As Christians, we tend to have the mistaken belief that we have to appear perfect to our children, and act like we have it all together. We also act like we did no wrong when we were their age.
Growing up, I didn’t know much about my parent’s past mistakes. I guess I didn’t think about it much, and just thought that they were really good people. As in most families, they had their occasional arguments, but I never really was exposed to their major faults and past mistakes. Obviously they had plenty, as we all do, since we are all sinners saved only by God’s grace. So growing up, I had this mistaken belief that my parents were better than me at being a Christian, and it was just too hard for me to be that good. In frustration, I stopped trying and ended up living a double life; being one person in front of my family, and another person with everyone else. Years later as an adult, I found out some major mistakes that my parents made, which confirmed that they were “normal” humans.
Years ago when we had our baby boy, we decided that we were not going to ever lie to him. This was harder than it sounds, because it meant that we had to tell him things that other parents typically don’t. At a young age, we told him that Santa Clause, the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy were not real, when he asked us. So yes, our child was spoiling it for everyone else, because he would tell other kids that Santa wasn’t real. I believe he even made a few kids cry, which was not our intent.
We also decided that we would openly tell him about our faults and past mistakes. We were wise and only shared with him what we felt he could handle based on his age. When he was young, I remember telling him about my boyhood problem with lying and stealing. One time I even stole money out of my grandmother’s purse. As he grew older, I exposed more of my past mistakes; like crawling up the school flag pole and tying a bandanna at the top to protest the school not letting us wear bandannas.
Now being 22 years old, he knows most of my major past mistakes; even ones that some people never share with their spouse. For example, he knows that I would go out partying and drinking with my friends. By God’s grace, I did not kill myself or someone else. He knows that I had sex with someone prior to marriage, who ended up not being my wife. There are too many major mistakes to list here…
Growing up, I’ve told him many times, “An intelligent man will learn from his own mistakes, but a truly wise man will learn from other people’s mistakes.”
I would ask him to learn from my mistakes and don’t make the same ones. I think most parents are afraid to fully expose their major faults to their children. After all, they may use that as an excuse to do what we did, because we can’t chastise them for something we did. As a result, we end up hiding our past mistakes and failures from our children, which I think is a big mistake. By not exposing your mistakes, your children will grow up thinking they are not as good as you, and may possibly rebel against you and God. They may also give up trying to measure up. By the way, as parents, we can and should punish and hold our children accountable for making the same mistakes we have made. We are not being hypocritical, but rather we are being good and loving parents who want the best for our children.
So how did our son take it, and how did he end up? Just fine. He is a fine young man; volunteering in our church’s student ministry, attending bible studies, reading God’s word, praying, getting excellent grades in school, working hard at his job, and waiting until marriage to have sex. He also distanced himself from some of his friends who started going down the wrong path, instead of joining them and doing things he knew wasn’t what God wanted.
I don’t tell you that to brag on our son, but rather as proof that parenting in a way that exposes your past mistakes is good for your children. Also, don’t get me wrong. We are totally aware that our son is not perfect, and we see his periodic mistakes and sins, just like he sees ours. We are also sure that there are many of his sins that we don’t know about. But, he turned out better than we could have hoped for, and for that we praise God and give Him all of the credit.
My prayer is that you will open up your closet to let your children see your skeletons, and that this will have a dramatic, positive effect on them. May God bless you and your children through this act of exposure to show an imperfect Christian parent, who is daily saved by God’s grace.