There’s one thing you can be sure of when you become a parent; you’re going to get lots of advice.
From how to properly feed and clothe your munchkin to limiting technology, even how you ought to school your child. Don’t worry, I’m not going to give you advice today.
Advice is a take-it-or-leave-it proclamation.
This is not.
There are two words that I hear well-meaning parents utter frequently. It’s time to eradicate this phrase.
Two Little Words that Frustrate
We all say these two little words on occasion. With the best of intentions we attempt to encourage and rebuke our children with this phrase. Instead? We exasperate our kids. Big time.
What are the two words that we need to take our of our vocabulary as parents?
“But that seems like such a great little phrase!”, you might argue. “It succinctly tells my child exactly what I want them to do at that moment.”
I’d argue that it is a great little phrase for meeting our needs as parents …but “be good” doesn’t meet the needs of our kids.
“Be Good” Sets our Kids up for Failure
Here’s why “be good” is one of the worst mantras we can dish out to our kids:
It sets our children up for failure.
Think about it for a minute. When we demand a child to “be good”, what are we really asking? For them to obey quietly? For them to behave in a mature manner for an indeterminate amount of time?
When we ask a child to “be good” without being more specific, we’re setting them up for frustration.
“Be good” is a weight around their neck, dragging them beneath the waves of an imprecise & impossible standard.
From Romans 3:10-20:
“None is righteous, no, not one;
no one understands;
no one seeks for God.
All have turned aside; together they have become worthless;
no one does good,
not even one.”
“Their throat is an open grave;
they use their tongues to deceive.”
“The venom of asps is under their lips.”
“Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.”
“Their feet are swift to shed blood;
in their paths are ruin and misery,
and the way of peace they have not known.”
“There is no fear of God before their eyes.”
Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.
If we beg our children to “be good”, and yet we are told that no one is good, and that we all struggle with sin, we are asking them to climb an insurmountable height with only sheer willpower to guide them.
How then should we speak to our children?
Rather than tossing out a general “be good!”, which only frustrates, it is imperative that we take the extra time to give specific, godly instruction, and to remind them of God’s desire to make them righteous (or “right”) before himself, through Jesus.
From Romans 3:21-22:
But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe.
Here’s an example: you’re expecting company for dinner. In anticipation of your precious horde getting a bit crazy with the excitement, you sit them down for a pre-dinner talk that goes a little something like this:
“Children, I know we’re all really looking forward to having company for dinner. Please remember to be on your best behavior; be good.”
Now, compare that with this charge:
“Kids, I know you’re excited to have company for dinner. I want you to remember to serve our guests. Show them love because you are loved by God. How can we demonstrate loving service tonight? Please also show mom and dad love and respect by not interrupting when we are talking with the other adults.”
What’s the difference?
In the first example they are left with an imprecise admonishment that is likely to last all of 30 minutes. In the second example specific, scriptural instruction turns their hearts Godward.
A Final Encouragement for Parents
Does that mean that our kiddos will always behave like angels when given such careful instruction?
No way! The bible is already clear that we have no righteousness outside of Christ, no ability to behave perfectly, 100% of the time.
However, when we are constantly turning their hearts toward God, he will pull them toward himself with hopeful salvation and sanctification. We’ll end up with children that still sin, yet receive the aid of the Holy Spirit (God himself) to guide them through their struggles and temptations.
Now that is a great comfort!
Do you find yourself demanding your children to “be good”?
Looking for more help as a Christian parent? The best book that I’ve found in this are is Shepherding a Child’s Heart by Tedd Tripp. It’s full of biblical wisdom that will help you to turn your children’s heart Godward.
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