We can't force repentance upon our kids. And yet we try, don't we? When our children disobey, we tell them to, "Say your sorry." And when they reluctantly say it, we tell him, "Say it like you mean it!!" It's as if we think that raising our voices will bring them to a place of genuine repentance. But usually this approach only leaves them more angry and frustrated. Now, I'm not advocating a passive, permissive style of parenting. I'm just questioning my own rationale for how I lead my children to sincere repentance of their sin. You see, I can get my kids to say their sorry and manipulate them into feeling bad about what they've done, but I can't force them to genuinely repent of their sin. That's God's work. And he does it in a most unexpected way.
Romans 2:4 says, "... God's kindness is meant to lead us to repentance ...". Isn't that a fascinating phrase? I think it's a world-view changer when it comes to parenting. It tells us that repentance is the right response to a good and kind God. God's kindness is being poured out to us in a multitude of ways at this very moment. This kindness is meant to awaken us to our sin so that we would repent and come to him for mercy. This verse reveals the heart of God for rebellious sinners like you and me. And it reveals the heart of parenting as well.
If we want our kids to come to a place of genuine repentance over their sin, we must show them the beauty of God's kindness in the gospel. We must have a grace-centered home. That doesn't mean we shy away from disciplining them. We must show them their sin and their inability to live up to the law. But they need more than just discipline to repent and obey. They need God's kindness. They need the gospel. So, if you're trying to force repentance and obedience upon your kids, take a few minutes and repent and ask God to change your heart first ... then dive into the kindness of God in the gospel, and be parented and parent in grace.