A few weeks ago my 5-year-old daughter Eden asked me to explain the doctrine of the Trinity to her. Of course she didn’t use those words, but she wanted to understand how Jesus and the Father were both God at the same time. Thankfully, I had heard a helpful way to explain this to a child.Me: “Eden, what do you call me?”Eden: “Daddy.”

Me: “Okay, what does Mommy call me?”

Eden: “Her husband.”

Me: “What do my friends call me?”

Eden: “Justin.”

Me: “Just like Daddy has different names depending on where he is, God also has different names depending on how He is relating to us.”

Any attempt to explain the Trinity is not perfect, but this seemed to (sort of) satisfy her temporary theological curiosity before wanting to discuss My Little Pony.

This got me thinking about what it means to be a parent. God is one, but manifests Himself in three distinct Persons: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  He does this in part because He needs to relate to us in different ways. God speaks identity, provision, sovereignty and relationship with us as our Father. He brings us friendship, reconciliation and compassion as the Son. He brings us power, instruction and comfort as the Holy Spirit. In this same way, a godly parent learns that they must wear multiple hats proportionately to be the parent God has called them to be.  

Here are some of the hats I have found I need to wear as a parent:

1. The Shepherd Hat.

The most important part of your job description as a parent is that you are called by God to be a shepherd over your child spiritually…

The most important part of your job description as a parent is that you are called by God to be a shepherd over your child spiritually (Deuteronomy 6:4-6). This involves teaching your kid(s) the Scriptures in doctrine and practice. Let me explain what I mean by this. Doctrine is what we believe about God, life, ourselves, etc. Practice is how we apply these beliefs in the context of every day life. For example, I need to teach my kids that all human beings are image bearers of God (Genesis 1:26). This is doctrine: something we believe about God and ourselves. In practice, I use various opportunities to share with my kids that this means that we need to treat all people with dignity and worth, regardless of socio-economic status, the color of their skin, or how popular they are. Shepherding your child is not something that you can delegate to a church or a Christian school. This is primarily your job. Everything else is supplementary to your job as shepherd. Therefore, discover ways you can shepherd your child and come up with a plan. For me, I try spend some time each evening to read The Jesus Storybook Bible to my kids at night. We will spend time discussing the stories we read, we pray together and sometimes we will sing a song to Jesus together. In addition, I always look for opportunities to apply what we learn in the Bible to my kids’ lives. When they sin, I remind them that forgiveness is available in Jesus and that the Holy Spirit can give us power to overcome. When a kid at school makes fun of them, I remind them to forgive as God forgives us and to pray for that kid (while resisting temptation to hire a toddler hitman).

2. The Disciplinarian Hat.

“For whom the Lord loves He corrects,

Just as a father the son in whom he delights.” – Proverbs 3:12.

When I first became a dad this was a huge paradigm shift for me. Discipline always seemed so unloving to me. However, I now realize that not disciplining your children is actually incredibly unloving. Disciplining our children helps them to grow up to be better spouses, better employees, and better parents. So what are the nuts and bolts of this?  I believe the Bible gives liberty on how you should discipline your child. If you really don’t feel comfortable spanking your child, then don’t spank them. The crux of the issue is that when we discipline our children, there generally needs to be some form of a consequence, instruction and reminder of the expected standard, and we must always bring it back to the gospel.

…when we discipline our children, there generally needs to be some form of a consequence, instruction and reminder of the expected standard, and we must always bring it back to the gospel. 

If our kids only receive correction, but aren’t being reminded of their forgiveness in Christ, we will raise moral godless Pharisees. Don’t discipline when you are angry. Take a deep breath and remember that you are representing God to your child. Be consistent, but also show grace. If your kid knows that you are going to back down from the consequence every time, the discipline will not have the desired effect. At the same time, there are occasions when it is important to show grace. I recently heard a story about a dad who found out his daughter had very bad grades, so he took her out to ice cream. He used this as an opportunity to teach her about the gospel. He also lovingly told her that if her grades did not improve, next time the outcome would be very different. Get on the same page with your spouse regarding discipline. You want to do this without the kids present. Prayerfully decide together what you want the standards to be. Share the load in disciplining your kids. Don’t make your spouse the bad cop doing all the discipline while you show up with candy for the kids. Support your spouse and maintain a united front. If you believe your spouse is out of line in the way they are disciplining, discuss this later without the kids present.

3. The Exemplar Hat.

Knowing when we are wearing the exemplar hat is a little bit harder to tell. It has been said that in any discipleship relationship, more things are caught than taught. This is especially true of your relationship with your children. About a year ago, I was becoming very frustrated with my kids when they would grunt and sigh when they were unhappy about something. Through deeper reflection about this, I realized that they had learned this from me! Kids really can show us some of our flaws we never realized were present. The best way to be a good example to your kids is to continually seek to grow as a child of God and in any other ways God is revealing to you. In addition, it is important to be intentional in the way that we act and speak.

…it is important to be intentional in the way that we act and speak.

When I get home from work, I try to greet my wife, Lauren, before I say hi to the kids. I do this because I want them to realize that my relationship with Lauren is more important than my relationship with them. I want our 3-year-old son, Asher, to grow up to seek to be a godly husband. It is my job to show him how. I also seek to take Lauren on weekly date nights and 2-3 getaways with just us every year. I want Eden to expect this sort of a relationship one day, so she won’t settle for a guy who is more interested in Sports Center than pursuing her heart. I am certainly not perfect in all of this. I fail every day in many ways, but I constantly try to remind myself that I am setting an example for my kids, whether good or bad. How would you feel if your kids grew up to be just like you? How would you feel if they married someone just like you?

4. The Friend Hat.

In addition to your child needing to be taught about the Lord, discipline, and an example, they need you to be their friend. Are you able to have open and honest conversations with your kids? Do you have their heart? I had the great opportunity to be a jr. high pastor for many years. Jr. high is a very difficult transition for jr. highers and their parents. I had so many conversations with parents that all of a sudden felt a huge divide between them and their kids. Part of this is that, kids naturally become more independent as they mature and this is a good thing that many parents want to slow. However, I discovered while ministering to jr. highers that most of them did not dislike their parents as their parents believed. They felt misunderstood by their parents. Most parents begin to shut down and grab the discipline hat when their kids are disconnecting. Your child needs you to also be their friend. It is important in all stages to carve out quality time for your kid and to know how they connect. My son connects when we do things together. My daughter connects when we talk about things together. Think of creative ways to connect with your kids and set aside time to just have fun together. Quality time is currency in your relationship with your kid that can go a very long way.

Quality time is currency in your relationship with your kid that can go a very long way.

Talking about your teenage daughter’s attitude goes over a lot better after you spent the whole night watching a romantic comedy together, laughing and eating popcorn. God is a God of fun and joy. We need to show this side of God to our children. Jesus told his disciples that they were His friends (John 15:15). I have a personal conviction that just like I take Lauren on dates, I need to also take my kids on dates and have special one on one time with them. When was the last time you just had fun with your son or daughter? Maybe this is your cue to go buy tickets to see that new movie they wanted to see.

When it comes to the different hats we wear as parents, it is essential that we find balance! Most of us have a tendency to naturally want to wear certain hats more than others. It is a lot easier for me to wear the friend hat than the disciplinarian hat. I have to constantly work towards balance in this so that Lauren is not stuck being the only one to discipline. Parenting is one of the most challenging and rewarding journeys a person can ever go on. With God’s help, we get to join him in developing the future if He does not return sooner.

What are some of the ways you wear the different hats of parenting? What are some of the other hats we wear as parents and why are they important? Share your thoughts with us!