Why You Should Teach Your Kids to Suffer

The day you bring your pink newborn bundle of goodness home from the hospital, one thought rings uppermost:

I will protect this child with my life!

The mama-cub instinct is both innate and necessary. Nobody messes with our babies and gets away with it. But one concept we sometimes ignore in our desire to protect our children is that they will eventually suffer.

Consider your own life – have you been touched by grief? Sorrow is no respecter of persons and if we’re honest, we know someday it will touch our children. So instead of feigning ignorance, we need to equip them to recognize this good and perfect gift from our Creator.

Even Christ instructed the disciples to expect suffering. After Peter voiced his faith, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God”, Christ said He would suffer and die.

“Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you.” (Matthew 16:22, ESV)

Jesus rebuked Peter, stating that this way of thinking was from Satan (vs. 23).

Christ knew His suffering was essential for the greater good of all mankind. And our suffering, on a much smaller scale, is no different.

The concept that God works all things together for good to those who are called is mistaken as a magic formula for a happy life. Truthfully, it means God works all things according to His purpose for HIS glory. God works to conform us to the image of His Son – and the prescription for that is suffering. (Romans 8:28-29.)

Remember Joseph’s statement when his brothers journeyed to Egypt during the famine? When they discovered he was the brother they had mistreated and sold into slavery, they feared for their lives; Joseph was now in charge of the country.

“You meant it for evil against me, but God meant it for good” (Genesis 50:20).

Joseph chose the high road because he accepted God’s plan and adopted His perspective.

Four hundred years later, the Israelites found themselves suffering as slaves under Pharoah. God allowed that because He had a plan to show His glory to all of Egypt by delivering His children out of bondage:

“I have surely seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters. I know their sufferings.” (Exodus 3:7)

God allows nothing into our lives that He either hasn’t allowed or decreed.

“Everything doesn’t necessarily work out in the short term, but God says ‘I guarantee I will bring about the best possible ends by the best possible means for the most possible people for the longest possible time’. That’s the definition of God’s wisdom.” Chip Ingram

3 ways to teach our children to suffer well

1. Administer discipline

“For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.” (Hebrews 12:11)

We do our children no favors when we let them go without necessary discipline as a result of disobedience. Be consistent, be kind, but be firm. God is all of those things toward us. As we must trust our Father’s discipline, our children must trust ours.

2. Let them see you suffer

“You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.” (Deuteronomy 6:7).

This is about about living God’s truths while we do life. Allow them to see your pain once in a while – don’t hide everything from them. Loved ones pass away. Fathers lose jobs. And even pets get sick. Our kids learn to accept loss from the cues we give.

3. Live your faith

“You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.” (Deuteronomy 6:8)

Let your children see your daily walk with the Lord. Keep your Bible open on the kitchen counter and hang written Scripture throughout your home. Pray with them and let them see you pray. And above all, don’t reserve worship just for Sunday mornings.

No one wants to watch their kids suffer; even our heavenly Father grieves. But His ways are much higher than ours, His wisdom – far deeper. Sharing our sufferings, administering discipline, and living our faith will equip our children with the faith tools they need for life.


Ruthie Gray is a wife, mom of four, Gigi, and caregiver, living in the sandwich generation and blogging to keep her sanity.  When she’s not snacking on plastic drumsticks with her grandson (The Tiny Tornado), or snuggling his sister (Baby Cakes), you can find her coaching other moms on how to capture joy while raising kids at her blog,  RearReleaseRegroup.com . Ruthie is also the author of  Count to Nine; 9 Liberating Steps for Mom Frustration and Anger. You can connect with Ruthie on Facebook.

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  1. This is beautiful, Ruthie. I once read an article about looking for a spouse who suffers well. It was excellent, and it’s caused me to think about how well (or not) I suffer and how I can be teaching my little ones to suffer well, too. Your post put all of this into words I couldn’t come up with, and I love how you also shared three things we could do to help! Love you, Ruthie!

  2. I love this, Ruthie! It really is counter cultural thinking and most modern parents (even Christians) seem to think that protecting our children from all harm; emotional, physical, social, will make for well adjusted adults, but it has proven to be otherwise. I do believe the key is to allow our children to feel those things, even encourage risks in those areas, and never rescue them. But the most important element is to train children in the truth of God and His character and plan for our lives. I’ve watched many a Christian get shipwrecked when life brings pain. They somehow have the misconception that because you know Jesus you’ve been promised ease, prosperity and comfort. The scriptures are full of the exact opposite message. Thank you for your simple and timely encouragement for young parents.

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