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Someone once told me that parents shouldn’t apologize for anything they do with the right motives. While I understand what this person was trying to say, I disagree. The Bible says to apologize when we do the wrong thing or hurt people, and it’s all too easy to do both in spite of good intentions, especially when doing something as difficult as raising a child.

I, for one, have much to apologize for, even though I know that I did the very best I knew how at each stage of my children’s lives.

Do you know what it means to “vault the horse”? My son taught me the term last semester after hearing it from one of his college professors. To “vault the horse” is to try so hard to hit a mark that you overshoot it and land somewhere else completely.

That’s me.

I want to be a good mom, a good steward of the young lives God has entrusted to my care. I really do, but more often than not, rather than let God have His way in and through me, I parent in knee-jerk response to my own hurts and hang-ups and go too far. I overdo.

Trying to teach discernment, I kindle critical spirits.

Trying to instill wisdom, I plant fear.

Trying to demonstrate grace, I breed entitlement.

Trying to instill confidence, I foster pride.

Trying to teach obedience, I model legalism.

Trying to model mercy, I end up spoiling my kids.

Trying to correct and admonish, I crush spirits.

And the list goes on and on. Maybe you have one like it.

How does this happen? Why do people with God-honoring intentions miss the mark so often?

I think the problem lies in the choosing of the mark itself. What are we are aiming for, exactly? A godly child? A good child? A child we can show off and be proud of? A child that won’t embarrass us? If any of these, we’ve chosen poorly and may be guilty of a common form of idol worship, as our words and actions serve a man-made image or ideal.

No, for Christians, the mark, the goal, in parenting, as in any other endeavor, must be obedience, complete submission to the Father in all things, the mundane and the momentous, for our good and His ultimate glory, doing and saying everything and only that which He tells us to do and say because He is God and knows best. It’s incredibly hard sometimes to resist the urge to act or react according to our own wisdom—sit-on-your-hands, bite-your-tongue-‘til-it-bleeds hard!—but, when we do so, we release ourselves from responsibility for the results and spare ourselves regret.

Everybody wins!

Seeking Him, serving Him, obeying Him in all things, that’s the only way to hit the spiritual mark, so to speak, and the only way to sit this parenting horse.