Kevin DeYoung has an excellent article at The Gospel Coalition blog (it’s an oldie, but a goodie). He encourages parents to focus on getting a few things right instead of attempting to do everything that we read in every book. Obviously, the few right things worth focusing on are gospel-level issues.

I found myself identifying with and laughing at his fiction versus reality account of dealing with a child about their sin. I’ll quote it here, but take the time to read the whole post, it is worth the 10 minutes.

      “I don’t consider myself a particularly good parent. I was asked to speak a few years ago at some church’s conference. They wanted me to talk about parenting. I said I didn’t have much to say so they should ask someone else (which they did). My kids are probably not as crazy as they seem to me (at least that’s what I keep telling myself anyway), but if I ever write a book on parenting I’m going to call it The Inmates Are Running the Asylum.

       

      There are already scores of books on parenting, many of them quite good. I’ve read several of them and have learned much. I really do believe in gospel-powered parenting and shepherding my child’s heart. I want conversations like this: 

      Me: What’s the matter son?

      Child: I want that toy and he won’t give it to me!

      Me: Why do you want the toy?

      Child: Because it will be fun to play with.

      Me: Do you think he is having fun playing with the toy right now?

      Child: Yes.

      Me: Would it make him sad to take the toy away?

      Child: I guess so.

      Me: And do you like to make your brother sad?

      Child: No.

      Me: You know, Jesus tells us to love our neighbor as ourselves. That means loving your brother the way he would want to be loved. Since Jesus loves us so much, we have every reason to love others–even your brother. Would you like to love him by letting him play with the toy for awhile?

      Child: Yes I would daddy.

       

      I try that. Really I do. But here’s what actually happens:

      Me: What’s the matter son?

      Child: I want that toy and he won’t give it to me!

      Me: Why do you want the toy?

      Child: I don’t know.

      Me: What’s going on in your heart when you desire that toy?

      Child: I don’t know.

      Me: Think about it son. Use your brain. Don’t you know something?

      Child: I guess I just want the toy.

      Me: Obviously. But why?

      Child: I don’t know.

      Me: Fine. [Mental note: abandon “why” questions and skip straight to leading questions.] Do you think he is having fun playing with the toy right now?

      Child: No.

      Me: Really?! He’s not having fun? Then why does he want that toy in the first place?

      Child: Because he’s mean.

      Me: Have you ever considered that maybe you are being mean by trying to rip the toy from his quivering little hands?

      Child: I don’t know.

      Me: What do you know?

      Child: I don’t know!

      Me: Nevermind. [I wonder how my brilliant child can know absolutely nothing at this moment.] Well, I think taking the toy from him will make your brother sad. Do you like to make him sad?

      Child: I don’t know.

      Me: [Audible sigh.]

      Child: He makes me sad all the time!

      Me: Well, I’m getting sad right now with your attitude! [Pause, think, what would Paul Tripp do?  Thinking . . . .thinking . . . .man, I can’t stop thinking of that mustache. This isn’t working. Let’s just go right to the Jesus part.] You know, Jesus wants us to love each other.

      Child: I don’t know.

      Me: I didn’t ask you a question!

      Child: [Pause.] Can I have some fruit snacks?

      Me: No, you can’t have fruit snacks. We are talking about the gospel. Jesus loves us and died for us. He wants you to love your brother too.

      Child: So?

      Me: So give him the toy back!

       Then I lunge for the toy and the child runs away. I tell him to come back here this instant and threaten to throw the toy in the trash. I recommit myself to turning down speaking engagements on parenting.”

I’m thankful for this kind of honesty. It gives me hope that the gospel can remake even a broken parent like me!