3 dangers of a kid-centered family

July 11, 2019

My husband and I have been married for 17 years. We have four kids. When you have four kids, your family often feels as though your life is centered around them. It’s hard work to make sure that our homes are gospel-centered vs. kid-centered. It’s something that our family continues to work on. And it is hard, but it’s doable. 

I will never forget early on in our marriage, before we had any kids, my husband got a phone call from a buddy of his from college. He said, “Hey, I wanted to let you know that my parents are getting a divorce. I thought, Your parents are getting a divorce? They’ve been married for 25 years, and now they are calling it quits? I have no idea what caused their divorce, but I would guess that somewhere along the way their home became kid-centered vs. gospel-centered.

As parents, we are not usually strategic about this; it just slowly happens over time. When you find out that you are pregnant or that you are going to become a parent through adoption, you usually sit down and ask yourself and your spouse a few questions. Do we want a home birth or hospital birth? Do we have insurance right now? Do we have money for this adoption? Do we tell our friends? What will our parents think? No one usually asks: Do we want to raise our children in a kid-centered home or a gospel-centered home? No one would ever say we choose kid-centered. 

But the problem gets even greater because, oftentimes, kid-centered homes make us feel like good parents. And we’ll take it a step further—they make us look like good parents. Look how much they love their kids. Look how much they are invested in their life. Look at all the things they do with their children. We think that because we only have our kids for 18 years, we should build our entire lives around them. I have three dangers, however, that I think a being a kid-centered family poses for parents.

Kid-centered families will put your marriage at stake. 

Like I said before, I have no idea what caused the divorce of that couple, but might I suggest that one day after 25 years of raising two children and sending them off to college, they woke up, looked at the person that they share a bed with, and had no memory of how they got there. They didn’t even know who they were. They had lost their first love of each other because they had centered their entire life around making their children happy. And their marriage took all of the heat for that. 

This happens little by little. They lost touch with their intimacy because they were so busy with the kids. They didn’t have time to cultivate their marriage, relationship, and friendship because of the kids. They didn’t keep their marriage at the top of their priorities because the kids needed so much. While it’s true, I get it. We have three teenagers, and they take a lot of our time. From football games to football practices to hair appointments to medical appointments to braces appointments to church activities—I often feel like a glorified Uber driver, except I don’t get paid, and my ratings are questionable. 

But I believe we should not love our kids more than we love our spouses. I tell my kids often, “I love your dad more than I love you.” It’s not mean; it’s very true. We continue to invest in each other because God has called us as parents to raise these children together, and our relationship must take priority if we will be good parents. When we place our kids and their activities and our relationship with them over our marriage, our marriage will suffer. It’s hard because this takes time, and so do our children. But it is worth it to prioritize marriage because if we do not have healthy relationships, we cannot parent and disciple our kids well. 

We create entitled children. 

We have four children in our home, which means they don’t often get what they want when they want it. And that is called life. This world is a hard place to live in if you are constantly waiving the banner of “that’s not fair.” When our families revolve around our kids and cater to their every need and want, they will expect that from the world. We will be teaching them that this is how life works and that they deserve whatever they want, whenever they want, however they want it. 

But the truth of the matter is that we don’t deserve anything. In fact, the gospel is a direct contradiction to this idea that we deserve to have it all, that we deserve happiness at all costs. God’s Word teaches us to be servants, to lay down our lives for those we love. When we allow our kids to be the center of our worlds and our homes, we are not showing them how to follow Jesus as a servant. Our kids will have a harder time serving those around them when they feel entitled and are used to being served all the time. Parents, our goal is to raise children that love, obey, and follow Jesus. Let’s not make it harder for them by allowing our entire home to revolve around their needs and wants. 

We create idols out of our children. 

This is the greatest danger. We create idols out of our children when our homes revolve around them. And some of us even think that this is cute and normal. We actually hide behind the fact that we are making idols of our children by calling it great parenting. But we are not supposed to find our joy and satisfaction in them. Anything that we desire more or find more satisfaction in than the Lord can become our idol. 

This is scary because it doesn’t always look like idolatry. This should put a bit of fear in us as parents because we serve a God who is holy and jealous and desires all of our affections. And he is the only one who can provide all of our satisfactions. We see this clearly in the Old Testament. The first of the 10 Commandments is “You shall have no other gods before me.” When Moses was up on the mountain, the people below got tired of waiting, took matters into their own hands, and created their own golden calf to worship. God responded by telling them that they were a stiff-necked people and that his wrath was going to burn hot against and consume them. 

Recently, we had to say no to something good for some of our kids because we knew it wasn’t the best for the family. It wasn’t an easy decision for me; it took me a while to believe that the “no” was okay. In my heart, I began to idolize my children and their happiness, thinking that my role as their mom was to do everything I could to make them happy—and that I would find my happiness in watching them be happy. It sounds good and normal, but sometimes a good thing is not the best thing. 

