I learned a shocking lesson shortly after my oldest daughter Caitlin’s birth, and I relearned it almost every day of my experience as the father of four kids. No matter how much time and effort we put into preparing for parenthood, there will always be unexpected surprises. Raising and relating to children brings difficult times for everyone, and for many it becomes even more so as children reach the teen years. The situation becomes more complex for parents who raise more than one child since each child brings to the home a unique personality and set of life experiences. Remember, God created each one of these divine image-bearers unique, valuable, and special.

At the root of the difficulties that come is the sinful and selfish nature of children and their parents. We are broken parents living with and raising broken children. While we long to get along, it can be hard to live together peacefully. Parents must strive to be the best they can be while raising healthy, well-adjusted kids. But parents who hope and expect to raise perfect kids and have a perfect family are unrealistic and will burden themselves and their children with the sense of failure that accompanies the albatross of not being able to measure up. That’s an especially great pressure you might feel in a social media-saturated world where every other family is curating and putting their best foot forward for all the world to see. Of course, don’t believe the hype. Truth-be-told, every family is somewhat other than those perfect pictures you see posted and shared.

A quick overview of the Bible yields a realistic picture of how sin affects the home front. Rebelliousness and disobedience have been facts of life since the first children, Adam and Eve, disobeyed and rebelled against their heavenly Father. I believe that recognizing this fact is a big step in gaining a realistic sense of confidence in raising and relating to our own kids. Although God gives us parenting guidelines and commands, there is a conspicuous absence of any assurance that kids will always turn out OK and will never cause or have any problems. Rather, parents are told that discipline is necessary (Prov. 13:24) since a child’s heart is filled with rebellion (Prov. 22:15). Kids will make poor choices that require discipline in order to steer them straight. At times, you — like other parents — will cry from the heart, “Help me! This isn’t easy!”

In his book Parents in Pain, Dr. John White admits to dealing with the pain of having one of his five children go astray. When I first read this book his words shocked me because I believed that good Christian parents always find it easy to raise good Christian kids. (I wasn’t a parent myself at the time!) Therefore, I concluded the Whites must have done something wrong to have raised a wayward child. But as I read on, I learned that there are no guarantees. We can’t take the credit for our kids when things go smoothly, although we may want to. And we can’t take the blame when we work hard at parenting and they turn out badly. As Dr. White writes, “Genes, home environment, school and social environment and the child’s capacity to make certain choices all bear on the final outcome.” Everything we experience in our homes- the ups and the downs – are opportunities for child and parent alike to grow. And, we must pray that as God leads us through these moments, He will use them in our lives for our good and His glory!

All of us will experience a different set of highs and lows, jolts and joys, thrills and spills. If you are struggling as a parent, rest assured that you aren’t alone. And we can all approach our parenting as a glorious challenge. Remember, it’s by the grace of God alone that anything good will come out of parenting. And, it’s the grace of God alone that will guide and carry us through our parenting years.

If you would like to learn more about how to parent with discernment and Godly wisdom, we recommend Paul Tripp’s newly updated book, Age of Opportunity: A Biblical Guide to Parenting Teens. You can order your copy here.

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