Gospel-Based Parenting: Look Behind The Behavior

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Let’s be real.  Motherhood is tough. When our kids misbehave or get out of line, we feel an overwhelming burden to nip it in the bud.

I mean, really. Who wants their kid to grow up to be a psychopath or self-centered narcissist? The pressure. Girl, it’s no joke.

The world, our homeschool communities, and even our churches send us these messages that it’s all up to us moms. That raising a functioning adult (or at least avoiding the psychopath part) is based on us.

Praise the Lord that, like so many who’ve gone before me, I now know that this is simply not true. And I’ve got a fire in me to encourage a momma today.

Perhaps it’s you, Momma Friend.

Who This Post is Not For

Before we get started, let me get this out of the way.

This post isn’t for every mom.

If you’re one of the lucky ones who’s got this parenting thing nailed down, this is not for you. 

Or if you’ve got one of those kids who makes you look good wherever you go, this post is definitely not for you.

On the other hand, if you’re like me and millions of other moms who know they need help, please keep reading.

little boy hands up against wall

Motherhood is No Easy Task

If you’ve got a kid who has a hard time with explosive behaviors, big emotions or basic “obedience,” it’s brutal. And it’s easy to want to put a stop to it now.

In my own story with our son, I did everything to get him to stop screaming, kicking, biting and scratching.

But the traditional discipline approaches that worked with my girls only exacerbated the problem. I felt like a failure because the “spare the rod, spoil the child” strategies didn’t work with him.

Side note: In case you were wondering. The “rod” is a shepherd’s staff. Meant to gently wrap into the sheepfold. Not to be used as a weapon.

I digress. Where was I?

Oh yeah… bottom line:

Parenting well requires us parents to demonstrate the discipline and patience we desperately want for our kids.

And that takes insane amounts of patience, discipline, effort and a good look in the mirror.

First Parenting Strategy Is Often Reaction

If you were raised in a traditional household, your discipline default may be to nip “bad” behavior in the bud ASAP.

No, ma’am. You do not behave that way!

On the surface, that no-nonsense approach appears to work.

That disobedient child may acquiesce in the face of fear. You might get the behavior to stop, at least momentarily.  

But is that the goal?  Momentary behavior change?

God looks at the heart.

1 Samuel 16:7

Failing Parenting Mindset

One major problem is that outward behavior is generally seen as the be all end all within the church and our culture.

This is true regardless of whether we admit it.

Within my own community, the message was loud and clear. The slightest crack in the bad behavior code was unacceptable.

And it was on me (and other respective mommas) to fix it. If this doesn’t resonate, I ask you to hear me out.

woman looking in mirror

Damaging Parenting Messages

Unintentionally, I internalized some damaging parenting messages. Some of those messages may sound familiar. Those messages that tell us:

  1. That your value as a mom is based on your kid’s behavior.

She had better nip that behavior in the bud.

2. A good mom has a good kid.

The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.

3. A good kid behaves the way the adults around them wants.

You need to give your Aunt Sally a hug regardless of how you feel. It’s just polite.

I think I just threw up a bit. Ugh.

Fear-based “Me” Parenting

When my oldest, now 15, was little, I was confident (ahem… prideful) about how to deal with disobedience. Any hint of it was met with that firm approach that tolerated none of it.

And while I was a loving, highly-engaged and super fun mom, I now know that I often parented from a place of fear. 

Deep down, I feared that if I didn’t approach outward disobedience swiftly, I would be opening the door to having “that” kid.

And that would be my fault because it was based on what I did or did not do “right.”  So much of it was all about me.  


description of video devotional series for special needs moms

Perception Isn’t Always Reality

Fellow Momma Friend, there’s a major problem with the “nip behavior in the bud” parenting mentality.

Part of the problem lies when our pattern of parenting is based on our flawed perception of “misbehavior”.

We often react without pausing to make sure our perception is correct.

It’s so easy to get caught up in our kids’ outward behavior that we fail to seek their hearts.