When we idolize something that we find our happiness in (i.e., our children), we begin to think that their happiness is going to satisfy us. When we do this by bending to every need or want, we are creating idols out of our children. Idolizing our work, a substance, or even our marriages over God—we often see the danger in those. But when we talk about idolizing our children, we miss it. We think our kids aren’t idols, but yet we desire to make them happy more than we desire to please God. We find our satisfaction in their happiness. Or, our money and actions prove that they hold more worth than the things that will further the Kingdom. Or, we find ourselves consistently striving to find our joy, satisfaction, and ultimately our worth in our children. 

There are many dangers in idolizing our children and our families over the gospel. Our marriages will suffer, our kids will feel entitled, but more than any of those, we will continually be let down and struggle to feel content. When we make idols out of our kids, just like anything else, we will be left very unsatisfied. Idols were never meant to sustain us, to supply our joy, to supply our contentment. That is something that only God can do. 

Like I said earlier, this is hard work. These are conversations we must visit often. It is not our job as parents to receive our happiness from our kids or give our happiness to them. Our job is to follow the lead of Proverbs 22:6 which says, “Point your kids in the right direction and when they are old they will not be lost.” We cannot teach our kids to give their lives away for the gospel when all they see is us giving our lives away for them. Parents, our job is big, and a lot is at stake. We are raising the next generation of world changers for the gospel, but that next generation will be unable to change the world if they believe that the world revolves around them. Let’s not be parents that feed our kids this lie.

This originally appeared as a talk at the ERLC National Conference. For free conference messages, visit our site

Jamie Ivey

Jamie is a podcaster, writer, and speaker from Austin, Texas. She is the proud mama of four kids and the wife of Aaron, worship pastor of The Austin Stone Community Church. She also hosts a weekly podcast, The Happy Hour with Jamie Ivey. Read More

Article 12: The Future of AI

We affirm that AI will continue to be developed in ways that we cannot currently imagine or understand, including AI that will far surpass many human abilities. God alone has the power to create life, and no future advancements in AI will usurp Him as the Creator of life. The church has a unique role in proclaiming human dignity for all and calling for the humane use of AI in all aspects of society.

We deny that AI will make us more or less human, or that AI will ever obtain a coequal level of worth, dignity, or value to image-bearers. Future advancements in AI will not ultimately fulfill our longings for a perfect world. While we are not able to comprehend or know the future, we do not fear what is to come because we know that God is omniscient and that nothing we create will be able to thwart His redemptive plan for creation or to supplant humanity as His image-bearers.

Genesis 1; Isaiah 42:8; Romans 1:20-21; 5:2; Ephesians 1:4-6; 2 Timothy 1:7-9; Revelation 5:9-10

Article 11: Public Policy

We affirm that the fundamental purposes of government are to protect human beings from harm, punish those who do evil, uphold civil liberties, and to commend those who do good. The public has a role in shaping and crafting policies concerning the use of AI in society, and these decisions should not be left to those who develop these technologies or to governments to set norms.

We deny that AI should be used by governments, corporations, or any entity to infringe upon God-given human rights. AI, even in a highly advanced state, should never be delegated the governing authority that has been granted by an all-sovereign God to human beings alone. 

Romans 13:1-7; Acts 10:35; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 10: War

We affirm that the use of AI in warfare should be governed by love of neighbor and the principles of just war. The use of AI may mitigate the loss of human life, provide greater protection of non-combatants, and inform better policymaking. Any lethal action conducted or substantially enabled by AI must employ 5 human oversight or review. All defense-related AI applications, such as underlying data and decision-making processes, must be subject to continual review by legitimate authorities. When these systems are deployed, human agents bear full moral responsibility for any actions taken by the system.

We deny that human agency or moral culpability in war can be delegated to AI. No nation or group has the right to use AI to carry out genocide, terrorism, torture, or other war crimes.

Genesis 4:10; Isaiah 1:16-17; Psalm 37:28; Matthew 5:44; 22:37-39; Romans 13:4

Article 9: Security

We affirm that AI has legitimate applications in policing, intelligence, surveillance, investigation, and other uses supporting the government’s responsibility to respect human rights, to protect and preserve human life, and to pursue justice in a flourishing society.

We deny that AI should be employed for safety and security applications in ways that seek to dehumanize, depersonalize, or harm our fellow human beings. We condemn the use of AI to suppress free expression or other basic human rights granted by God to all human beings.

Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 8: Data & Privacy

We affirm that privacy and personal property are intertwined individual rights and choices that should not be violated by governments, corporations, nation-states, and other groups, even in the pursuit of the common good. While God knows all things, it is neither wise nor obligatory to have every detail of one’s life open to society.

We deny the manipulative and coercive uses of data and AI in ways that are inconsistent with the love of God and love of neighbor. Data collection practices should conform to ethical guidelines that uphold the dignity of all people. We further deny that consent, even informed consent, although requisite, is the only necessary ethical standard for the collection, manipulation, or exploitation of personal data—individually or in the aggregate. AI should not be employed in ways that distort truth through the use of generative applications. Data should not be mishandled, misused, or abused for sinful purposes to reinforce bias, strengthen the powerful, or demean the weak.

