We’ve all done it. At one time or another we’ve all been total hypocrites while parenting. 

It’s ironic and almost comical if you think about it.

We’ve yelled at our kids for being too loud. We’ve lost patience with their impatience. We’ve corrected their unkindness unkindly. We’ve complained about their whining. We’ve been harsh with them for not being gentle. We’ve lost our temper over their lack of self-control. 

Righteousness, leadership, and efficacy

It’s easy to justify sin when you’re the sinner, isn’t it? That’s exactly what our parenting lapses are at the end of the day: sin, cosmic treason against God Almighty. So no, it’s not okay to gloss over it, justify it, or overcompensate for it out of guilt. As parents we need to stop and repent to both God and our children for our unrighteous behavior.

If that weren’t enough, those hypocritical parenting moments are also downright poor leadership. Most of us know what it’s like to have bosses or parents or other authorities who live above the law. It stinks. It leaves us feeling demoralized and unmotivated. We might drag our feet or shirk responsibility— we might daydream about quitting and moving on to something better. We’ll never bring out the best in our kids by being hypocrites— it’s poor leadership, plain and simple. 

Thirdly, hypocrisy isn’t an effective parenting technique.

Remember Proverbs 15:1? “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” How about James 1:20? ““For the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.” These verses are just as applicable in your home as they are anywhere else— perhaps more so.

Your anger won’t make your kid less angry. Your impatience won’t make your kid patient. It just doesn’t work that way.

Little hypocrites

Hypocritical parenting isn’t righteous. It’s not good leadership. And it’s not effective. So what do our kids learn when we parent hypocritically?

In short, they learn to be little hypocrites themselves.

They learn it’s okay to say one thing and do another. They learn it’s okay for parents to act in ways kids cannot. That being in charge means getting your way, not serving. They learn, “Listen to what I say! Just don’t watch what I do.” They learn to act in a way that God hates (Isaiah 1:14).

God save us from lip service to righteousness while our hearts are far from God in how we parent! (Matthew 15:8)

They learn to be little hypocrites themselves... They learn to act in a way that God hates.

Model Righteousness & Repentance

In Matthew 7:5 Jesus says about hypocrisy: “You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.”

If we want to help or correct or lead our kids into godliness, we should start by addressing our own struggles with sin. 

The power we have as parents is rooted in the model we put on display for our children. If we want our children to be patient, the way we model patience has a huge impact. If we want our children to be self-controlled, the length of our own temper makes a difference. 

Of course, no parent will be able to model perfection for our kids. And that’s actually great news since none of our kids are perfect either! Our kids don’t need perfect moms and dads. They need honest, vulnerable, and real moms and dads. 

They need parents who model for them how an imperfect person follows God. Our kids need to see how we repent and work out our own salvation with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12). 

They don’t need you to be fake and phony, pretending you never screw up. Trust me: they’re not buying it anyway!

They need you to be real and honest in how you apologize. In how you redouble your efforts to go and sin no more, by the power of the Holy Spirit. 

Lay the Groundwork for Transparency

When we realize we’ve been modeling sin for our kids, we shouldn’t hide it. Instead, we should admit it. Don’t create an environment where sin must be hidden, where apologies are arrogantly avoided. That’ll lead to your kids struggling with sin in secret, drowning in shame. 

Lead by example, humbly admitting your faults to your kids as you attempt to model Christian righteousness for them. 

If we think we can say one thing, do another, and expect our kids to love God— much less obey us— we’re sorely mistaken. Let’s be parents whose lives align with the Scriptures we trust. Let’s be quick to repent when and where we fall short, and, in so doing, invite our kids to do the same.