Helping Children Overcome Sin

Recently we had a request for a Mom’s Corner on a topic to which many of us can probably relate.

“I have become aware of my controlling tendencies and have begun to work on this area of my life. Knowing this behavior does not please the Lord Jesus I am learning to pray and trust His ways.

My goal is to serve my family with a gentle spirit, patient heart, and quiet voice; however, I have noticed that my ten-year-old daughter has picked up and mimics much of the ‘Old Mom.’

What methods can I use to teach her that Mom’s old way does not bring glory to God and that she will suffer the same if she continues in those behaviors? Most of the time she (like I was) is unaware of this controlling nature. Please help.” A Mom Who Is Growing Away from Controlling

As we evaluate our lives and our children’s lives, we often see our sin mirrored in our children. The world recognizes this with sayings such as, “Like mother, like daughter.” My example to my children is usually speaking as loudly as, or louder than, my actual words. Scripture also gives us a picture of how this process of our example works. “Keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty; visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the children’s children, unto the third and to the fourth generation” (Exodus 34:7).

Our salvation frees us from the bondage of sin, but we can still live with the consequences of that sin, including seeing it reproduced in our children. Because of our own recognition of the particular sin and our battle with it, we become very aware of it not only in our lives but also in our children’s lives. When we begin to experience victory, we are happy to release our families from the effects our sin has been having on them, but we are not happy to see those effects perpetuated by the same sin in one of our children.

Seeing my sin in my children helps to keep me aware of the consequences of that sin, my need to depend on the Lord Jesus Christ, my desire to continue to grow spiritually, and my prayer that I not fall back into the old ways. I can use my children’s failures to help me not become prideful over any victory I am experiencing but to be grateful for the Lord’s work in my life and to give Him the glory for it. It should also allow me to be compassionate toward my children as they battle the same sin that I have and most likely am continuing to struggle with in some measure. “Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4).

When Steve and I face these kinds of situations of seeing our sin mirrored in our children, we begin discussing the problem and the solution with the child. Steve, as the spiritual head of our home, is the one who takes responsibility for initially addressing these kinds of sin issues. These difficulties offer good opportunities for heart-to-heart talks and then ongoing follow-up. Steve makes it a point to pull out practical application of the Word in our nightly family Bible time to the specific needs of the children. Often what sin one child is dealing with, another one may be as well.

Steve and I share with our children our failures and what the outcome has been through the years. We acknowledge to them that we know it has been our bad example that has opened the door for their sin. We discuss how the Lord has convicted us of that sin, how He has been teaching us to deal with it, and the changes we have experienced as a result.

In this particular case, here are verses of Scripture that might that apply to the problem and could be used in seeking to teach the Lord Jesus’ heart on the matter:

It is better to dwell in a corner of the housetop, than with a brawling woman in a wide house. (Proverbs 21:9)

A foolish woman is clamorous: she is simple, and knoweth nothing. (Proverbs 9:13)

Every wise woman buildeth her house: but the foolish plucketh it down with her hands. (Proverbs 14:1)

It is better to dwell in the wilderness, than with a contentious and an angry woman. (Proverbs 21:19)

A continual dropping in a very rainy day and a contentious woman are alike. (Proverbs 27:15)

Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. (Philippians 2:3)

But let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price. (1 Peter 3:4)

Steve and I have found the one-on-one discussions are best to have at a time when the child is not in trouble for some wrong behavior. At the moment of failure, the child is often defensive and making excuses. However, if we plan for a time to spend alone with the child later on, first sharing the testimony of our failures and then discussing his need for change along with the applicable verses, then his heart is usually more open.

We can use these one-on-one discussions to begin the process of crying out to the Lord for victory over their sin. We will be a prayer warrior for our children in these struggles they are facing. We can pray with our child. Then the child can begin praying for himself daily to overcome the sin. We can also choose to pray for each other since we each know the other is wanting to be obedient in this area. Every time there is failure it will be another opportunity to pray since there will be confession, repentance, and asking of forgiveness.

