Works righteousness is a deadly and false variation of godly obedience. Godly obedience is motivated by love for God and trust in his gracious plan and power. Works righteousness is motivated by unbelief; it is a reliance on our abilities and a desire to control outcomes. Works righteousness eventuates in penance: I’ll make it up to you by redoubling my efforts tomorrow! rather than repentance: Lord forgive me for my sin today. Thank you that yo love me in spite of all my failures. In parenting, works righteousness will cause us to be both fearful and demanding. When we see our failures, we will be overcome with fear: I really blew it with my kids today. I’m so afraid that I’m going to ruin then! When we see our failures, we’ll be overly demanding: I’ve already told you what I want you to do. Didn’t you hear me? I must have told you fifty times in the last five minutes. I’m sick to death of your terrible attitude. You need to listen to me and do what I say without any complaints or grunts or eye rolls. Just do it! It’s obvious how both responses feed off each other in a never-ending cycle of anger and despair and penance.
Works righteousness obliterates the sweet comforts of grace because it cuts us from God, who alone is the giver of grace. It cuts us off because he absolutely insists on being our sole Savior. This is his claim: ‘I, I am the Lord, and besides me there is no savior’ (Isa. 43:11; see also 45:21). We are not nor can we be the saviors of our children. He is the Savior. When we forget this, our parenting will be pockmarked by fear, severity, and exhaustion. (55)
If any of the previous statements resonated with you (and even if they didn’t) I’d strongly encourage you to purchase Give Them Grace: Dazzling Your Kids with the Love of Jesus. This is a great resource to help you understand how to appropriately use the Law of God, while continually pointing your child’s heart (and your own) to the grace found in Jesus Christ.