Reset for Parents: How to Keep Your Kids from Backsliding
By Todd Friel
“The statistic that 60-80% of our kids “lose the faith” reveals that Christian parents are producing more false converts than true. Clearly we are doing something wrong. It is time for an examination of our Christian parenting methods and asks, ‘Do I need a parenting reset?’” pg 10
This book is written primarily for parents, but it would be a wise investment for anyone ministering to children. This book explains applicably how to disciple our children and how to discipline them with a focus on the gospel. Page 16 “If we do not play our role as God’s representative faithfully we should not be shocked when our children become untethered.”
Todd Friel writes with a kind and encouraging tone and like his other works; he doesn’t shy away from boldly sharing truths – even painful ones. The book was full of straight forward truths shared with a healthy dose of humor, like on page 92 “When our children only heart about grace, but never hear about the Christian’s responsibility to ‘work out [his] salvation with fear and trembling’ (Philippians 2:12) they quickly become anti-nomian (against the law). They are quick to snap, “Don’t be a Pharisee. It’s all about that grace, ‘bout that grace, no trying’.”
The book beautifully – and convictingly – sums up the goal of parenting: “Every interaction with your child should have one overarching goal: that your words and actions would lead them to love and fear the Lord more than they currently do… If your interaction with your child doesn’t end with more love, joy, and peace than when you began, then you have failed in your one and only assignment with your child.” (pg 13)
Christians commit sins – thus, Christian children are not “naughty” they are sinners too. So we as parents need to disciple our children by teaching them to love Christ and to love His commands. Discipline is thoroughly discussed as well as the vast difference between discipling and disciplining. Page 15 “Christian parents should NEVER punish their children. Ever. Yes, you may administer the wooden spoon in the discipleship of your child, but spanking should never be administered to punish the child. Jesus already bore the punishment for your child’s sins…Christian parents who punish their children confuse the gospel. If our children think they are being punished for their naughtiness, a.k.a. sins, then they are left to wonder why Jesus died on a Cross. Punishing our children tells them they can atone for their own sins. Oops. Punishment took place at the Cross, and it has been dealt with completely. Our role as Christian parents is not to whack our kids for crimes committed against us, but to disciple them to love Jesus more… (pg 19) If you yell at your child, you are not parenting; you are sinning. If you only issue orders to your child, you are not acting like Christ; you are acting like a nag or a jerk. Sorry. If you spank your child in anger, you are not being biblical, you are being abusive.”
Page 27 “When you and I punish our spouses (or children) for their sins, we are basically shaking a fist towards the heavens and shouting, “I know you bruised your beloved Son for my family, but that isn’t enough for me. I need my pound of flesh too.” We make a complete mockery of the gospel when we sin in response to the sin of others. Yes, this adventure in parenting is just as much about OUR sanctification as it is theirs! Our sinning in response to their sin is not teaching our children about Grace, but it is a recipe for spiritual heartache and potentially creating a false convert.
Todd gives great examples of how to use our child’s sin as a teaching tool. It requires transparency – because we WILL mess up. But praise the Lord that we can use our sinful mistakes as practical examples in what it means to apologize and to forgive. We can show our children the Gospel. Page 59 “In a nutshell, the gospel consists of two very basic messages: 1) we are really bad sinners. All humans are treasonous rebels who hate their sovereign and will do virtually anything to dethrone Him and usurp His Kingdom (Romans 8:7-12) Jesus is an amazing Savior. He is a kind, gentle, loving, sacrificial servant, who lays down His life for those who hate Him (John3:16; 1 John 4:10). Jesus doesn’t sort of save sinners, He saves them to the uttermost (Hebrews 7:25).”
