You cannot bind the hearts of your children to Christ. Thinking you can becomes not merely a heavy burden on your shoulders, but an impossible burden. (Not to mention the grievous burden and weight it likely places upon your children.)
Over the past several weeks, I have listened to some audio lessons focusing on young mothering for a Sunday School series. In the course of the series, this statement made an appearance on several handouts. (Though two of the lessons in this series have been removed from the church website, the statement is still highlighted on a handout currently available here (Week 6)):
Our job as a Mom is to unbind the HEARTS of our children from foolishness and bind them to the HEART of the Lord Jesus Christ. ~to Make HEART Disciples for Jesus Christ.
So why do I even highlight this? Because this is a GOSPEL issue.
It turns the focus away from Christ, and on to self.
First, this type of parenting is looking to something other than Christ (more specifically, in addition to) for a child’s salvation. It places the weight of the child’s outcome on the shoulders of the parents, and to some degree on the systematic, ritual use of a paddle (alluded to in the statement, specified in the lessons). But the Bible doesn’t do either.
It minimizes true Biblical teaching by elevating personal application.
Second, the teaching that I’ve heard in these lessons (not just specifically the statement highlighted above) elevates their applications of Scripture to that of creedal truth, and states that any alternatives to their very specific applications are directly opposed to Scripture. This is a dangerous place to go. Although application is important, in the end it is just…application. It is not canonized truth. It is not dogma. It is application. Application elevated as dogma denigrates that which truly is.
It teaches that God’s mercy is something that we must earn.
Third, another subtheme (and even direct quote) I hear is, “The Lord is very merciful, if we do what we know is right, and we really do our best, if we are not ignorant of the Scriptures and we are not disobedient to the Scriptures.” (begins at 2:24, 10-24-2010, Lesson 8; currently removed) But my friends, that is not mercy. Anytime we attach “if” to receiving mercy, it ceases to be mercy.
It is easy to forget that parenting, much like going to the nations to make disciples, is an act of faith. It is not a contract with God where God says if you do this, then your children will turn out how you want. (Keep in mind that Proverbs are proverbs; not promises.) There is no such guarantee. I do what I do with my children because God tells me to, not because doing so guarantees a certain outcome. I do so in obedience and in faith. But I can only see my children from a human perspective; I cannot see their hearts as God can.
Why else bring do I this up? Well, when you believe that you are responsible for your children’s salvation, you will act accordingly.
You become a police officer, instead of an instructor. You conflate discipline and punishment. You become a perfectionist in your parenting. You place adult-size standards on child-size bodies and minds. (For example, a young parent is taught that a temper tantrum must always be met with a spanking. So, ever on the lookout, the well-meaning parent is determined to squelch that sign of manipulation, defiance, and selfishness as soon as it rears its ugly head in their beautiful child. They spank and spank until one, the other, or both can go no more. Then they learn that their 16-month-old had an ear infection. It was simply his way of attempting to deal with the pain. It was childishness, not foolishness. But the young parent was never offered that as a possibility, and so never questioned if something might be wrong with something other than his heart/will.)
“One mom said she was having to spank her child 6-8 times a day for not washing her hands before meals (found out the child was 2 1/2 years old!) I told her, “If you want her to like washing her hands, every time before you go to eat, you pick her up in your arms, take her to the sink and gently rub her hands with soap and sing a washing, rubbing, making hands clean and smell good song and then you kiss the hands and gently put the child in her high chair and she will want to wash her hands the rest of her life– and it will bring a good memory!”
“It always breaks my heart to see a strict mother harshly correcting an obviously exhausted young child. Both mother and child are being pushed to their limits, and as the situation worsens, the mother demands that the tired child behave immediately or face sure punishment. She offers no sympathy at all. I want to go pick up the child, speak softly to him, and comfort him. He doesn’t need discipline [punishment]; he needs a nap.”.