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It is easy for me to get distracted in my parenting. I want my kids to grow in their love and walk with the Lord, but I often forget that I can’t make these things happen for them, and I struggle with the lack of control. I can get distracted with rules, guidelines, and expected behavior, but this misses the mark of what my parenting really should be about. I’m not called to control my kids’ behavior. I’m called to shape their heart. I’m called to point them to Christ and to help them identify their desperate, daily need for a Savior.

Parents, Don't Settle

Paul Tripp’s parenting books have been so helpful in redirecting my goals and patterns as a parent. In his book Parenting: 14 Gospel Principles, a specific chapter on control was especially helpful. It helped me recognize that I often fall into the trap of “settling for horizontal success.” Rather than focus on being an agent of radical heart and life change, I can settle for having my kids look moral. It’s easy to fall into this trap, because it’s easier to try and fix just the external stuff. It’s easier to make my children act appropriately, do the right things, or look good on the surface, rather than address their heart. And while horizontal success may look impressive to others, it’s the same thing the Pharisees had, and they traded Jesus for the approval of man. I don’t want my kids to take that trade.

This chapter helped me remember that I am not called to horizontal success. I am called to help my children identify the greatest danger in their lives: their own sin. In this book, Tripp encourages us to show our kids their deeper moral needs, so they can learn to run to the Savior. This way of parenting takes more time and energy but has a sweeter, eternal reward. Equipped with Tripp’s six observations from Psalm 51, I’m seeing a shift in my parenting strategy, and in my own heart. I’m reminded that both my kids and I need the same instructions: help for discovering freedom from sin through the power of our Savior.

Parents, Focus on the Heart

As parents, we can’t remedy sin with good behavior. We can’t remedy sin at all. God redeems us from sin through the work of the Savior. As a parent, I’m learning to expose sin in my child’s life and point them to Christ. This is harder, messier, and takes more time, since we’re not just “fixing” what’s on the surface. But it’s also more hope-filled, because I’m pointing them to a God who can truly change their hearts and give them life. With my teens, this means I spend more time talking with them, asking “why” questions, and trying to help them understand what desire fueled a particular action. It’s also teaching me patience and humility in my own heart. As I help my kids search their hearts, I’m finding myself searching my own heart. And in this process, parenting is mutually sanctifying us.

Parents, let us pursue Christ together by focusing on the heart and not “horizontal success.” Let’s point our kids to Christ, and let go of control. Let’s let go of the distraction of a seemingly clean life, and point them to the Redeemer who can clean their heart.