Behind every good kid is a mom who’s pretty sure she’s screwing it all up.

I saw the meme on a friend’s Facebook page, and my first thought was, “Man, if that’s true, then my kids are gonna turn out awesome, because I’m pretty sure I’m completely failing at this parenting thing.” What is it about raising kids that makes me so vulnerable, so self-conscious, so quick to believe I’m failing? I worry that I’m letting my kids have too much processed food, that I’m disciplining them wrong, that I let them have too much screen time, that I don’t assign enough chores, that I yell too much, that I don’t spend enough quality time with them, that I don’t…The list goes on and on. Well-meaning parenting books often make me feel guilty or cause minor panic that I’m already messing up my kids by doing things wrong. But ultimately, the test of whether or not I’m failing as a parent boils down to one question.

There seems to be a general sense that the current generation of parents in America is failing their children. We aren’t preparing our kids for adulthood or teaching them life and social skills they need to know. Kids are in something of a crisis, growing up not knowing how to be grown up. And let’s face it—that’s a valid concern. 

Raising kids in modern society presents unique challenges that are daunting to many parents. In a consumerist society with media available 24/7, how are parents supposed to teach their kids to grow up to be self-sufficient, contributing members of society? Kids up to age 8 spend an average of 2 hours and 19 minutes every day on screen media, while kids 8 to 12 average 4 hours and 36 minutes every day for the year 2017, according to a CNN report. Considering the 8-12 year olds are probably in school 7 hours a day and sleep 8-10 hours a day, that means the average child spends over half of his free time looking at a screen. How are kids who grow up staring at a screen supposed to learn to think for themselves or develop a good work ethic? When these kids enter the workforce, what will happen? It’s a scary thought. So are parents who allow that amount of screen time failing their kids? In one sense, perhaps they are. Those kids might grow up not knowing how to put in a good day’s work or how to interact well with other people. In a human sense, maybe those parents “failed” to raise a responsible adult. But even that’s not the litmus test for failing as a parent.

Ultimately, the parent who is failing his children is the one who fails to bring his children up in the Christian faith. Spoiled children who grow up into irresponsible and entitled adults is a shame. But children who grow up without knowing their Savior is a tragedy. Parents who call themselves Christian and yet fail to teach their children about Jesus are truly failing their children in the only area that matters. Ephesians 6:4 instructs, “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” And there you have it: God’s parenting manual. Law and Gospel. Discipline your children with the Law. Show them where they are wrong. And then instruct them about their Savior. That’s what God’s plan is for parenting. He wants parents to pass on the faith to the next generation. “One generation shall commend your works to another, and shall declare your mighty acts,” Psalm 145:4 says. 

So are you passing on your faith to the next generation? Are you teaching your kids about Jesus? If you are, then rest assured that you are not failing them. You may not be a perfect parent, but you are preparing your children for eternity with their Savior. 

But perhaps you’re reading this with a twinge of guilt. Maybe you’ve fallen out of the habit of taking your kids to church or praying with them or teaching them Bible stories. Maybe life has gotten so hectic that religion has been put on the back burner. If that’s you, don’t despair. It’s not too late. Prayerfully examine where you need to make some changes, and then ask God for help to make those changes.

Okay, so maybe my kids do eat too much processed food. Maybe I’m not disciplining them well enough. Maybe I don’t monitor their screen time as well as I should. But you know what? They are secure in the knowledge of their Savior. They will be with me in heaven one day. And who knows? They might even grow up to be responsible adults in the meantime.