When it comes to parenting, what’s more important God or money? It may be easy to say “God” until our kids make a costly mistake . . . it’s then our true colors come out.
It happened to us just a year or so ago. Our teenage daughter was right behind us in her car, driving home from church, when we received a phone call. She’d been cresting a hill just five houses down when she hit the back of a parked car. Thankfully, she and her brother—who was in the car with her—didn’t get a scratch. The other car had some damage, but my daughter’s car was totaled. (Can you hear the dollar signs?)
John and I had sacrificed by giving her our old car instead of selling it or trading it in. Not only that, we’d just spent nearly a thousand dollars in engine repairs, and since we only had minimal insurance on it, it was all gone. Add to it, we had to buy another (used) car since we had two teen drivers who needed to get to school and work.
In Luke 16:15 Jesus said, “You like to appear righteous in public, but God knows your hearts.” John and I strive to be good, godly, loving, forgiving parents, but inside I wanted to rant. Our daughter should have been paying better attention. Her irresponsibility just robbed us of that money we’d worked so hard to save.
While I ranted (mostly internally), my husband John offered our daughter grace. He dealt with the totaled car. John also spent weeks searching for another used car. More than that, He used that experience to share about God’s grace. God gives us what we don’t deserve, and He’s there to pick up the pieces when we mess up. My husband’s words explained this. His actions proved this.
My soul settled down after a few hours, but this event really showed me I had given money a prominent place in my mind and heart. This wasn’t the only time one of my children caused a costly life lesson, and like my friend Phil shares in our co-authored book Lead Your Family Like Jesus, it’s what your child learns from the mistake that matters most.
Moving Beyond Mistakes
Grace-filled family leadership is all about turning mistakes into opportunities for growth. Jesus modeled this when, after His resurrection, he encountered Peter—who three times had denied even knowing Jesus after the latter’s arrest. It could have been a humiliating rejection for Peter, but Jesus made sure it wasn’t … (You can read about it in John 21:7-9, 12-19)
Instead of dressing Peter down or giving him the silent treatment, Jesus restored him to service. We need to do the same with our children. It’s easy to say, but hard to do—especially when you see one of your kids make a very costly mistake.
I remember one such time when my son, who was then in his twenties, dropped out of law school. It could have been a defining moment—in a bad way. My response could have set him up for failure.
But I helped him step back and say, “There’s a lesson to be learned here.” Yes, a lot of money had been spent in an unsuccessful venture, but maybe some life lessons could be learned from the experience.
“What positive things did you learn about yourself from law school?” I asked him. He said he learned he could work hard and that he was smart enough to do the work. He shared other positive things, too.
I then asked, “What could you have done differently?”
He replied that when he received feedback on his performance, he didn’t use the information well. When he did better on a test than he expected, he celebrated; when he received what he expected, he didn’t investigate it further. If he got a lower-than-expected grade, he didn’t go back to the teacher and ask what he could have done better. Instead of talking to the people who were grading the papers to find out how to be successful, he consulted his friends. In the end they were not a reliable source of the advice or help he needed.
We talked about communication, pride, starting new projects, tackling the routine parts of a job before the exciting parts, not majoring in minors, and seeking feedback.
Perhaps someday you’ll need to help your child work through an expensive life lesson. If so, remember that disappointments may be God’s appointments to draw us closer to Him. While we want to protect our children from hardship, that’s impossible. Instead, we may be called to lead by walking them gracefully through the valley and guiding them through the shadows.
What about you? Has your child made a costly mistake? How did you react?
Jesus knows our hearts, yet our heart-loves are often revealed during a costly mistake. Pray today and ask God to help you serve Him as master above all!