The Biggest Problem with Your Parenting

God’s grace rescues you from you. When you are frustrated, mad, discouraged, unkind, abusive, bitter, joyless, vengeful, or irritated as a parent, you don’t so much need to be rescued from your children—you need to be rescued from you.

Pretend that I have a bowl of water in my hands and I shake it vigorously and water splashes out of the bowl. And suppose I ask you why water spilled out of the bowl, and you answer that it spilled because I shook it. It all sounds pretty logical, doesn’t it? But the answer is only partially correct.

Why did water splash out of the bowl? Because water was in the bowl. If the bowl had been filled with milk, you could shake it for an eternity and water would never spill out of it. In the same way, it is very important for parents to understand and humbly admit that when we are shaken by the sin, weakness, rebellion, foolishness, or failure of our children, what comes out of us (words, actions, attitudes) is what is already inside us. 

This means that my biggest, ongoing problem as a dad is not my children, it’s me. My children don’t cause me to do and say what I do and say. No, the cause of my actions is found inside my own heart. My children are simply the occasion where my heart reveals itself in words and actions.

So I need much more than just rescue and relief from my children; I need rescue from me. This is why Jesus came, to provide us with the rescue that we all need but that we cannot provide for ourselves.

If you blame your children for your bad attitudes, actions, and words, not only will you embitter them, but in blaming them, you will fail to reach out for the help that is yours in the rescuing, forgiving, and transforming grace of Jesus. And because you shift the blame, you will fail to grow as a parent and you will repeat the same patterns over and over again. When you are willing to confess that you’re the biggest problem in your parenting, you are on the road to very good things in you and in your work with your kids.

This is article is adapted from Parenting: The 14 Gospel Principles That Can Radically Change Your Family by Paul David Tripp. Used with permission from Crossway.