Why No Parenting Method is 100% Effective (and What to Do Instead)

I’ve had some conversations lately with some friends about parenting methods.

As moms and dads, especially when our kids are tiny, it’s so tempting to believe there’s some holy grail of parenting methods where if you just follow this 10-step plan, your kids will turn out exactly the way you want them to.

I know I did. I read all the books and tried all the things. But the problem with the search for a perfect parenting method is that my children are human beings. And so am I.

We all have our own unique personalities and God-given gifts and talents. We have good days and bad days. And we all have a sinful nature that tempts us daily to go our own ways.

Sometimes that looks like my kids pushing the boundaries more than they did yesterday.

Sometimes it looks like siblings having fight after fight after fight where it’s hard to determine who’s right and who’s wrong.

Sometimes it looks like me losing my temper when the boys are being bothersome, but not really disobedient.

Sometimes it looks like me giving in to laziness and not following through on the threats of discipline that I’d made.

That doesn’t mean it’s wrong to seek out tools that will help us train our children as they grow and change. But we can’t imagine that any particular method will produce fail-safe results in our kids. Because ultimately, they have to make their own choices regarding whether or not to submit to your parental authority.

God doesn’t just want robotic servants who do his bidding. Out of the overflow of love that God is, in His own glorious self-sufficiency, he made human beings in his own image to be in a loving relationship with Him. And isn’t that exactly the ideal picture of parents bringing a child into the world? Out of a family where there is already love, the expression of that love produces another person, and multiplies the love in that home?

Of course, part of having a loving home is children who obey their parents. Just as God instructs us, “If you love me, keep my commands,” (John 14:15) so should we expect submission from our children.

Yet just as true love produces obedience, so obedience grows best in the soil of true love.

They are inseparable. If I understand God’s love for me, it’s easier for me to trust that His commands are in my best interest, which demonstrates my love back to him, and deepens our relationship and produces even more obedience. So to, when our children believe they have our affections, I really believe that they are more likely to obey us, and ultimately God.

This is why we talk about building a strong family culture so much around here. That’s why we play games together as a family, and have movie night, and snuggle up at bedtime and read Bible stories. I want my kids to know that they are deeply loved by their Mom and Dad, and by God.

If our kids know, deep down, how much we love them, the method of discipline (as long as there is one!) doesn’t matter quite as much.

If we can win our kids’ hearts, that’s more than half the battle.

One of the best ways to build godly affection in your family is to discuss the Bible with your kids. If you don’t know where to start, I’ve written this 17-day family devotional just for you! Click here to grab your free copy.