Sometimes I look at my 15 month old with pure puzzlement. His mom and I have spent tons of time teaching our little man to “Stop” on command. Most days, I get to praise my little guy for following our command like a well-trained soldier. But then a few moments later, my little dude starts wandering toward the road, regarding his old man’s voice with a happy indifference. I can’t help but think, “Son, you know this doesn’t end well. What are you doing?”
Knowing that my little man can barely communicate with words, I’m not too surprised at his inability to appreciate what happens when two foot tall people meander down the road. But he does know that disobeying his parents is not the path to a happy ending. And yet, he repeatedly disobeys, leaving his Dad thinking, “Come on, man.”
But the ultimate cause of my frustration is not my son. It’s me. As Dr. Randy Stinson of Southern Seminary reminded our church last weekend, we often get frustrated with our kids because we (parents) have unrealistic expectations. Namely, we want our kids to get sanctified faster than us. We want our kids to learn the importance of obedience within a few days or weeks. Yet, we struggle with sins for years without even a second thought. Now most of us aren’t fighting against the temptation to walk in front of a car. But, we are battling lust, greed, anger, laziness and a whole catalogue of other issues. No one (including us) expects us to overcome lust within a day or to conquer anger within the next week. But because we are impatient people, we can easily expect our kids to perfectly grasp our system for their life within a few minutes.
God gives us grace, and repeatedly. And, we should extend that same grace and patience towards our kids. Sure, we must faithfully discipline our kids when they sin. Discipline (when done with love) is a sign of grace and we can’t tirer of it. But, we also can’t be surprised that our kids disappoint us. We too are sinners in need of grace.
I need to extend more grace to my son. How about you? Do you parent with ridiculously high expectations? How do you balance grace and discipline?