Good parents naturally want to protect their children. If you’re anything like me, you may have even veered into wanting to overprotect your child (especially your first-born—be honest) from every bump and bruise they endured through those early preschool years.
The problem is when this attitude of wanting to overprotect leads to saving them from the painful emotions of life’s natural consequences (e.g. calling their friend’s parents to settle your child’s disputes; doing their homework for them; not allowing them to feel the pain of being cut from a sports team; or even giving in to their demands because it’s the easy thing to do).
Helicopter and BFF parents are especially prone to over-protecting their children from negative emotions. The problem with saving our kids from the painful consequences of life is that we inherently (and often without realizing it) send them three flawed messages:
- That they are God’s gift to earth
- That they should not feel emotional pain
- That when they do feel pain, it’s either’s somebody else’s fault or that someone will be there to save them from it.
When we parent as if we’re our child’s savior, we set them on an entitled path of believing they’re already good enough to be saved. Unfortunately, we also keep them from realizing it’s their sin that put Jesus on the cross.
So how can we help our children learn to understand their need for Jesus? It begins by parenting them in light of the full gospel story.
- Teach them they are created in the image of God.
There are four key events that describe the gospel. The first one is creation. This is where God creates Adam and Eve, in His image, as a gift to be treasured—in relationship—with one another and with Himself.
Are your children a gift from God to be treasured? Absolutely they are; every one of us is a gift from God to be treasured. But here’s the deal, we’re all—our kids included— created by Him and for Him as well. He too—even more than you—desires to be in relationship with your kids.
We can easily hinder this from happening when we only treat our children as special gifts from God to be treasured. When we parent them only in this light, we fill their schedules with activities that outwardly support their “awesomeness” and build up their earthly identity—good grades, athletic prowess, musical talent, or material possessions—and we rescue them from anything that could tarnish their “specialness.”
Spirituality and relationship with God become an afterthought because we neglect the rest of the gospel story.We’ve rescued them from seeing their need for a Savior because we’ve been their earthly one.
- Show them their sin. The next part of the gospel story is the fall of mankind, where Adam and Eve disobeyed God’s rules. As a result, every single one of us is tainted with sin, including our children. Helping our kids feel the weight of their sin is crucial to seeing their need for Jesus. That’s why we shouldn’t rescue them from natural consequences.
The other extreme is seeing this as the only part of our kids’ story. If we see our kids as all bad, we’ll likely shame and condemn them into seeking approval and worth from earthly idols.
Some, in past generations, are really good at seeing our kids as only disrespectful, entitled, anti-authority, attention-seeking, sinful little brats.
“Kids these days,” they’ll quip. “Do you hear how loud they play their music? And what color is that hair?”
To see our kids as God’s gift to earth leaves them disillusioned. To only see them as sinful brats is shaming and harmful. But to see our kids in light of the full gospel is to see them created in the image of God, tainted by a sinful heart, and in need of a Savior.
- Teach them of their need for Jesus. The third part of the gospel story is redemption, where God sends his one and only Son to pay the penalty that we should have paid for our sins.
As the final chapter in the gospel story, Jesus comes again to establish his rule, and reign once again on earth.
As parents, our job is to help our kids understand who they were created to be, how the fall has impacted them, and their need for a Savior. When our kids accept the saving work of Jesus, they will one day join all believers to live in eternity with him.
All their trophies, diplomas, and awards won’t matter. Only their souls will.