) is a pastor, author, and retreat speaker who has served several churches, been a faculty member of the Christian Counseling & Educational Foundation, and taught practical theology at Westminster Theological Seminary. He is the author of Loving Well (Even If You Haven't Been) and numerous other books and booklets.

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