Why Every Parent Should Embrace Their Inability

Adapted from Parenting: "The 14 Gospel Principles That Can Radically Change Your Family" by Paul David Tripp.

Here’s the bottom line for every parent: the change that has to happen in each of your children, you can’t create. In fact, nowhere in his Word has God tasked you with the responsibility to create it. Good parenting is about becoming okay with the fact that you are powerless to change your child. In fact, good parenting is about celebrating the fact that God has never and will never put the burden of change on you.

Recognize Powerlessness

If you are going to be what God has designed you to be as a parent and do what he’s called you to do, you must confess one essential thing. This confession has the power to change much about the way you act and react toward your children.

It is vital that you believe and admit that you have no power whatsoever to change your child.

If any human being possessed the power to create lasting change in any other human being, Jesus would not have had to come! The incarnation, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus stand as clear historical evidence that human power for change does not exist. The reason God went to such an extreme and elaborate extent in controlling the events of history so that at just the right time his Son would come and do for us what we could not do ourselves, is because there was no other way.

Bring in a Third Party

Parenting is not about exercising power for change in your children. Parenting is about your humble faithfulness in being willing to participate in God’s work of change for the sake of your children. Parents, here’s what you need to understand: God has given you authority for the work of change, but has not granted you the power to make that change happen.

But we buy into the delusion of thinking again and again that that power is ours. We think that if we speak just a little bit louder, or stand a little bit closer, or make the threat a little bit scarier, or the punishment a little more severe, then our children will change. And because the change doesn’t happen, we tend to bring it on even stronger.

Oh, sure, you can scare or reward your children into temporary change. You can temporarily buy them off or scare them off. You can exercise temporary control over a child’s behavior, but what needs to change in order for that change to last and bear fruit is something inside the child.

Let me say it this way: the behavior of your children is symptomatic of what is going on inside your children. Inside change always precedes lasting outside change. In parenting, what you are dealing with is way deeper than the need for behavioral change. What you’re always dealing with is the need for heart change, and we simply have no power at all to change another person’s heart.

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