God bless my son’s third grade teacher. She changed my parenting forever when she called home one September afternoon.
She told me my son had burst into tears at school that day while trying to work a math problem on the board. Suggesting that my son had a budding issue with perfectionism, his teacher gave me a homework assignment of my own: “Burn dinner tonight,” she said, “then laugh it off and treat the family to a Mexican night out.”
So I did, and we did.
We had a regular fiesta, with extra queso and a round of Sprites for the table. Her assignment was a wise one; she knew that my son was learning his perfectionist tendencies somewhere, and he needed to see me take my own failure in stride.
Before the burned dinner, I thought my children needed to see me as a model momma in order to feel secure. I believed that my children would only feel safe if they felt perfectly cared for and perfectly loved. By God working through my son’s teacher, I began to realize that I was teaching my children to find their security in me when their only true security lay with God.
Allowing my sons to see me fail was an act of humility, before them and before God. Responding with a fiesta was a demonstration of grace.
Our children need to see us sin and make mistakes because they are watching how we, as parents, respond when we do. If we hide our failure, or blow up in anger, or deny wrongdoing, then our kids will do the same. But if we humble ourselves in front of our families and demonstrate our trust in God’s grace to cover our sins, our kids will find their own security in our heavenly Father.
The fact that God is our Father – Father to parents as well as children – helps me understand why humility in the home is so powerful. Young children who live under our roof are subject to our authority as parents (Colossians 3:20). Parents are God’s provision for instruction, for discipline, and for learning submission to authority.
In the kingdom of God, however, our children are our brothers and sisters. We are being sanctified alongside our children. In fact, we are often God’s instruments for each other’s sanctification. Keeping our holy siblinghood in mind helps me guard against seeing my children as extensions of myself, and lifts from them the burden of my own dreams for their future. It also means that I can freely confess my own sin to them, because in doing so I am acknowledging that we are growing together, side-by-side.
Just living life in my home with my family gives me lots of opportunity to demonstrate humility.
Apologize. When I apologize, I take responsibility for my sin. I establish our home in God’s truth and in consideration for others. I hate apologizing and so do my kids, so when I do, it makes an impression on them. When I humbly ask for their forgiveness, I show them respect.
Acknowledge my shortcomings. My kids pretty much know my shortcomings anyway. But when I don’t hold myself or them to some impossible standard, we are both free to pursue godliness out of love, not fear or performance anxiety.
Ask them to pray for me. I love to do this. I ask my kids how I can pray for them, and then I ask them to pray for me too. Instinctively, my kids know that I respect them and I respect their relationship with God if I ask them for prayer. It is something they can do for me, making our relationship more of a two-way street. Certainly I try not to lay anything heavy or burdensome on them, but I do ask them to pray about meaningful things. Then, as God answers, we can talk about our Father’s goodness together, as siblings in Him.
Humbling ourselves in front of our kids is like burning the dinner – costly and messy. I want my kids to see me the way they did when they were very young: all-powerful, all-knowing giver of all good things, ruler of the Harris home. But if they are going to grow up in Him, and if I am going to grow up in Him, we have to do it together, brothers and sisters, co-heirs with Christ, the Elder Brother of us all.