By Melissa Miller
“Kids, why haven’t you made your bed yet? I told you three times to make your beds!”
My mom-tone echoed through the hallway, and I felt a little proud of myself for implementing our new chore chart system. I glanced at all the checkmarks on the chart hanging on my fridge. Must have more! More checkmarks!
I walked down the hallway to hold my kids accountable to the remaining checkmarks and a small voice rose up in my heart. The Holy Spirit gently whispered, “Have you made your bed?”
I walked by my room and winced at the knot of a comforter resting on my bed. I knew this gentle correction from the Lord pertained to much more than unmade beds. This moment, years ago, marks one of the most valuable parenting lessons God ever taught me.
Luke 6:42 says, “How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take out the speck that is in your eye,’ when you yourself do not see the log that is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take out the speck that is in your brother’s eye.”
Up until this point, my parenting left me exempt from everything I expected of my kids … especially issues of the heart. It was easy to point the finger at them and spot a lack of self-control, selfishness, envy, or a lack of gratitude … it wasn’t so easy to ask myself if I had those things in my heart.
I thought about how hard it would be to truly hold myself accountable to the same things I wanted corrected in my kids. I challenged myself … What if I tried? What if every time I saw something unruly in my kids, I pointed the finger at myself first? Did that word or attitude rise up in them because they saw it in me? Did that sense of entitlement come because, perhaps I’ve been lacking in gratitude? If they refuse to apologize to one another, could it be because they don’t ever hear me ask for forgiveness? Do I try to hold my kids accountable to things I’m not willing to be accountable for?
It started as an experiment, I didn’t expect it to change our lives. When I’d spot blaring selfishness in my kids, I started to ask myself, “Do I have selfishness in my heart?” Then, I’d pray about it and take it to God. I’d ask God to change me. I’d ask Him to purify my heart so I could lead the way for my kids.
When I first started this new habit, by the time I got around to correcting my kids I felt so humbled that we’d both pray together about the issue (because I needed help in that area too)! I noticed our times of correction turning into times of connection. I traded my momma combat boots for standing on holy ground alongside my kids.
That simple question from the Lord changed the way I parent. To this day, I still ask myself the tough questions when I see something undesirable in my children. When I allow the Lord to search my heart, I don’t command my children from an ivory tower, I invite them to bow with me before the one true King. Previously, I might demand they work on their issue and improve … or else! Now, I’m more apt to take a team approach. Instead of pointing out character flaws with judgement, I’ll say, “I struggle with that sometimes too. Let’s help each other get better.” Don’t get me wrong, we still very much believe in consequences when needed! God certainly does too!
However, before this point, I really only wanted submission from my kids. What I realized is that if my kids don’t see me submitting to the Lord, then submission becomes “do as I say, not as I do.” We all know hypocritical parenting doesn’t work well in the long run.
There is a lot more peace in our home since my little “experiment” in accountability years ago. I’m less concerned with modifying the behavior of my children than I am with making sure I become a mom worth emulating. I want my children to follow me as I follow Christ. I’ll never be perfect, I am not Jesus, but I think that’s the point … always looking to Him, reflecting on His goodness, and remembering our need for Him. I remind my children that our faith is not behavior modification, God is after the heart -- not just theirs, but mine too.
Melissa Miller is married to her best friend and has three children. She serves alongside her husband at Canvas Church in San Diego, CA. Melissa works for a marriage ministry, and is passionate about helping marriages and families thrive. Melissa and her husband are in the process of adopting internationally. She enjoys reading, writing, cooking, and beach days with her family. Check her out on Instagram and Facebook!