As moms we want to point out and encourage our children’s successes in an area where they are wanting to change. We can bless them by helping them to notice the victories and to be grateful to the Lord Jesus for His work in their lives. We will also need to bring up the failures, if the children don’t do so first. Sometimes they won’t recognize their sin or will try to make excuses for it. Excuses are an indicator of pride in a child’s life, and that also needs to be worked with. Each failure is a step toward humility, if they will cast down pride, repent of sin, and choose to be obedient.

I also want to be aware of whether I have truly turned from the sin I see mirrored in my child’s life. Sometimes I may think there is spiritual growth over the sin, but in reality, I am still continuing to walk in the sin at least to some extent. I think this can be especially true in the area of controlling. It is good for our children to hear us acknowledge our sin and ask forgiveness for it.

“Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you” (Philippians 4:9). Paul tells his readers in this verse that his instruction to them of God’s Word and his personal example are the path they are to follow. This is important for us as mothers as well and very sobering since it bears with it great responsibility in our own personal obedience to the Lord Jesus Christ.

The path of instruction, example, and correction would apply to helping a child with any sin he is struggling with, not just a daughter who needs to stop controlling. We have the precious opportunity in our children’s lives to help them learn to obey Jesus Christ, depend on Him, and repent of their sin. Moms are generally with their children on a minute-by-minute basis, whereas our husbands are with the family for more limited amounts of time in the evenings and on the weekends because of their need to provide for the family. May we make the most of the mothering years we have with our children in helping and directing them in their spiritual walk with the Lord Jesus Christ.

Leading in Which Direction?

We received this Corner request, which is long, but I felt it was so common in families that it would be good to share it fully. The author details two families in which she is observing serious problems.

“My topic request is about a wife submitting when the husband is not where he should be spiritually, though he is a Christian. There are two situations that I’m thinking of. In both, it seems that the husband makes many decisions hastily and under pressure from older children, and oftentimes the wife/children are unprotected due to his lack of wisdom/protection in the situation.

“In one case, over time the wife has become the conservative one and the husband more liberal. The children have learned to view Dad as easy and Mom as hard. The mom desperately wants to submit to her husband, but she is heartbroken at the lack of leadership/protection he’s giving and the consequences of some of his decisions. It’s very difficult for her to stay sweet and submissive when she feels her husband is making major mistakes in allowing worldly influences into their home, especially since he doesn’t seem to see his part in this. Also, he gets angry easily and often intimidates the wife and children into submission, even when she feels it could lead to spiritual or physical destruction.

“The other situation is similar, but the father is pretty strong outwardly. He is oftentimes harsh and wants to be respected as the leader, but doesn’t seem to be led of God in many situations. How can a wife/children joyfully submit when the direction the father is leading seems to be to their spiritual, emotional, and even physical destruction? Both of these families know about God’s authority structure and truly want to live submissive lives under the authority God’s given them, but are struggling with the lack of sheltering the authority is providing.

“Thank you for tackling this tough, but growing, problem among many Christian families.” A troubled mom

How incredibly difficult it can be for a wife to submit to her husband. “For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body” (Ephesians 5:23). It would be so good for each dad to consider what it is like for his wife to submit to him. Our head is the Lord Jesus Christ. The question is: how much are we submitting to Him? The less we submit to Christ, the more difficult it is for our wives and children to submit to us.

Weekly, we receive e-mails from heartbroken wives who are desperately trying to submit to their husbands. They are asking us how to do that when the husband is in love with the world and not obeying the Lord Jesus. To clarify, these are usually churchgoing, professing-Christian men who would not consider themselves in love with the world, but in reality their actions/decisions betray them. Think about how difficult that becomes for the wife who has vowed to obey her husband. She sees the bad seeds being planted in the children’s life because of Dad’s choices, and she knows they will likely lose their children to the world because of it. She pours out her life for the family every day knowing it will likely be wasted because of her husband. This Corner request is typical of the e-mails we receive, and it breaks our hearts.