Page 42 “You can actually use your children’s bad behavior to preach the gospel to them. In a private setting, you can tell your child, ‘Your behavior was a sin. Holy God is displeased with sin and He has promised to punish all sin. I am about to give you a small taste of that pain. I am going to spank you, then we are going to thank God for sending a Savior who took the pain that should be inflicted on us for eternity.’… Page 44, “It is not mean to let your child tremble before the throne of God’s justice; but whatever you do, don’t leave them there. Tell them joyfully of the One who took their place and received the wrath they deserve. Let them know there is an ark of salvation they must run into. Plead with them to fly to Jesus, the only One who can appease the wrath of God for them… Page 61 “God can forgive sinners because Jesus paid our fine for us. God’s wrath has been satisfied because of the work of His Son. We have a human representative who can satisfy the debt that is owed to a holy God. This is how God resolves the tension between love and justice. Because of Jesus, God can be just and the justifier of those who have faith in Him (Romans 3:26)”
This book explains that the “gospel will forever be a hash to our children” if certain points are not thoroughly taught to our children. They have to know: 1) the character and nature of God 2) the character and nature of man 3) why God is angry with sinners every day 4) why Hell is reasonable 5) who Jesus Christ is and what He accomplished on earth. So many children are growing up without a proper understanding of the gospel. Be it from parents who don’t know how to teach it, from youth groups who do not portray it accurately, or from the hoards of false teachers creeping into the church. Many children only have a pseudo-gospel. They are not abandoning the true gospel. Just the one “that has left them bitter, tired, betrayed, disappointed or angry. Their latter end is worse than the first (2 Peter 2:20) Page 62. Todd gives examples of what the Gospel is not, and how these pseudo-gospels have infiltrated our churches. The “life-enhancement gospel”, the “example for us to follow gospel”, “anonymous Christian view gospel”, “self-esteem gospel”, “love love love gospel”, “the gospel of fruits to exhibit” as well as “easy believism.
The gospel must be taught in the proper context. Without understanding that you are a sinner in need of a savior – you don’t understand WHY you need a savior. We have to teach our children about the law. Page 64 “The law silences the mouth of the sinner and makes him/her accountable to God (Romans 3:19-20.) The law is actually embedded in every human consciousness (Romans 2:15.) God actually made the law so sinners could understand their sin (1Timothy 1:8.) If you read the first 8 chapters of Romans, you will see that the gospel is very judicial, and we need to user guilty criminals into God’s courtroom…”
Todd warns that this too has dangerous extremes. If we teach our children based on “Law Only Parenting”, it cultivates anger within them. It causes them to want to obey their parents outwardly, but inwardly desiring sin, with temptation to become deceitful and manipulative. It can heap unbiblical rules on performance-driven people. Others, who are born extremely sensitive, can struggle with feeling like they are never good enough or that God couldn’t possibly love them. There has to be a balance between Law and Grace – just like the gospel is presented to us in Scripture.
Page 98 “A child who grows up in a home where Jesus is not made much of, is poised to seek fleshly things that can provide more perceived pleasure. There are two things we should focus on to help our children treasure Jesus. 1) Show your children that Jesus is the best thing they can set their affections on. 2) Show them that seeking sin is like desiring dung (Philippians 3:8), or dog vomit (2 Peter 2:22), or poison (James 3:8; Psalm 140:3), or the stench from an open grace (Romans 3:13; Psalm 5:9). To give our affections to anything but Jesus is to play the whore (Hosea 1:2)… If we want our children to delight in God, we need to take them to His Word and show His attributes at work. This will elevate facts into the realm of reality, which will translate into stirred affections and greater devotion to God.”
Todd speaks of the importance of reading all of scripture to our children, not solely teaching theology. Gods attributes and character is on beautiful display through every historical narrative as God “relentlessly orchestrates reconciliation for His people.” Teach your children that YES the Bible is history – and it is also there to show us Jesus, our Redeemer, even all the way back in Genesis. They need to understand that the order of the bible has great purpose in revealing Christ. This helps us to explain to our children that God has a beautiful plan for our lives – that even when tragedy hits, we can rest in Him, knowing that He is sovereign. Page 143-144 “If you can biblically instruct your children to understand the big questions of life, you will be preparing them to live a life of contentment and hope. If you do not, a child will live his life like a pagan; pointless and despairing…. Knowing that we are each intricately designed by God Himself (Psalm 139:13-16) gives us dignity, humility, purpose, and hope. It also increases our love for God when we consider that He thought of us before the foundation of the world, and He actually carried out His plans and made us.”
This book is convicting and so encouraging. It clearly shows me the areas that I have failed and desperately need to work on. And it has helped me formulate a plan on how to improve and how to work with my children now as they are quite young, as well as on into young adulthood. This book is one that I will give out to new parents and to friends – I earnestly want to share this with others. It CLEARLY teaches on how to focus on heart issues in children.
Reset for Parents is full of scripture – it is calming knowing that the Bible is very clear on how to raise children. So much of becoming a parent is overwhelming since babies are not born with a How-To Manual. But not all of it has to be – we do have a wonderful manual from our Creator and we can rely on it.
My children are toddlers. So I felt that the book didn’t elaborate a lot on how to verbally explain in short enough sentences for toddlers to follow. So I emailed Todd, and he graciously responded explaining that tone is everything. Toddlers’ minds are like little sponges and they are soaking up a lot more than we realize – so do explain. Even if they are not getting it all right now, they are getting parts of it. But more than anything our tone should reflect love and concern. How easy it is for our tone to reflect anger or irritation – and how clearly that shows us our need for sanctification.
