After reading, consulting, and attempting to emulate dozens of parenting “experts,” I realized one day I was neglecting to look to the ultimate parenting role model — God. Here are 10 ways to parent like God parents us.
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Over the 6+ years I’ve been a parent, I’ve read a lot of parenting materials. A lot. And you know what I’ve discovered? Much of it is pretty contradictory. Which gets confusing and frustrating real quick.
I’ve spent a lot of time wondering how to discipline, how to handle misbehavior, and how to do it “right.”
More recently, I’ve spent a lot of time wondering how to teach, how to train, and how to lead my kids to Jesus.
I hear a lot of people talk about raising children as though they’re something to be controlled. “Control your kids!” “Make them obey!” “Just demand obedience!” And it has always rubbed me the wrong way.
For a time, I thought it was because it made me feel like a failure — if only I was better at “controlling” my kids they wouldn’t misbehave.
But then I realized that wasn’t it. (Well… not completely it, anyway.) The reason it bothered me so much was that it’s not at all how God (our Father) parents us (his children)!
In all my attempts to figure out the “right” way to parent, I had failed to look to the ultimate role model. I had failed to ask, “Does my parenting look anything like God’s?”
And just how does God parent? Well, I’m no theologist, but I have observed a few things. Here are 10 ways to parent like God parents us:
10 Ways God Parents (So We Can Parent Like God)
Doesn’t control or force
Let’s start with one thing He doesn’t do — He doesn’t try to “control” us or force our behavior. Listen, if anyone could produce perfect children, it would be Him. He could control us. He could “make” us behave. But He doesn’t. He’s no puppet master.
That doesn’t mean He never corrects us, however. He doesn’t sit back and let us do whatever we want. Oh no, He expects obedience, and in His love for us, he disciplines when we disobey. Proverbs 3:12 and Hebrews 12:6 both tell us “the Lord disciplines those He loves.” God sets clear and high expectations, and He lovingly corrects us when we fall short.
Doesn’t use shame or condemnation
In his discipline, God never uses shame or condemnation to shape our behavior. He doesn’t say, “What were you thinking??” He doesn’t call us names. He doesn’t ask, “Are you ever going to get this right??”
Does allow consequences
He does, however, allow the consequences of our actions to (hopefully… ideally…) teach us. He doesn’t swoop in every time to save us. Though it must break his heart to watch (as it does when we parent our children), in his love He allows consequences because He knows they’re in our best interest.
Has the end-game in mind
Which leads me to the point that when God disciplines, He has the end-game in mind. He knows our purpose, He knows our potential, He knows our future. He’s not parenting just for the here-and-now; He’s parenting for our long-run, sustainable, life-long future.
More interested in our hearts than our behavior
He’s also parenting for our hearts. Yes, God wants, desires, and expects our obedience, but it’s about more than just the right behavior. It’s about a right heart. He’s not looking to get “good” kids — kids that follow the rules and look good doing it. His discipline is always about molding our hearts.
Seeks communion and restoration
In addition, His discipline and correction are also always about seeking restoration and communion. He doesn’t push us away in angry punishment, He draws us closer in loving discipline. And He doesn’t keep score or hold grudges; He welcomes us back into fellowship and intimacy.
One of the most important aspects of God’s parenting is that He loves unconditionally. Regardless of what we do or how badly we mess up, HE LOVES US. And that drives, shapes, and dictates His discipline.
Gives grace (upon grace)
Even though we mess up again and again (and again), God always forgives. He is always patient and kind. Whether the first time or the fiftieth, when we fall down, He is always ready with open arms to pick us up and help us try again.
Always ready to lead, guide, teach, and train
Finally, when God parents — even when He disciplines — He does it side-by-side. He doesn’t throw a bunch of rules at us and expect us to get it right on our own. He doesn’t tell us what we did wrong and leave it at that. No, He leads us, guides us, teaches us, and trains us. When He disciplines, He always also equips us to do better.
As I learn and grow and seek to become a better parent, there’s no greater model than our Heavenly Father.
These are 10 observations I’ve made about how God parents, but there are many others I could make.
What would you add to this list? Please share in the comments below!
And if you’d like to read more about parenting with a grace and gospel focus (from people much wiser and much more experienced than I am!), here are some of the books I highly recommend:
Highly Recommended Books
- Discipline That Connects With Your Child’s Heart — Jim & Lynn Jackson
- Parenting: 14 Gospel Principles That Can Radically Change Your Family — Paul David Tripp
- Shepherding a Child’s Heart — Tedd Tripp
- Parenting With Love & Logic — Foster Cline & Jim Fay
YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE:
- Why Do I Discipline? A Hard Look at My Motives
- 8 Scripture-Based Prayers for Your Child’s Heart
- Two Must-Read Books for Purposeful Parenting
- 6 Soul-Searching Questions That Will Make You a More Intentional Mother
- 5 Lessons for Motherhood From History’s Only Perfect Teacher