The lies. The manipulation. The cheating. The defiance that says, "I don't care what the consequences are, I'm gonna do it anyway!"
It is easy to become very fearful as a parent when you see these attitudes and choices in your child. It floods your mind with future criminal trials, drugs, teen pregnancy, violence, etc. As a former law enforcement officer, it probably stirs fears deeper for me than it may for others. These attitudes and choices were present in every criminal I ever arrested. Even in counseling others, these same attitudes and choices lie behind much of the struggles people face. Fear is an easy emotion as a parent.
Much of what we see in our situation is not so much a lie here and a fib there, but a pattern of deception, manipulation, and defiance. Something simple like, "Clean up the toothpaste you left on the counter," turns into a lie, "But that's not mine," (when they were the first and only one to brush their teeth at that point of the morning). Now it's become a sin, not just a mess. Then when we address the fact that they lied, they lie about the lie or within minutes of the situation being over, they lie about something else. When they get in trouble and find themselves facing consequences, they are "sorry" but only because consequences are involved, not because they realize they crossed a line.
But it doesn't always end with consequences. Even after losing a privilege or favorite toy, they see how much further they can go. What would have been as simple as grab a tissue and clean up a pea-sized blob of toothpaste explodes into a whole day of restrictions, loss of privileges, and time-outs. That lack of a moral compass is frightening. The unmitigated, volitional defiance stirs the fear in a parent.
Fear cannot be allowed to shape our parenting. When I parent out of fear, I react harshly, rashly, and exacerbate the problem. As believers in Jesus Christ, our Father in heaven does not "parent" me out of fear. He parents me out of justice, grace, truth, mercy, and love. His justice shows me that my past and present sins, just as defiant as my children, deserve punishment. His grace, mercy, and love is so great that He took the justice I deserve when He sent His Son to die on the cross for me. This truth keeps me on course and gives me greater clarity about myself and my situations.
If my Father in heaven parents me this way, can I parent my children likewise? Can I keep the boundaries in place that teaches them justice? Can I give them grace for their past, not continually throwing their past sin and mistakes in their face? Can I share the truth that helps them know what is as well as what is not? Can I extend mercy when appropriate? Can I lead them to the One who loves them so much they can be changed forever?
I pray for the Lord's help to do so. I pray for help to see my children the way He does. I pray for help to parent based on what is and not what I fear might be. His love and truth cast out these fears, .