I am confident that most dads in this category would not consider themselves a blight to their family. If only there was a way to wake them up to the fact that it isn’t their opinion that matters, but what the Lord has to say about their leadership. A good example is from a man after God’s own heart, David. Nathan the prophet is telling David what God has sent him to say after David took Bathsheba and had Uriah killed. “Now therefore the sword shall never depart from thine house; because thou hast despised me, and hast taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be thy wife” (2 Samuel 12:10). David would never have considered himself to have despised his God, but God said he did because of his disobedience and sin. Dads, we despise God when we don’t follow Him. It brought ruin to David’s family, and it will bring ruin to ours.

In the same way, most dads would not consider themselves a friend of the world. But when others on the outside (or the wife) observe Dad’s decisions, it becomes obvious. God is clear that anyone who is a friend of (has affection for) the world is His enemy. “Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God” (James 4:4).

Husbands are to submit to the Lord as they lead their families, but are we aware of the stumbling block we place in the path of our wives when we are poor leaders? Everyone will make mistakes, but all too often these days the husband is the weak link in the home. Instead of Dad being strong in the faith, the servant/leader man of God, the one clinging to the Word and guarding his family, he is the one who wants to watch TV and movies and spend the remainder of his free time on other entertainment and recreation. The fruit brought forth in the lives of the children are evil temptations and worldly appetites. These will lead them to be either carnal Christians or lost and headed for hell. That is a fearful responsibility for Dad to bear. There is a day coming when each of us will stand before God and give an account of our lives.

Often Dad plants the seeds of destruction when he is to be the saviour of the body as we read above in Ephesians 5:23. “Saviour” means deliverer and protector. Sadly, Dad is often the one who, by worldly decisions, is the one corrupting the children. I’m not describing a situation where the children just receive a “lower spiritual grade” because of this bad fruit; I am urging you to consider that Dad’s life will have influence in where the child spends eternity and how or if he lives for Christ.

I believe that is why the Lord Jesus is so incredibly strong in Matthew 18:6: “But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea.” The word offend means to cause a believer to question or weaken his faith or even to deny Jesus.

In the verse I just referred to, the phrase, “little ones which believe in me” is a type, meaning one who is saved. But if it is that serious how Dad influences those saved in the home, how much more serious it is if the children haven’t been saved, and Dad’s influence affirms their lost path to hell! Many children may never believe if Dad’s influence is sufficiently worldly.

I believe this verse also applies to dads who cause their wives to stumble. Can you see why so many moms are brokenhearted and stumble themselves? We have seen them question how God could allow this in their family, and that can lead to bitterness toward God. I believe that is a dangerous position to be in both for Mom and her husband who caused her to stumble.

This is such a serious thing, but many of the dads who need to hear this would never consider that it applies to them. They might be teaching Sunday School, leading a Bible study, singing on a worship team, and even serving as a deacon or elder. Somehow the outwardly religious ones are often the worst. God is not impressed with our religious service. “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity” (Matthew 7:21-23). Like David we can even have a heart after God, but not be following Him. God wants our obedience.

Anger is also very prevalent in professing Christian homes. Anger is poison to relationships because you can’t get close to a person who could “explode” any minute (We have a CD titled Anger-Relationship Poison). “But now ye also put off all these; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth” (Colossians 3:8). Paul, by the Holy Spirit, would not tell us to put it away if we weren’t able to. Just like a boss who bullies his employees around by his temper, Dad will be harsh and demanding and use his anger to get his way. Oh, may God have mercy on those families.

“Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honour unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered” (1 Peter 3:7). So many men’s prayers are hindered because they are not honoring the heart cry of their wives. To honor I mean to listen carefully to her concerns, take them to the Lord in prayer and search Scripture, and then obey the Lord’s direction.

These situations are so troubling. What many dads need is a “trip to the woodshed.” God’s longsuffering should never be confused with God’s acceptance. There are consequences, and the greatest heartbreak is when the consequences fall on the innocent in the family. The solution is for Dad to repent, throw the world out of the home, get right with God, and obey. Critical to this is reading the Bible EVERY morning and leading the family in a daily time in the Word.

What is it like to be yoked to “ourselves”? Are we a blight or a blessing? Do we honor our wives and families? Do we make it easy and a joy for our wives to submit to us? Are we the spiritual leaders and protectors they need that will draw them into an intimate relationship with Jesus Christ? May we be true men of God, serving and obeying Him wholeheartedly.