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“Self-worth is everything to a child!”
She said it with finality, her eyes intense with passion. “Telling kids they are bad only causes emotional instability they aren’t ready to handle. I’ve seen it result in terrible things . . . ” She trailed off, but her penetrating look did not.
Mom - Firstborn - Warning - Tension—where - Fit
She was the older, experienced mom; I was young and rocking my firstborn. Her warning intimidated me, but it left me with this tension—where does self-worth fit in a world of sin? If every human is born in sin, then tiny humans are no different. Toddlers are sinners, too. How does a parent address sin in a child’s life while tiptoeing around their self-esteem?
This tension was accidentally resolved for me a few years later through a simple catechism. Instead of expressing my own disappointment in my son’s sin, personally labeling him “bad,” I worked to communicate God’s response to his sin. I would ask, “What does obedience bring?” and he would answer, “Blessings.” “What does disobedience bring?” “Consequences.”
Blessings - Consequences - Morality - Self-control - Bribe
I admit blessings and consequences didn’t teach morality at first. At best they taught self-control; at worst they worked like a bribe. What they did communicate was a biblical framework for understanding life—the very framework God teaches us. Jesus often uses the promise of heavenly blessings and the threat of eternal consequences as motivation to follow him, the same pattern that had marked God’s relationship with the Israelites. When Israel obeys, the nation is blessed. When they disobey, God imposes consequences.
The repeated catechism—obedience brings blessings and disobedience brings consequences—started as a way to explain to my boy why he was receiving discipline or when he could expect blessings. What I didn’t realize until much later was the depth at which it would help him understand sin and forgiveness from an early age. The catechism exposed...
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