If we see our children as little image-bearers lost in their sin who need the Gospel to change their hearts, then you will respond differently towards their behavior. Page 20-21 “Instead of getting angry, you will be concerned for their spiritual well-being. Your desire for peace and quiet will be overwhelmed by the desire to help your child understand God’s grace better. You will put your earthly desire behind your heavenly desire to see your child spend eternity with Jesus. Your embarrassment will diminish because you are on a rescue mission for your child’s very soul. Who cares what the servants think when you are on a mission from the King? …God will sanctify you as you focus on your child’s justification. You will stop being angry, disgusted, frustrated, annoyed, snarly, and mean.”
Page 176 “You are not responsible for your child’s soul; but you are responsible to love, model, nurture, instruct, and disciple our child. You can either work with or against God in accomplishing that task. There is nothing you can do to save your child, but there is everything you can do to make sure that you faithfully lead your child to the Lord… Your job is to live, teach, and model the Gospel of Jesus Christ to your children, not to make them have faith in Jesus Christ. Your parental job description is that simple and yet that complex…”
Page 178 “What should you do to remind yourself to be a parent who is influenced and affected by the gospel? Remember that you are the chief sinner in your house who has been completely and totally forgiven. Continue in His Word never stop reading your Bible. Utilize the means of grace as if your life and the life of your family depend on it. Because it does. When you forget and sin, repent and get back in the saddle and keep moving forward. Strive to be a faithful parent and leave the results to the God who loves your child more than you do.”
Other Favorite Quotes
Page 54 “Easy-believism promises all that you have to do is believe in Jesus and you are good to go…. Not only is it not easy to believe, it is downright impossible unless God grants repentance and faith (2 Timothy 2:25; Ephesians 2:8-9). [It] ignores 30 verses in the New Testament that teach the necessity of repentance (Mark 1:15 etc). [It] contradicts Jesus’ radical demand to deny ourselves, take up the cross, and follow Jesus (Matthew 16:24). Easy-believism disregards Jesus’ demand to practice church discipline on those who continue in a lifestyle of sin (Matthew 18:15-20) [It] forgets that a Christian produces good fruit of the Spirit and not deeds of the flesh (Galatians 5:16-24). The bible teaches a man is either carnal or Christian; there is no such thing as a carnal Christian (2 Corinthians 5:17).
Page 56 “[A Blaise Pascal quote] has morphed into the widely echoed, “You have a god-shaped hole in your heart that only Jesus can fill” While there is defiantly a grain of truth in Pascal’s statement, there is a silo full of problems when we present that truth as the gospel. It is true that our lives will forever be out of sync when we are not in alignment with God’s will, but hat is not our primary problem. Our primary problem is not contentment; it is our condemnation. We don’t’ simply have a hole in our hearts; we have a blackened, sin-stained heart in desperate need of cleansing (Jeremiah 17:9)….There is also a practical problem with claiming we have God-shaped holes in our hearts – many people are able to suppress that feeling (Romans 1:18). Some people seem to live their entire lives in full rebellion against God and they just don’t recognize a God-shaped hole in their hearts, or in any other organ. They are content and have no need for a heart filling.”
Page 64 “If someone doesn’t understand that they are under the wrath of God for violating his commandments, then the Cross is robbed of its meaning. If someone doesn’t comprehend hell, they will never desire heaven. If we do not “commend ourselves to their consciences (2 Corinthians 4:1-5), then the gospel remains foolishness to them. The mirror of the law is veiled; the sinner will never see himself in truth. He will continue to think like the self-righteous young ruler in mark 10 who thought he had obeyed all of god’s law.
Page 83 “You are standing at the altar when the officiator asks your future spouse, “Do you believe that this person is trustworthy and reliable? Do you believe that this person loves you? Do you believe this is the best person in the world for you?” Your soon to be bride/groom responds with three yes’s. Then he/she walks off the altar without committing to you. Are you happy? No. Neither is God. If your spouse only affirms good things about you, but refuses to join you in matrimony, you are not married. The same is true for the person who may mentally ascents to truths about God, but never fully trusts Him. They may believe in God, but they have not place their faith in Him. Biblical faith is total and complete reliance on God…. Biblical faith says “You are my God, and I am your servant. I am placing my eternal trust in you alone. I will rely on you for everything, and faithfully serve you all the days of my life. I am done with me; I now live only for you.”
Page 97 “A generous person does not give a loved one scraps. If we have a genuine love for someone, we give them the very best. What is the best that God can give us? Himself. That makes the first two commandments very, very kind. (Exodus 20:3-4)”