Pre-parenting, Discipline and Sin 

by Abby Kelly   

A fabulous article entitled “Parenting is First About My Sin,” by David Mathis recently appeared on the Desiring God website. While the entire article remains an essential read, a summarizing quote is:

“The wakeup call for parents and for fathers in particular is that we are sinners too, adult sinners, and our sins have even greater repercussions than the missteps of our children, and tragically our children are often the objects of the dragon still within us. It’s not as if we’re sinners only in our relationships with other adults, and above the law when parenting our children. We are sinners in every facet, and often most dangerously so in our parenting.”

While they didn’t have a direct effect on the fact that my husband and I didn’t have children earlier in life, certainly the awareness of our own specific sins and weaknesses has made us cautious and prayerful as we approach parenthood. Each of us has struggled hard with a “pet” sin. I’ve addressed his struggle (with his permission) in other articles, but today I’ll simply highlight my own. Especially in light of the knowledge that we’re having a girl, my history of an eating disorder causes me to fear for her.

Does my past make her more vulnerable to the same sins? (Specifically in my own eating disorder I call these out as addiction, idolatry, pride and fear.) Will she fight for a sane and realistic body image her whole life? Will she battle fear in the face of social eating? Will she see herself as better than others when she’s fit and thin? Will she find herself devoting more time to her appearance than to her Savior? Will she learn these sinful behaviors from me?

I think this is essentially what Mathis is discussing in his article. Already, in “pre-parenting,” I have had numerous discussions with friends about how my husband and I plan to discipline our daughter. Already, I’ve noticed hundreds of books touting the secrets of raising girls, training up a child in the way he or she should go, the merits of spanking, the value of positive reinforcement, and on and on. I have yet to see a book that tells me what I’m supposed to do about my own sin as I assume the greatest responsibility of my life. How do I protect her from what I see as the most dangerous pitfalls?

I believe the reason no one has already offered advice on this matter, and the reason that no books have been shelved on this subject is because the only one qualified to give this advice is the Holy Spirit and the only book worthy of training me is the Bible. I believe, our greatest need in the coming months is not to indulge in books on sleeping through the night, or finding the right rocking chair or comparing our personal thoughts on discipline. Our greatest need, and the most potent influence will be the amount of time spent in the pages of our Bibles and down on our knees.

To close, I’ll site another article, this one by Nancy Leigh Demoss Wolgemuth:

“[The] lie says, ‘I can’t help the way I am.’ It’s a lie that can lead us to make excuses instead of taking responsibility for our choices. If you believe that you’re doomed to fail, you’ll keep failing. If you believe you’re doomed to sin, you’ll keep sinning. If you believe you’ll always be miserable, you’ll be an unhappy, frustrated woman. But the good news is that God can help you change the habits and patterns of the past, through faith in the blood of Christ and the power of His Spirit. You can make wise choices today no matter what you’ve done in the past. That’s the truth,and the truth will set you free!” 

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