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I'm not approaching this topic as a parent but as a former child. We all learn along the way that our parents aren't perfect. And how we learn that also teaches us about ourselves. Our understanding of imperfection usually forms gradually as we recognize human mistakes. Most of us can probably remember a time when we asked a parent why they did something, and they responded with, "I'm not perfect." The problem is when we first hear that, we don't really get what it means. When we're young, we do what our parents tell us because we believe they know best, and it's hard to fathom the idea that they could ever be wrong. So if you're a parent, you might wonder how you can explain to your kids that you aren't perfect without losing their trust.
It's always hard to adjust when we find out the world doesn't work how we thought it did. It's a lesson we continue to learn throughout our lives, starting with our parents. As we grow, we come to terms with the fact that all we can do is try our best. The problem is, we think we can only rely on what we know of our world, and that is what we teach our children. We deal with imperfection by telling ourselves, "There's no such thing as perfect." But that's not true. A perfect God created us, and a perfect savior took the weight of the sin in our world. His perfect love makes us whole. We don't need to beat ourselves up or resent others because Jesus already bore the consequence of every mistake we will ever make. So how does that translate to the context of parenting? It makes it less about you.
One question kids have, in not so many words, is, "If I'm accountable to you, then who are you accountable to?" Some parents will respond that they are accountable to each other, which is essential. Single parents may say they are accountable to themselves and their children to care for the household. But that still leaves imperfect humans as the ultimate deciders of right and wrong. When we acknowledge God and the wisdom He provides, we have a flawless source of guidance to point to. And when we fail, we have a source of forgiveness. So, by explaining the reality of Jesus to your children, you can illustrate why we should follow God's guidance, but everyone, including parents, will mess up and will need to receive forgiveness.
If your child feels especially testy, they might say, "Why should I obey you and not just obey God?" Well, this is time to explain what the Bible says about children and their parents. And don't just quote, "Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right." It can definitely lessen confusion when every household member understands God's purpose for family dynamics and how it is for our good.
Here are some great resources to help you with this topic:
How to Teach Your Kids About Grace
What Does the Bible Say About Family?
How to Obey Your Parents in the Lord
We don't need to teach children that nobody's perfect; we need to teach them why we aren't perfect and what perfect means. It's a complex reality to comprehend, no matter how old we are, and it shows us the importance of humility. Through Jesus, we can see what it means to balance truth and grace. There is a time and place for both, and we have influence when we reflect that onto the people who look up to us. That starts with confronting ourselves with truth and accepting grace. To recognize the perfection of God is to give and receive grace the way He instructs.
I can't pretend to know the pressures of parenthood, but I know what it feels like to push grace away. It's something we do when we think our responsibilities are all on our shoulders - and I can imagine it's tenfold when that responsibility is another person's life. But to teach anyone else how to grow through imperfection, we need to have a solid foundation of trust. So if you feel like you have to calculate every step you take, trust that God will lead you on His path and trust that He will create good in the places you get lost. God doesn't call you to be a "perfect" parent; He calls you to show your kids what a disciple looks like. Because to follow Jesus does not just mean to do what’s right, but to embrace His presence when you don’t know what to do.
Written Content Coordinator at Sun Valley Community Church. An avid writer since the age of 5, who loves to explore new ideas and places. Inspired by Jesus, books, and travel.