My #1 Parenting Mistake

Self-portrait painted by my first-born for a college Figure Drawing class:


Pictured above is my daughter, Justine, who went a bit ‘wild’ after graduating high school.  She got herself into some dangerous situations, and learned the hard way that there are many pits and snares in this world; after a year, she decided to move back home.

As I type, she and her brother and sister are bouldering at a climbing gym together.  Their friendship has solidified during this time, and Justine likes to tell them, “Be smart. Don’t be stupid like I was.”

However, recently, I had reason to believe that she was being stupid again.  In my despair, I asked myself, “How could this be happening!?  What did I do wrong!?  Where did we mess up as parents?” (Update:  Her Dad and I are no longer married.)

Turns out, it was a false alarm, but it led me to ask Justine, “In your opinion, what was it that your Dad and I did wrong?  How did we fail you?  What made you do the things you did?”

She told me, “Mom, it had nothing to do with you; as an artist, I simply wanted to experience everything that’s out there.”  (She IS quite the artist, huh!?)

But THEN, she remembered something.

She said, “Well, there was one thing:  I’m always apologizing for things that are not my fault.  Remember how you always made me go to my room so I could ask God to forgive me?  I was never sure what I did wrong, but you always forced me to apologize to God.  So now, I constantly say “I’m sorry” for things that are not my fault.”

Oh. My. Gosh!  No.  I didn’t remember that.  It seems so long ago.  I do remember that used to live by 1 John 1:9 myself, and I have a distinct memory of an incident surrounding 1 John 1:9 with my son, but — ouch! —  I would send her to her room so she could ask God to forgive her!?  Gross!

My #1 mistake as a parent was to make my kids think that God still held their sins against them.  I made them apologize to God after they sinned.  THIS is where I messed up.

I completely misunderstood 1 John 1:9.  I totally took it out of context.

In that verse, John is speaking to an unbeliever!  That is proven by reading 1 John 1:8, “If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves, and the truth is not in us.”

Jesus is the truth.  If the truth is not in you, then Jesus is not in you.  If Jesus is not in you, then you are an unbeliever.

Verses 8 and 9 directed to unbelievers.  In his epistle, John was addressing people who held to the Gnostic belief system, and who needed to be saved by the resurrected Lord Jesus Christ.

We are living in the days of the New Covenant.  And in these days it is not necessary to ask God to forgive you for your sins.  God forgave the sin of the world when He died on the cross as the propitiation for our sins.  That is only half the gospel though.  He then rose again to offer His life — His very life.  The life that had been breathed into Adam and Eve.  THAT is what saves a person.

Thank Him for the forgiveness that you have.  Receive the eternal life that He is offering to you and be saved.  Salvation sets you FREE, and it is for freedom that Christ set us free!

However . . .

I wasn’t always a Mom for Freedom.  I used to be a Mom for Obedience.

When they were little, I forced my kids to perform good works for God.  When they exhibited some bad behavior or bad attitude, I would tell them, “If you confess your sin, God is faithful and just to forgive you of your sin.”

And even if it is one little ‘work,’ one tiny ‘law,’ just one small ‘requirement’ . . . well, that ruins the entire New Covenant.

A little yeast leavens the whole batch of dough.”  (Gal 5:9)

One “rule” acts like yeast and leavens the entire batch of dough; it spreads throughout the entire gospel of grace and turns the good news into bad news.

The one ‘work’ that Justine remembers being forced to perform was confessing her sins to God.

That evening that Justine told me about my #1 mistake, I got down on my knees, clasped my hands together, and begged her to forgive me!  Think of the contrast.  I am the one who needs HER to forgive ME.

* For more on the topic of forgiveness, check out this blog.

June 7, 2017

6 thoughts on “My #1 Parenting Mistake

  1. Lise

    Oh boy do I relate to this.
    I was reading your Debi Pearl post, and it brought back to mind the days when I was a little nutty about that book.
    Thankfully I regrew my spine and started to rethink what I was putting my kids through.
    Don’t get me wrong– there were some valuable things that CTBHHM taught me about marriage, and I can say that my marriage was blessed by it. But taken too far it could have done some serious damage as well.
    I want my kids to have a REAL relationship with Jesus, not just a “relationship” based on obedience to me.
    The stress on “first-time obedience” took a toll on all of us. (My husband included.)
    I’m not the Holy Spirit. Reminding myself of this has helped me to let go of constantly needing to control and instead to just trust God. I’m probably a much nicer woman now. 🙂


  2. momforfreedom

    Lise, I laughed at (“thankfully I regrew my spine”) and agreed with all you said about the Debi Pearl book. Gosh, I wish I could give you a real hug; we’ve been through a lot of similar situations. (sending a virtual hug instead!!).

    How old are your kids?

    I so agree: I want my kids to have a REAL relationship with Jesus. And to get there involves risks. The risk of free-will (as opposed to obedience to us — just as you said).

    Loved every word you wrote. Thank you so much for writing again. Lol about “probably a much nicer woman now.” Yeah, me too. I WAS tempted to buy this t-shirt I saw at the Goodwill store today: “World’s OKAYEST wife.” Lol. Loved that. Yes, I’ll bet we’re both much nicer now that the pressure to be that “World’s best wife” has been taken off of us.


  3. Lise

    Hello again!
    I think what drew me to Debi Pearl (and subsequently the teachings of her husband) was the idea that perfectly obedient, delightful children could be formed by following their methods. (Uh… wrong.) My kids are now 15, 14, 12, 10, and 8.
    Letting go is scary. My kids all have stellar days and then really, really bad days. I’ve decided to not take credit for any of it anymore. If someone tells me that my son is simply delightful, I just smile. (Nothing to do with me, I assure you!)
    If I hear that he’s done or said something that happens to embarrass me, I need to keep the same perspective. (Nothing to do with me!) lol
    I used to be pretty strict about devotional time/Bible reading. Now I can hardly open my Bible without the residue of bad teaching causing me to feel condemned. It’s difficult for me to find any comfort in the book. So I just concentrate on believing that I am loved by God and that nothing will ever be held against me. Aaron Budjen’s teaching has really helped me to develop some perspective, and I am so thankful for that. I tried too hard for a long time, convinced that my part in being a Christian was to please God. And I passed that down to my kids as well. Now I’m trying to live out an authentic faith in front of them.
    Thank you for your response and encouragement! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. momforfreedom

      Lise, I can relate! Letting go is so scary! I remember how that felt, but your faith will grow stronger as you continue to trust God every day. Giving up on religion is such a brave act. Stay strong! And thank you so much for sharing. Email me anytime at — you will definitely feel alone at times. You may even have lost some friends already. . . but what you are doing is the ONLY way to live the Christian life. (by the way, forget reading the Bible until God Himself gives you the desire to do so.). What you are “living out” for your kids is the best thing you can do for them. You are a brave warrior in this battle —- Have you heard Aaron’s “Spiritual Warfare” series???


  4. Lise

    “…”forget reading the Bible until God himself gives you the desire to do so.”
    Thank you so much for that! There is so much “Have you been in the word today? Better stay in the word or God-know-what will happen!”
    I did listen to the Spiritual Warfare series– probably about a year ago. I need to go back and listen again.


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