Changing the Parenting Game: Making the Moves That Truly Matter

board game

As my husband and I discuss our children’s future, we sometimes feel as if we are playing a game. If we just move this piece here and maneuver there, then our kids have the best chance to pass go and collect the one hundred dollars (or two hundred if you land on it, house rules!). Or, if we make a “bad move,” it may cost them the game. Except we aren’t playing a game, we are affecting their future. That’s a lot of pressure.

The world says that if we get our kids in the right schools, sign them up for the most extra-curricular activities, and help them make the best teams, then their future will be secure, happy, and prosperous. The desire for our children to be secure, happy, and prosperous is not bad, but we can often mistake our God-given calling to make disciples with the world’s misguided goals.

Knowing the Truth of God’s Word

The living and active Word of God says that we find our security in God, our happiness rests in God, and we prosper as our lives align with God’s will. We can read about how God is the source and sustainer of all things throughout Scripture, but for me the words in Psalm 91 have especially been a wonderful reminder of these promises.

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty (v. 1.)

Under his wings you will find refuge (v. 4).

With long life I will satisfy him and show him my salvation (v. 16).

But knowing truth is only the first hurdle. As a Christian parent I find truth in God’s Word, but I am easily distracted by… well, everything. I get distracted by what other families are doing, by my own bank of memories of how things were or weren’t done, and my natural desire for balance, rest, and ease. But what most distracts me is my perception that my children’s lives are within my control. If I just do (blank), if I just provide (blank) then my child can have it all: advantages, a bright future, safety…

Knowing Our Role as Moms and Dads

Popular parenting wisdom teaches that controlling our children’s lives is necessary and loving. Doing everything we can for our children’s future is socially accepted outside and within the church. But really, our children’s future is out of our hands. We have an active role in their lives, but more as stewards who strive for the owner’s will, and not merely our own wishes.

But deep down, I feel like I own my children. My kids are well, my kids. They are Tilands. But before they were part of my family, God knew them because he created them. “The earth and everything in it, the world and its inhabitants, belong to the Lord God” (Ps. 24:1). I am a steward of God’s possession. As a steward I am to care for my children’s spiritual and intellectual growth, and their physical and emotional health.

The Bible says we are to teach our children to “love the Lord our God with all our heart and with all our soul” and to talk of his Word when we are sitting, walking, lying down, and rising up” (Deut.11:13, 11). We extend our children an invitation into a relationship with their Maker. We can’t love a God we don’t know, and neither can they.No magic formula will ensure our children’s salvation. We may find ourselves grappling for any and every way to control this life-and-death heart decision. Parenting as stewards means we lay down our pseudo-control and cling to God ourselves. We pray. Then we show our kids who God is and how to love him with all our heart and soul as we sit, walk, lie down, and rise. We display God’s grace. Rather than following another set of to-do lists for success, we love God and love others. We “nurture them in the discipline and instruction of the Lord,” teaching them who God is and about his good objective standard (Eph 6:4). This discipline and instruction of the Lord is a continuation of the invitation into an intimate relationship with their personal, loving, and gracious Father, not merely a means for producing altered behavior.

Talking about behavior, grades and opportunities are still important, but developing a relationship with their Maker takes priority. The ever-daunting discussion of the “future” becomes shaped by what God is teaching them and how He is growing them. And guess what? As parents, we too can seek to learn from what God is teaching us and how He is growing us instead of grasping for control or for whatever invisible standard we have allowed to govern our thoughts and actions.

Parenting With More Freedom in the Gospel

When we approach our roles as parents in this biblical way, the burden lessens. In Matthew 11, all of us who are weary and burdened are called to come to Christ, and He will give us rest. He wants us to learn from him, as his yoke is easy and his burden is light (Matt. 11:28-30).

Let’s come to Christ. Throw off the weight of the world’s agenda and to-do lists. Place your family in His sure hands. When the world tries to woo us into reclaiming our maneuvering tactics, we can stand firm as stewards of God’s creation.

Angela Tiland has been involved with training Christians for over 15 years through her work with Worldview Academy. She mentors students, young adults, and moms through this ministry and also in her local church. Angela is involved in women’s ministry where she writes and teaches Bible studies. She readily opens her door to others and values genuine multi-generational relationships. Angela is a wife to her high school sweetheart, mom of three children, and calls Georgetown, Texas home.

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