Raising My Children to be Christians

We had house guests recently, the kind that stay a few days, overnight even. 
This always makes me nervous. 
I worry about my cooking, if the bathrooms were clean enough…if there’s extra room around the table, you know how it is. It can be stressful for people like me (straightening the fringe of the rug at odd hours of the night-not really-but nearly).
This time (maybe because I was trying to impress?) I caught myself over-correcting my kids. Closely watching for bad attitudes, micro-managing their every move and expecting them to be perfect little Christian children. 
By the end of the weekend, I was exhausted, not from the company or the extra work that goes with it, but from me. I was tired of me.
I was trying too hard to make my kids into what I thought they should be. They couldn’t let their hair down and just act as they normally do.
I want my kids to have Christ-like character traits. I want them to be Christians. But sometimes, I am conforming them to Christianity, rather than letting Christianity transform them.
I’ve seen kids raised in Christian homes, sent to Christian camps, schools, surrounded by “Christian” things, only to go wild and delve into sinful activity when those restraints are lifted.
I’m not against any of these settings. I think they all have their place. But in every child’s life, at some point, there will be testing. And if they’ve only conformed to Christian practices and standards without being transformed by Christ, they will fail.
My greatest desire is for Jesus to be real to my kids. I want them to turn to Him, even before they come to me. I want them to know Him, to fellowship with Him, to touch the scars in His hands and tremble at His holiness.
And this won’t happen because I demand behavior that I deem “Christian.” I honestly think that making them conform to Christianity at every turn is harmful. 
It’s my job to lead them to Him. But then I have to step back and let Him move in their hearts.
I’m raising my kids to be Christians. 
He will turn them into disciples. 
“Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” Proverbs 22:6
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Comments

  1. says

    So well thought… and you are so right! I find myself doing the same things: perhaps focusing so much on the Christians I want them to become, and not enough on their relationship with Christ who will do it all Himself.

  2. says

    This was a lightbulb moment for me! I was raised by very loving and well-meaning parents, but I believe that they raised me to conform to Christian behavior, rather than be transformed. You put into words so perfectly what I've been feeling for years, because I'm struggling, myself, but couldn't put my finger on it! And I knew I couldn't model for my children what I didn't have.
    I'm going to be mulling this over…

  3. says

    Kristen, I am so with you. Recent studies show that 85% of our children raised in "Christian" homes and church leave and never come back (Barna).

    We are obviously doing some things wrong. The biggest one is focusing on conformity rather than modeling a faith-filled, Spirit filled, divine life that has the power of God on it. If we focused on this sort of relationship with God ourselves, I have a mind that our kids would want all they can get of it. That's what I'm out for. That's what I am on my knees asking God daily for. Praise God He is pleased to say "Yes!" to this kind of request! So encouraged to read your post and know that there are others who "get" it too.

  4. says

    Wow, what a true post… How often we feel totally stressed when our children are not being perfect by our standards, forget about what God requires of them "it is appearances that count"… and certainly at those times I am usually being far from perfect myself as I judge, control and conform them… sigh! This is a very inspiring post I love it!!!

  5. says

    An ah-ha moment for me! Just had a baby Friday and feel like I'm working extra hard to make the other children "perfect" in their actions and words. . .and I need to let go and be the guide God intends me to be.

  6. says

    I was one of those kids who delved into sinful behavior when restritions were lifted. He protected me and forgave me. So you'ld think I wouldn't be that kind of parent. Even though I too am striving to raise kids who are transformed by the Holy Spirit… as I was reading your account of over correcting infront of company, I could see much of myself. It's a battle I regularly give over to the Lord. Thanks for sharing this struggle.

  7. says

    Good thoughts, Kristen. I especially like how you put it: I was tired of me. I have been there!

    The other day, my husband, daughter and I found ourselves sitting in very close proximity to a couple from church while eating at Applebee's. When our food came, my husband made us pray – and I just laughed. Because we NEVER pray at restaurants! But just like he wanted to make sure we looked like a good Christian family by praying, I had been doing the same thing by talking oh-so-sweetly to my 2-year-old, even when she was being obnoxious! I guess this sort of thing wasn't exactly your point, but your post made me think of it anyway. :)

  8. says

    Oh my, Kristen, EVERY Christian parent should read this. You have powerfully yet simply showed all of us ourselves. Would you mind if I pass this along (to the two people in the world that don't already read your fab blog)? 'Cuz if those people read mine, then I don't want them to miss your words.
    Thank you.

  9. says

    Oh my goodness, I saw myself all in this post. I have been guilty of the same thing. Thanks for reminding me that I can't make my children fall in love Jesus, but I can show them how in love with Him I am.

