As a dad, I sometimes feel like I’m constantly angry and frustrated with my four-year-old. I often react before I listen, I assume his intentions rather than asking questions, and I rebuke him, not because he is disobeying, but because he is inconveniencing me. I want to be the happy dad who loves to laugh and play with his kids, and the patient dad who teaches them with wisdom and love. But my pride and flesh often get in the way, keeping me from being gracious, and causing me to forget that he’s just an energetic and curious boy.
I sometimes self-reflect and try to get to the bottom of why I react this way. Maybe it’s because he’s become a bit more defiant at this age. Maybe it’s because he’s been reading too many Curious George books lately. Maybe I’m stressed with work or other things that occupy my mind. Or maybe it’s just because after you’ve lived with someone for four years, you get annoyed with them easily.
Your parenting fails don’t make you a bad parent. They make you human. Thankfully, Jesus died to redeem humans.
But the truth is, the why behind my impatience doesn’t matter. What matters is that God has called me to be understanding and gracious as I teach my son how to be a man and navigate this world. And instead, I’m sometimes just a jerk.
The opportunity God only gives to imperfect parents.
More than anything, I want my son to grow up to be a good man, and that means a lot of things.
It means I want him to grow up to love God, to be kind, to be patient with others—certainly more patient than I’ve been with him lately—and to be humble. I want him to be able to admit his mistakes, to apologize with sincerity when he wrongs someone, and to work hard to make it right.
I regularly fall short in modeling most of these virtues. But every time I become impatient and frustrated with him, I am given the opportunity to model humility in a unique way. That’s when I take both of his hands in mine, bend down on one knee, look into his eyes, and say:
“Buddy, I’m sorry for getting frustrated with you. When you disobey, I have to correct you. And in the same way, sometimes dad disobeys, too. I disobeyed God when I became frustrated with you. God doesn’t like it when daddy does that. Will you forgive me?”
The most important lesson you can teach your kids is that they will never outgrow sin, and they will never outrun grace.
I have to do this regularly. And every time I do, my son teaches me a lesson as well: the power of forgiveness. He’s always quick to forgive me without hesitation or condition. He doesn’t keep track of how many times I’ve wronged him this week. Instead, he gives me a hug and says, “I forgive you, dad.”
Your parenting fails don’t make you a bad parent.
If you’re a discouraged and frustrated parent, I feel you. We’re in this together. Can I encourage you with two thoughts?
First, I want to encourage you by telling you that your parenting fails don’t make you a bad parent. They make you human. Thankfully, Jesus died to redeem humans.
Second, I want to encourage you to always find the humility to apologize when you’ve wronged your kids. Because the most important lesson you can teach your kids is that they will never outgrow sin, and they will never outrun grace.
We can teach our kids these important truths by showing them that dad and mom are still sinners, we still screw up and we still have a Parent that we answer to: God.