How to raise good kids

Do you want good kids or godly kids? Do you parent to raise good kids or godly kids? Those are two distinct questions, because often what we desire and what we do in practice do not mesh and can even be at cross purposes. In chapter two of Give them Grace, Fitzpatrick and Thompson help us to see the difference between the two.

The history of the Old Testament from the beginning is a history of people who tried to be good on their own, who tried to prove themselves good. Just as they were not naturally good, so our children are not naturally good either. Jesus came to show us his goodness where we have failed. So teaching and praising outward goodness misses the mark. According to Fitzpatrick and Thompson,

Teaching our children to be well-behaved, good citizens is proper as far as it goes. But we must never mistake this training for Christian nurture or discipline, nor should we mistake their acquiescence to our social mores as true Christian righteousness. (45)

Christian righteousness is a goodness bestowed, not earned or deserved. The authors have a good chart that distinguishes human obedience and passive righteousness.

Human Obedience Passive Righteousness
Accessible to all who work Accessible only to those who believe
Outward conformity to rules Record of Christ’s obedience is bestowed on all who believe
Renewed by self-effort and resolutions Initiated and renewed by the Holy Spirit
Temporary and fluctuating Eternal and settled
Imperfect and incomplete Perfect and complete
Grinding slavery of works Grateful, joyful obedience of faith
Produces fear and insecurity Produces peace and godly confidence
Results in pride and despair Results in rest and joy

We shouldn’t tell our children that they are good, rather when God works in them we should praise God for his goodness and grace that was evident in our child. Their bottom line in this chapter is this: “You cannot raise good kids, because you’re not a good parent. There is only one good Parent, and he had one good Son.”

(You can view posts on other parts of the book: Post 1, Post 2, Post 4, Post 5, Post 6)

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