I want to be a good parent, and I’m guessing that you do as well (hence why you are reading this post). The problem is that I tend to feel like a bad parent more often than I feel like a good one. Know what I mean? And when I realized what I’m about to share, I felt even worse. But these points are not to discourage you or make you feel bad, these are meant to help.

Here are three parenting lies we believe, and the truth that will set us free:

1. Buying our kids stuff shows them how much we love them. This a hard one because we live in a culture that preaches stuff = happiness. But the truth is that buying our kids things to make them feel special communicates the wrong message. They’re not special because of what they possess or what they receive, they’re special because they’re our children. Yet, every time we pressure ourselves into making Christmas or birthdays bigger than they should be, and every time we buy them toys to show them love, we communicate the opposite of what we intend to. Also, it begins a vicious cycle where your child begins evaluating the quality of your relationship with them based on the size or amount of stuff you buy them. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that you can show your kids love by buying them stuff, that’s not how it works (p.s. your marriage doesn’t work that way either).

2. Watching movies with our kids counts as good family time. I know so many people who think watching movies and TV shows equals good family time—I used to think this too. Unfortunately, this couldn’t be further from the truth! A movie night once a month is not a bad thing; in fact it can be special. But it really shouldn’t happen more than that. Play games with your kids. Bake treats with your kids. Or figure out other ways to spend quality time with your children. (My wife and I have found hide-n-seek to be our kids’ favorite game. Even our 20-month-old likes it.)

3. More is caught than taught. It’s true that kids are perceptive and imitate behavior. It’s also true that your children will learn from what you do. But we still need to actively teach our children especially as it relates to following Jesus. We can’t assume that by being a good Christian and taking our children to church that they will grow up to love and follow Jesus. We have to actively spend time teaching our kids about Christ and the Bible.

I hope this was helpful for you. Even I struggle with these lies. But if we are going to be intentional parents, we have to intentionally spend time with our kids and disciple them to follow Jesus. As my good friend Andy Andrews says, “The goal is not to raise good kids, it’s to raise kids who become great adults.” We need to work hard to raise great adults who love and follow God with all of their hearts, souls, minds, and strength—that’s not going to happen if we stop at buying presents to show love, watching movies to spend time, and assuming our kids will growing spiritually because of the way we live our lives.

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