This is an excerpt from a talk I did in January of 2011 about raising godly kids instead of good kids. I thought someone out there could use this today:
What makes m&ms® different from other small, round, shell-covered candies, like Skittles® or Reese’s Pieces®? It’s what’s on the inside that sets them apart, right? Well, there is a principle in raising godly girls and boys that I like to call the “m&m principle”.
You see, we make a huge mistake when our goal in parenting is to raise a good boy or a good girl, because the focus of that training is on the outward behavior, in other words, what being good “looks like”. Just like with good kids, just because something looks like an m&m®, doesn’t mean it really has chocolate on the inside. Outwardly-focused parenting that focuses only on outward behavior is really just candy-coating.
Three common areas we “candy coat” our kids the most are in the areas of manners, modesty, and morals (m,m&ms, if you will.) Let me be clear: I think manners, modesty, and morals are crucial things to teach, if it is done for the right reasons. However, I see far too many parents that think that if they have required their kids to behave in certain ways; ie: to act moral, to dress modestly, and to show good manners that they have somehow done a good job as parents because they have “good” kids that “act” right. However, when we teach our children to just do these things to look “good”, or to avoid getting in trouble, or because someone is watching, or even because these are just the rules that good Christians follow, we may end up with less than desirable outcomes in the long run.
When kids only do the right thing when someone is watching, then what happens when our children are alone, or then they grow up and no longer have a reason to follow their parents’ rules, or when the threat of a consequence is no longer obvious? Many times, they rebel and turn away from that teaching, because in their mind it was just a bunch of archaic, empty rules that no longer apply to them. These are kids that are candy-coated, but have no substance on the inside, and the shell will eventually crack and reveal the truth.
I think deep-down in the heart of every parent we all know kids that were raised “Christian” and still rebelled and we secretly fear the same could happen to us. How do you avoid that? There is no guarantee against a child raised-right then turning wayward, but I can tell you what to do for your best chance for longevity and staying true to the Truth: You work on their heart, and the motives of the heart, and the biblical reason why we do the things we do and help them to internalize the reasons we do them from a heart of wanting to please God, not man. You teach Biblical Truth, and seek to train a heart instead of a bunch of rules. There are many other areas this applies to, but when we require modesty, manners and morals but don’t teach them the “why” behind these standards, we have missed the mark. However, when we teach Biblical truth within the context of behavior, how we are to put others first, to obey God’s Word in action and attitude, that we should care about the way we present ourselves because we belong to God and the way we dress and behave is essentially a billboard advertising who we are, then we making the focus the heart, not the behavior. When we see our kids disobey these rules, instead of focusing on what they didn’t do, we need to address “why” they didn’t do it! Was it selfishness, a need for attention, or rebellion against authority? Then address those areas… instead of just “the rules” that were broken. The outward behavior is just a symptom of what is going on in the heart. Get to the heart and you get the child.
From now on, when you see m&ms®, just ask yourself, “Am I candy-coating my kids, or are they really different on the inside? Are my kids doing what I ask because it is in their heart, or just to avoid a consequence? Why am I requiring the things I require, is there a Biblical reason, and are there some things I should be requiring that I am not?”
The m&m principle. It is the difference between a good kid, and a godly kid. It’s what on the inside that matters most.
Have a blessed day!