As a father of five children, I have some experience with parenting toddlers. When my eldest son was a toddler, I recall being puzzled by behaviors he exhibited that he did not learn from my wife and me (as opposed to the behavior that he did learn from us). To the best of my knowledge, neither of us ever sat down with our toddler and said, “Son, here is the proper way to pitch a fit” or “Son, this is how you disobey mommy and daddy”. Such is the reality that leads me to consider my children’s sin and my response to it.
For a lead-in to this discussion, let’s consider what the 1689 London Baptist Confession (Chapter 6, Section 2) says about “Original Sin”:
6.2 - Our first parents, by this sin, fell from their original righteousness and communion with God, and we in them whereby death came upon all: all becoming dead in sin, and wholly defiled in all the faculties and parts of soul and body.
6.3 - They being the root, and by God's appointment, standing in the room and stead of all mankind, the guilt of the sin was imputed, and corrupted nature conveyed, to all their posterity descending from them by ordinary generation, being now conceived in sin, and by nature children of wrath, the servants of sin, the subjects of death, and all other miseries, spiritual, temporal, and eternal, unless the Lord Jesus set them free.
A proper understanding of Original Sin will aid us as we parent our children. This stands in stark contrast to the view of children as innocent or blank slates that our culture and popular child psychologists would have us to believe. They would want us to see our children as inherently good and not responsible for any misbehavior. There is great danger in believing this humanistic philosophy in that it lessens or denies altogether the dire need for a Savior that all of us have. It also gives rise to a philosophy called Environmental Determinism which is the false belief that evil influences around us should be solely blamed for errant behavior.
As Christian parents endeavoring to raise our children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, we should cultivate a proper view of Original and Remaining Sin to inform us as we faithfully steward our children. Here are two don’t and two do’s to consider:
Don’t be surprised when a particular sinful behavior debuts in your child any more than seeing a dog barking would surprise you. Dogs bark. It’s their nature; it’s what they do.
Don’t allow sin (even the “cute” ones) to become accepted or minimized. Remember that a toddler stomping his foot and saying “no” to his mommy, will condition him to say “no” to other authority figures, perhaps even God.
Do take every opportunity to hold before your child their spiritual condition apart from God and their need for the Savior.
Do proclaim the gospel to your covenant children by your example as well as your words.