No decisions we make are done in a vacuum; there are always driving motives and goals for our choices. In this chapter, Tripp highlights some common unbiblical goals that parents may have for their children. It’s important to remember that none of these goals are basically “evil,” and there could be a place for all of them. However, any of these goals could easily become idols, for us parents and/or for our children. It’s not the goals themselves that are unbiblical; rather it’s our heart-attitudes in each of these areas that can have self-focused motives.
For example, why do we put a high importance in helping our kids develop special skills through extracurricular activities? Are we teaching them to think that success and happiness are measure by the number of skills they have? Instead of focusing on our child’s psychological adjustment and self-esteem, should we not train her to esteem others (Philippians 2:3)?
Even the seemingly-noble goals of saved children and family worship can be idols. Neither of these is a substitute for a true, dynamic, living relationship with Jesus Christ. Jesus warns us that false faith can carry someone a long way in life (Matthew 7:21-23). Since our discipleship of our children is a process and not an event, even a profession of faith does not change the basic principles of training them. “You can never know with absolute certainty whether your child is saved.’ Therefore, we should always point them to the Gospel of Christ, since it is the only source of life, fulfillment, and joy.
More unbiblical goals are having well-behaved children, a good education, and control. It is so easy for us parents to make these idols, especially as we tend to focus on convenience and appearances. But we must remember to focus on the hearts of our children, and not their behavior (see chapter 1). Focusing on outward appearances can easily lead to rebellion or arrogance in your child.
We need to prayerfully consider the importance we are putting on each of these areas. Our chief goal in parenting must never be to help our children be happy, comfortable, or successful. In fact, the more we give our children to fill their lives, the more likely we are to distract them from God. How can we focus on giving them so much, and then expect them to understand “that a life worth living is found only in knowing and serving God?” Our hearts have room for either the true God or false idols (Luke 16:10-15).