  10. says

    Thank you for this, it makes me feel like I'm doing the right thing. I'm raising my children as my parents raised me. My parents had been forced/pressured into going to church, going to Catholic school, and my mother was almost a nun. They decided early on that as children we would go to church to learn but not be forced, if we didn't want to go we wouldn't until we made the choice to go. We were allowed to go to other churches, temples and synagogue with our friend's families and it was accepted by our parents that though we were being raised Catholic, the choice would remain ours to continue in the faith, follow another, or withdraw completely. None of us "went wild" we we left home for college, two of us are still practicing Catholics, the other is still a Christian and is searching for his own way with his wife and new baby girl. My own children have chosen their baptism and I was rewarded with the knowledge that I might be doing this right when my daughter came home last night and asked me to pray the rosary with her. Our job is to guide, children will make their own path and we must be open to the waiting while showing them the wonderous life through Christ by the joy we find in our own life. Though we may stumble in front of our children, it is something they need to see, because it shows our humanity and how we can grow in God's love and be better people because of the strugle.

  11. says

    you are spot on Kristen. My children are almost all raised now and we struggled with this issue as parents for the longest time. Once they get to the older teen years, they call US as parents on the carpet about it…and rightfully so.

    Bottom line…teaching our children to develop an intimate relationship with their savior is more powerful and life changing than any lessons on 'behavior' we can give.

    Thanks for putting this out there!

  12. says

    You are brilliant!!! Thanks for sharing. It is so hard to chill out about things, but then you are just stressed, and that is not the mom we want to be either!!

  13. says

    So true, thanks for this post I can see it has meant alot to alot of people. I was a Pastors Kid thankfully not until a later age but I watched many Pastors kids go off the rail for the exact reason you mentioned. Thanks Again!!

  14. homeclynn says

    Did you read God's word each day when your guest were there? Or did you "get your bible study done" before they came so it would not interrupt your visit? Been there done that and what I have learned is to make Christ and His word the highlight and foundation of my days and He will take care of the children. Train them-yes, mold them – no. That is the Holy Spirits job. We moms make lousy Holy Spirits. Seek you first the kingdom then all "that" will follow. Slowly, over the years, God has taught me this truth.

  15. says

    Thanks! Needed a reminder. You know, those kids who deviate when they're old enough to make their own choices do so with an education. I believe that every person raised in a CHristian home retains that teaching. It must be pretty hard to fall asleep knowing you're living outside the will of the Creator, huh? That's why I hold out hope that they'll come back to the truth, eventually.

  16. says

    Ditto to what everyone else has said. Perfectly written!!!!

    And I am the exact same way.

    And I feel the exact same as you on this subject.

    Managing the balance between teaching and expecting certain behavior and really letting the Holy Spirit work in my kids is a tough one!!

  17. says

    As a mother of a 17 year old one can definitely overmanage their children.

    Provide your wisdom and you'll be pleasantly surprised to hear your teen quoting you!

    Sandwiches – triangles or rectangles? Please stop by my blog with your answer!

  18. Shari Lancaster says

    As someone who grew up in a Christian home (& also went to Christian school), I can tell you the #1 thing that influences your children is the way you act. As an adult, I realize now how much I learned, not from what my parents said, but from what they did. You are right, trying to force your children to act like Christians is definitely not the way (I saw bad results in some of my friends that went crazy, like you were talking about).

  19. says

    What a beautiful, truthful post. You are so right. You have such a gift for showing the obvious to us in a light, perhaps, we hadn't looked at before. Thank you for sharing it with the rest of us.

  20. says

    I find myself micro-managing my children in public just like you. Sometimes I get so concerned about them behaving properly(and in turn, making me look good), that I forget to let them be kids, make mistakes and learn from them.

    It's so hard sometimes to know how to raise my boys to be sensitive to Jesus and not just a set of rules. *sigh* I wish they came with manuals for this kind of stuff :)

    It's nice to know that other mommas are working toward the same goal I am though.

  21. says

    "But sometimes, I am conforming them to Christianity, rather than letting Christianity transform them."

    Excellent thought! This is my husband's and my wish- that their behavior is Christ-like b/c Christ works in their hearts, not because we did really great behavior modification.

    Have you read Shepherding a Child's Heart?

  22. says

    My husband and I often discuss the importance of our kids' faith being thiers, not ours. That means that we should expect and embrace questioning on their parts. But I am sure I also fall into that trap of trying to have my kids act perfectly. I do have wonderful, well-behaved kids, though! We are very blessed. Blessings!

  23. Heather says

    Thanks for this reminder! I feel like I'm in a pressure cooker when I start micro-managing my kids! I need to step back and rememeber that we are seeking to please God, not men.

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