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You Are Not Your Child’s Sin

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Do you have one of “those” kids? Every family should have at least one. They humble you. They break the mold of the family, and usually their parents at the same time.

A while back, I was at a three-day training in the summer. They had day camps for my kids to attend while I was at the training. Since it was about six hours from home, I rented an Airbnb, left my husband to his work, and drove all the kids out there by myself.

The Incident

Once I got everyone fed after the first day, one of my kids told me about “an incident” that happened that day with one of my other kids. He’d had one of his meltdowns, something we hadn’t seen in a while. He had thrown a chair, and there was yelling and crying.

Of course, there can be many reasons for a child’s meltdown, some even outside the child’s control. A sin-warped world—in which children often experience tiredness, immaturity, past trauma, illness, and developmental challenges—may contribute to a meltdown just as much as ill intent. But, whatever the root cause, it is not okay to throw chairs and scare other children.

The child who came to me was embarrassed by what her brother had done, and she didn’t want to tattle, but she thought I needed to know.

The next morning, as I dropped off my kids at their classrooms, I dropped off the one with the incident last. I wanted to speak with his teacher and make sure everything was okay. She was busy checking kids in, so I stepped back and waited. I was then approached by the superviser of the day camps.

“So, we had an incident yesterday.”

“Yes, one of my kids told me about it.”

She proceeded to tell me the details, and let me know how they responded, and how the day ended. In my mind, they had done everything right, but I was scared she was going to tell me that he couldn’t come anymore. This child got kicked out of things often enough, and I needed this training. It felt like a non-negotiable for my family.

“I’m so, so, so very sorry,” I stammered out.

Set Free

This woman looked at me and cocked her head with questioning eyes. “Why are you sorry? You weren’t even there. You didn’t do anything wrong. Your son did. I just need to make sure that he agrees to our code of conduct before returning to class.”

Her statement caught me off guard—I had never heard those words in my 14 years of parenting. They struck deep. I bit my lip. My face got hot, and to my embarrassment, I started crying. A pent-up dam was released. As a mom of six children, I hear it all. “Control your kids.” “Your kid shouldn’t be doing that.” “Keep an eye on your kid.”

Her statement caught me off guard—I had never heard those words in my 14 years of parenting.

The worst is when I hear these messages spoken passive-aggressively about other parents, and then I internalize them. When kids act up in public it’s: “Some parents just don’t discipline.” “Some parents just don’t teach boundaries.” “No one teaches manners anymore.” “Parents just need to learn to say ‘no.’”

While all that might be true, I get so weary of people thinking I’m the cause of my children’s sinful nature. I must not be trying hard enough. If I just parented them better, they wouldn’t deal with sin anymore.

That’s a weight that suffocates parents today.

Sufficient Savior

Even though I knew Jesus took my sin, I still bore the burden of my children’s sin. I mentally, emotionally, and often physically bore the weight of it. God deals with my sin, therefore I should deal with my kids’ sin. I’m God’s ambassador to them, after all.

Yes, but I am not the Savior.

Even though I knew Jesus took my sin, I still bore the burden of my children’s sin.

Whenever I think back to that conversation, I’m reminded that I’m not built to bear my kids’ sin. There is only One strong enough to bear the guilt of others, and his name is Jesus. That sweet woman in charge of those day camps made that clear to me.

Parents, take on the light yoke of pointing your children to Jesus. Your role as a parent does involve discipline. It does involve being an ambassador. It does involve prayer, training, and correction. But it does not involve bearing some kind of “righteous guilt” over what they have done.

Teach your children right from wrong (the law). Teach them also what God has done for our wrong, and what that means for us (the gospel).

Jesus bore the weight of sin on the cross. He alone is the weight-bearer, and what a relief his strength is—especially on our worst days.

Editors’ note: 

A version of this article appeared at 1517.

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