As a parent I try really hard to train and guide my children in the right path. Sometimes that requires making decisions for them. Other times it requires my children making their own decisions and then learning from them.
My goal in parenting is to not control my children. I don’t want to make them believe what I believe. I don’t want to be the Holy Spirit for them. I want them to learn what it means to live in a way that is pleasing to God.
So recently I tested this out on my 11-year-old son. A couple of years ago he had asked if he could play this online game. The game is based on what I believe are anti-Biblical truths. The game just doesn’t really line up with our faith so I told him, “No.”
Just this week he asked me again about the game. He started off by saying that he “knows better” and doesn’t understand what the big deal is. So this time I wanted to leave the decision in his hands. I said to him, “Well I tell you what…you can play the game if you can do this” and I went on to state that if he could say that he feels totally comfortable playing that game with Jesus sitting right beside him then go for it.
I told him to give it some thought and get back to me on an answer. I could tell he didn’t really know what to do. Here I was putting it in his hands to make the decision, something he isn’t very used to.
To be honest, what I expected to happen is that he was going to come back two seconds later and say he thought about it and thinks it's fine. However, much to my surprise, he didn’t return and he never brought it up again.
He made the final decision and I believe it was a good one. It was a lesson to me. I don’t always have to tell my children what to do. They can figure out on their own if something is right for them. Of course, it helps to bring into the discussion what Jesus would think. As I have explained to my children quite often, He really is there sitting beside you and He sees and hears everything.
It reminds me of the once popular phrase we used in Christian circles, “What would Jesus do?” There really is something to that. If we can allow our children the chance to really think about, then maybe they would make wiser decisions than we give them credit for.
I see many Christian parents who try to do more than just instill beliefs; they try to force them down their children’s throats. The problem with that is that it’s not really genuine then. It is something they are being told they must do rather than it becoming something that is from their own heart.
Let your children make some of their own decisions. They may surprise you. But the reality is that they may also disappoint you. Just know that sometimes the greatest lessons learned are the ones that come from our mistakes.