Exodus 20:15, Psalm 147:5; Isaiah 40:13-14; Matthew 10:16 Galatians 6:2; Hebrews 4:12-13; 1 John 1:7 

Article 7: Work

We affirm that work is part of God’s plan for human beings participating in the cultivation and stewardship of creation. The divine pattern is one of labor and rest in healthy proportion to each other. Our view of work should not be confined to commercial activity; it must also include the many ways that human beings serve each other through their efforts. AI can be used in ways that aid our work or allow us to make fuller use of our gifts. The church has a Spirit-empowered responsibility to help care for those who lose jobs and to encourage individuals, communities, employers, and governments to find ways to invest in the development of human beings and continue making vocational contributions to our lives together.

We deny that human worth and dignity is reducible to an individual’s economic contributions to society alone. Humanity should not use AI and other technological innovations as a reason to move toward lives of pure leisure even if greater social wealth creates such possibilities.

Genesis 1:27; 2:5; 2:15; Isaiah 65:21-24; Romans 12:6-8; Ephesians 4:11-16

Article 6: Sexuality

We affirm the goodness of God’s design for human sexuality which prescribes the sexual union to be an exclusive relationship between a man and a woman in the lifelong covenant of marriage.

We deny that the pursuit of sexual pleasure is a justification for the development or use of AI, and we condemn the objectification of humans that results from employing AI for sexual purposes. AI should not intrude upon or substitute for the biblical expression of sexuality between a husband and wife according to God’s design for human marriage.

Genesis 1:26-29; 2:18-25; Matthew 5:27-30; 1 Thess 4:3-4

Article 5: Bias

We affirm that, as a tool created by humans, AI will be inherently subject to bias and that these biases must be accounted for, minimized, or removed through continual human oversight and discretion. AI should be designed and used in such ways that treat all human beings as having equal worth and dignity. AI should be utilized as a tool to identify and eliminate bias inherent in human decision-making.

We deny that AI should be designed or used in ways that violate the fundamental principle of human dignity for all people. Neither should AI be used in ways that reinforce or further any ideology or agenda, seeking to subjugate human autonomy under the power of the state.

Micah 6:8; John 13:34; Galatians 3:28-29; 5:13-14; Philippians 2:3-4; Romans 12:10

Article 4: Medicine

We affirm that AI-related advances in medical technologies are expressions of God’s common grace through and for people created in His image and that these advances will increase our capacity to provide enhanced medical diagnostics and therapeutic interventions as we seek to care for all people. These advances should be guided by basic principles of medical ethics, including beneficence, non-maleficence, autonomy, and justice, which are all consistent with the biblical principle of loving our neighbor.

We deny that death and disease—effects of the Fall—can ultimately be eradicated apart from Jesus Christ. Utilitarian applications regarding healthcare distribution should not override the dignity of human life. Fur- 3 thermore, we reject the materialist and consequentialist worldview that understands medical applications of AI as a means of improving, changing, or completing human beings.

Matthew 5:45; John 11:25-26; 1 Corinthians 15:55-57; Galatians 6:2; Philippians 2:4

Article 3: Relationship of AI & Humanity

We affirm the use of AI to inform and aid human reasoning and moral decision-making because it is a tool that excels at processing data and making determinations, which often mimics or exceeds human ability. While AI excels in data-based computation, technology is incapable of possessing the capacity for moral agency or responsibility.

We deny that humans can or should cede our moral accountability or responsibilities to any form of AI that will ever be created. Only humanity will be judged by God on the basis of our actions and that of the tools we create. While technology can be created with a moral use in view, it is not a moral agent. Humans alone bear the responsibility for moral decision making.

Romans 2:6-8; Galatians 5:19-21; 2 Peter 1:5-8; 1 John 2:1

Article 2: AI as Technology

We affirm that the development of AI is a demonstration of the unique creative abilities of human beings. When AI is employed in accordance with God’s moral will, it is an example of man’s obedience to the divine command to steward creation and to honor Him. We believe in innovation for the glory of God, the sake of human flourishing, and the love of neighbor. While we acknowledge the reality of the Fall and its consequences on human nature and human innovation, technology can be used in society to uphold human dignity. As a part of our God-given creative nature, human beings should develop and harness technology in ways that lead to greater flourishing and the alleviation of human suffering.

We deny that the use of AI is morally neutral. It is not worthy of man’s hope, worship, or love. Since the Lord Jesus alone can atone for sin and reconcile humanity to its Creator, technology such as AI cannot fulfill humanity’s ultimate needs. We further deny the goodness and benefit of any application of AI that devalues or degrades the dignity and worth of another human being. 

Genesis 2:25; Exodus 20:3; 31:1-11; Proverbs 16:4; Matthew 22:37-40; Romans 3:23

Article 1: Image of God

We affirm that God created each human being in His image with intrinsic and equal worth, dignity, and moral agency, distinct from all creation, and that humanity’s creativity is intended to reflect God’s creative pattern.

We deny that any part of creation, including any form of technology, should ever be used to usurp or subvert the dominion and stewardship which has been entrusted solely to humanity by God; nor should technology be assigned a level of human identity, worth, dignity, or moral agency.

Genesis 1:26-28; 5:1-2; Isaiah 43:6-7; Jeremiah 1:5; John 13:34; Colossians 1:16; 3:10; Ephesians 4:24