Assumptions Are Dangerous

  • When we assume a child who is screaming bloody murder in the church foyer is just being a brat.
    • Except he is overwhelmed by all of the sounds, smells and fear of being left with strangers
  • When we judge that teen girl because she is dressed all in black covered in piercings and dark eyeliner
    • We fail to ask her about her broken heart over never being enough

God looks at the heart, right?

Raising Kids to Be Adults

God willing, our kids are going to spend roughly 75-80% of their lives as adults.

So when we’re looking for the most effective parenting and discipline strategies, we need to keep our end goal in mind.

Let’s set our kids up for a healthy future by teaching them that outward behavior is not the be all end all.

It’s their hearts that we must be after.

quote about mistakes in parenting

Connection Is Essential

A child who feels loved, valued and connected to the adults around them is the one who feels safe.

That safety allows them to process through the heart issues that precede negative behaviors.

Gospel-Based Parenting

Dear Momma Friend, let’s seek relationship with our children regardless of what things look like on the outside.

As a believer in Jesus, I cannot strive for anything less than a relationship-based approach.

That is what the Gospel is all about.

In spite of our outward ugly behavior, God seeks us through relationship with His Son.

We are internally changed through relationship, not punishment.

Behind the Behavior

We moms have such an opportunity. By training ourselves to see behind the behavior, we can better reach our kids’ hearts.

It’s ok to be the mom who’s

  • Willing to look beyond the parenting paradigm of her parents, church, or community
  • Proud to “look bad” in front of others who want her to “nip that behavior in the bud.”   

Cheer Another Mom On

She’s the mom whose kid is screaming and melting down in the middle of the grocery store. 

Instead of dripping with sweat worrying about what everyone thinks, she’s offering her kid grace during a meltdown.

And when that momma hears an old lady saying something like,

“She had better get that kid under control,”

That momma could care less.

Trusting God’s Provision To Choose Us 

She knows the truth that humanity’s brokenness is covered in the grace of God through relationship with His Son.

Grace and truth.  Let’s go with God on this one.

Happy Mother’s Day, Sweet Friend. In this with you.

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16 thoughts on “Gospel-Based Parenting: Look Behind The Behavior”

  1. I’m not a parent, but this blog post spoke to me because I’m a teacher. I agree with you that building trust is the foundation in every relationship. Like you, my favorite teachers were those who took the time to know me and helped me solve problems. Thank you for writing this piece.

  2. What a great post! I agree that discipline is very important, but also appreciate how you point out the importance of building that relationship and being the greatest influence in our children’s lives.

  3. Great post Lindsay! It’s a hard road, that’s for sure. Mine are now 15 and 13 and I reckon, through all the trials and tribulations, I did okay. It’s a minefield at the moment with a 15 yo daughter but I’m getting there.

    Anne xx

  4. Thanks for the thoughtful blog. I successfully went through three teenagers and have now only 5 more kids to go. Any advice is always welcome.

    • Alexandra, I’m honored that a mom of your experience would have kind words to say about my personal parenting perspective. Thank you so much and clearly you’re an expert momma for moms like me to look to for wisdom. šŸ™‚ Have a great night!

  5. This article gave me alot to think about. I am going to focus on our relationship rather than expecting perfection,…it is just that my daughter is so smart I encourage her to do her best, that is all I ask, but I know my habit of perfectionism (I am not half as smart as she is) sometimes can rub off on her, and I need to try and encourage her to let her “good” be enough sometimes. And knowing when to do that.

    • Diane, I appreciate your heart for your daughter. You clearly love her so much and God chose you for a reason for sure! When we push for more we often teach our kids that they’re never enough. And that is often how we feel about ourselves when it all comes down to it. I feel your struggle and Gospel-based parenting is definitely a growing process. I’m always failing and growing. When I seek perfection is when I seem to blow it relationally with my kids. All that to say, I hear you loud and clear. Praise God that Jesus did it all for us so we can rest in His grace as we parent our kids with that grace. Have a wonderful day!


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