“There Are No Bad Children; Only Bad Parents”

The title of this post should send a shiver down the spines of all honest parents. It does for some, but not for all.

A good biblical theology tells us that there are no good children, only sinful ones. But somehow, somehow, by some miracle of theological pretension, many conclude that by the application of the proper parenting techniques, Biblical parenting techniques, we are told, these no good, sinful children, will emerge as lovely specimens of godliness, gems of their parent’s faithfulness.

Which leaves parents who are as faithful as they know how whose little Johnny or Janey grows up not nice with only one possible conclusion: we were bad parents. And so, they are back to the slogan in the title, with the added guilt and shame attached to the fact that their parenting just must not have been ‘biblical’. So, the Christian version is something like this: “There are no good children, only sinful parents.”

No, we modify it still: “There are no good children, only parents who fail miserably to be the kind of parents that God would have them be.” Try living with that self-assessment for a day or two. That is what the logic of ‘Biblical technique = godly children’ leaves us with.

Call me negative if you will, but though it is clear that there are some parents who do a better job than others (I in no way want to suggest that we ought not try to be the best parents we can) yet I am convinced that each of us inject just enough parental screwiness into our parenting that the ONLY way ANY of them come out the other end as remotely godly, well adjusted kids is the grace of God.

My book on parenting, due out in, oh, well, maybe I should write it first, will be titled something like this: “Eight Ways to Totally Screw up Your Kids and How God’s Grace Can Fix the Mess“.

I clearly DON’T have parenting figured out.

I find that THERE IS ENCOURAGEMENT then, in an unlikely source, for those of us who do our best as parents and can’t therefore figure out why our children subsequently make bad choices. A psychiatrist in the NY Times pondering why bad children happen to good parents, makes this startling judgment:

Not everyone is going to turn out to be brilliant — any more than everyone will turn out nice and loving. And that is not necessarily because of parental failure or an impoverished environment. It is because everyday character traits, like all human behavior, have hard-wired and genetic components that cannot be molded entirely by the best environment, let alone the best psychotherapists.

Don’t we call that ‘hard-wired’ reality sin? Yes, I think that’s it.

The article is called “Accepting That Good Parents May Plant Bad Seeds“. Read it. Especially if you are feeling guilty.

I find the article interesting because so many of the presuppositions of the Perfect Biblical Parenting schools, and there are many out there, are the same presuppositions of the secular Baby Einstein schools. It’s called behaviorism.

Both schools not only overlook the sin that can lead to a rebellious child, but as well both fail to credit the grace that alone produces the stellar child.

Barb and I have been richly blessed by that grace. God has had to spend extra amounts to overcome our stumblings. But I think there is still enough to go around!

3 thoughts on ““There Are No Bad Children; Only Bad Parents”

  1. “Eight Ways to Totally Screw up Your Kids and How God’s Grace Can Fix the Mess“.

    Now THAT’S a parenting book I would buy!

    My mothering mantra for many years has been “God’s grace and a mother’s love cover a multitude of screw ups. . .”

    But for me. . . I have needed to screw up with my kids. I need to have that daily reminder of how dependent I am on Jesus.

  2. Randy Greenwald

    Ha! Yes, we often tell our kids that they are going to need some serious therapy once we’re done with them…

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