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G[ospel]entle Parenting

Author: Elizabeth Layman, The Little Layman Life

In efforts to not repeat parenting mistakes from the past, we have ridden the pendulum all the way to the opposite side of parenting philosophy - gentle parenting.

We’re focused on our children’s feelings, hoping to raise emotionally intelligent children. We read all the parenting books that tell us we just need to give more attention, to give names to the feelings, to not make our children feel bad. If we can just do it right our kids will be well adjusted adults.

We just need…to walk on eggshells around our children?

I think in our focus on feelings, we neglect truth, which does not result in well-adjusted adults who are capable of coping with difficulty, but instead yields people who expect reality to bend to the way they are feeling that particular moment. As believers, this should sound warning bells.

As a mother, I want my children to be empathetic, emotionally intelligent, and feeling. None of these things should come at the cost of truth. I want my children to first and foremost know that there is truth, and it doesn’t bend to the whims of what we or anyone else is feeling. In fact, the Bible says that our hearts lie to us.

“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” (‭‭Jeremiah‬ ‭17:9‬ ‭ESV)‬‬

So yes, feelings are good, and we should absolutely help our children through them, but as believers we should be very careful that the lines between our feelings and reality don’t become blurred. In the age of “I feel like a woman, therefore I am a woman,” (Whatever a woman is?) our children need to know that while their feelings are valid, they cannot dictate actuality.

This popular style of parenting even goes so far as to deny inherent sin in children. It blames bad behavior on “hard” or “big” feelings instead of the sin that plagues mankind. While it can be hard to see our babies as inherently selfish, rebellious, and in utter opposition to God, the Bible says that these things are true of all mankind.

“[F]or all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins.” Romans‬ ‭3:23-25‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Our children do not need their feelings validated more than they need the truth of the Gospel which is that they too are in need of grace and the saving blood of Jesus. Those big emotions in those tiny little bodies? The enraged screaming at the top of their lungs over getting the wrong color cup? That isn’t necessarily evidence that you haven’t given your children enough time. That’s evidence that, at their core, our children want what they want and need Jesus because of it, just like you and me.

By all means, meet the physical and emotional needs of your children. But do not forget to acknowledge their spiritual need for Jesus, too. By attributing all of their shortcomings to big emotions, we disallow them to see the Gospel at work. We deny them our Savior. We deny them Jesus. And that, my friends, is truly unloving. Be gentle parents and show them the Gospel. Be gentle parents and speak Truth.

Be gentle parents, but maybe steer clear of “gentle parenting.”

The views expressed in this article are the author’s and do not necessarily represent those of Resident Skeptics.

Elizabeth Layman is the owner of The Little Layman Life, writing about parenting, Christianity, homeschooling and other topics. Since having her first child in 2016, she has also realized her desire to care for and empower young moms in various stages whether that be pregnancy, newborn life, toddlerhood or school age.

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