The Parenting Game That Could Change the World


My kids and I like to play a game called “What if?”.

Kid: What if I brought home a pet snake without asking…

Me: You won’t. (Intimidating eye contact). 

Kid: I know. But what if I did? 

Me: I’d lock myself in my car until Dad came home. Then he’d take you and the snake to a more loving home…

Kid: Laughing. No, really.

Me: Okay. I’d lock myself in my car until Dad came home. Then he’d take the snake to a more loving home… and you’d have to face the music. There would be some consequence for not considering anyone else’s feelings, especially your mother’s. You’d probably get some privileges taken away for disobeying our rule about not bringing pets home…

Kid: What rule?

Me: The one I just made up. And I’d make you eat rattlesnake stew for the rest of the year…

Then, we spend the last few minutes of the game laughing and imagining before starting the next round…

Me: Okay, my turn. What if you lost your temper at school and punched another kid?

Kid: I won’t.

Me: I know. But what if you did….

I don’t know when we started this hilariously disturbing game, but it’s been going on for a while and I’ve decided it’s a keeper.

Photo Credit
Photo Credit

My kids need to know that we, as parents, are in for the long haul. They need to know that their mistakes won’t end their world – or ours.

They need to know that our love for them is indestructible, but their lives aren’t. They need to spend some time thinking about consequences, others, and their personal tendencies. We all need that, don’t we?

As a teacher, I often have to tell parents that their kid did something bad. In those conversations, most of my time and energy is spent getting them to accept it could even be possible…

“It’s just not like him to cheat/lie/hit/steal…”

“I can’t believe she would do such a thing…”

“But I don’t understand. He’s a good kid…”

I’m so sorry to break this to you, parents. But yes it is, believe it, and he’s also very bad. I’ll give you a few minutes of silence to sit with that before we move on.

Photo Credit
Photo Credit

“The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is? Jeremiah 17:9

Parenting isn’t so much about strategies, logic, or training as it is about knowing your kid.

I don’t completely trust my kids, and I tell them so. That’s why we didn’t leave matches on the table when they were little and why we keep close tabs on their phones and friends now.

I also tell them that I don’t completely trust myself. I’ve lived with me long enough to know I’m capable of anything and often too weak to resist temptation.

The point is, people aren’t inherently “good” or “bad”. We’re all saints with a past and sinners with a future… and we all need Jesus. 

More so than their parents, kids are acutely aware of the worst of sinners within, and they’re often secretly troubled by the thoughts and temptations they yield:

What if I cheated on this test?

What if I stole this video game? 

What if I got pregnant?

To be fair, parents can only go off what they know. If they never really want to learn, an image is born and raised instead of a child.

Sure, my parents love me. ‘Cause they don’t know me at all.

Maybe kids hide behind a pristine version of themselves because they think their parents could never deal with the truth.

No. Whatever we do, we can’t tell my parents. They’d die.

Being a kid is hard enough without having to worry about killing your parents. 

Photo Credit
Photo Credit

I know my husband and I can’t possibly know everything about our kids. And I’m sure they hide things from us. I’m also not pretending to be prepared for every “What if” that life could bring, but we’re all learning through the game – and through life – that there is no “What if” that’s more powerful than love.

Even though the questions seem to be coming from a deeper place and feel more dangerous…

Kid: What if I did something so bad that you stopped loving me.

Me: You can’t.

Kid: I know. But what if I did.

Me: You. Can’t. You are going to do bad things. Things so bad you’ll barely be able to speak of them aloud. But loving you is part of who I am. I can’t separate myself from it. You can’t shock it out of me. Next question. 

And in the game of humanity, the winners are those who are perfectly known and deeply loved.

What if everyone had a chance to play this game?

What if we stopped categorizing kids of all ages as “bad” or “good”. What if we saw each other as God does… either “dead” or “alive”, instead.

Folks who are alive in Christ are weary from the battle that rages within and need security first, then support and accountability.

Would I still be welcome at church if they knew the real me?

The dead need life-giving breath, a healing touch, and a truth that’s powerful enough to jump-start a heart.

What if it’s too late for me?

Both have questions, need answers, and are helpless without Jesus.

“…even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved… “Ephesians 2:5

My soul sings Hallelujah because my kids are alive. They have a hope and a righteousness in Christ alone. By the grace of God…

But I’m also singing the blues ’cause parenting is scary and we’re in a world – and in bodies -where evil won’t quit fighting a war it’s already lost.

The world needs help. Parents are clueless and kids are suffering.

What if every parent took a huge spoonful of humility every morning to help them see their kids for who they really are?

What if we rolled doubles of grace for truth in our homes, schools, and streets so that more kids of all ages could feel known and wanted… whether dead or alive? 


Wanna play a round?

Me: What if someone really knew you today? I mean really knew you. And loved you anyway?

You: They won’t

Me: But what if they did? Wouldn’t that be a game-changer?


“…but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8

28 thoughts on “The Parenting Game That Could Change the World

  1. Debbie Praterm August 14, 2015 / 8:58 am

    Very good blog Karen. Powerful message and you brought it out beautifully. Jesus does know us inside and out and He loves us. Also you are correct in that we can’t take the human heart so lightly. We are all capable of wrongdoing. We need Jesus desperately.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Becky Hall August 14, 2015 / 9:29 am

    Yes! Parenting is about knowing your kids and making it safe for them to be known. It’s part of becoming more like Christ. He made it safe for us to be known by our Heavenly Parent.
    Thanks for some great thoughts to think on today:)

    Liked by 1 person

  3. cddimmitt August 14, 2015 / 2:37 pm

    Yes! I can see my Little Man really enjoying this game (and I’m pretty sure he could come up with some pretty crazy scenarios). I can also see some really great teaching moments come about because of it. My women’s group recently read Scary Close and it dealt with this very topic. It completely changed the way I look at relationships. What would happen if we all took off the mask and dared to be known?

    Follow Mommy & Her Men on BlogLovin’


  4. Belinda Letchford August 14, 2015 / 10:29 pm

    Just great. I particularly liked: What if we stopped categorizing kids of all ages as “bad” or “good”. What if we saw each other as God does… either “dead” or “alive”, instead.
    I think I’ll bring that phrase up for discussion tomorrow at our family breakfast. I love your game and think you are onto something.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. iwillbloom August 17, 2015 / 11:17 am

    Karen, wow, I’m overwhelmed by the power of your post: your writing, the ideas. I’m saving it for later when i can read it and savour it all. [Amazing lady! I’ll be back!]…..(but, I know, right off the bat that I *will* be playing the ‘What if’ game with my littles: genius!)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Karen Brown August 17, 2015 / 12:35 pm

      Thank you so much! I’m so glad you stopped by and so grateful for your encouragement.


      • iwillbloom August 18, 2015 / 4:35 am

        Let’s encourage each other, Karen….(didn’t have time to stop by again yesterday but I will!)


  6. heyjude6119 August 17, 2015 / 11:51 am

    Absolutely loved this. The game. The writing. The message. I think that’s a good game for everyone to play with themselves. What if I did thus and so… Maybe it could keep us from making some mistakes. Not all. We are after all, human. And it’s so true, we can never stop loving our children. I have one that really likes to test this and I’ve gotten so angry with him, frustrated with him, and stop speaking to him, but I can’t really stop loving him.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Karen Brown August 17, 2015 / 12:34 pm

      Thank you so much for these kind words. What an encouragement. I really appreciate you stopping by ! 🙂


  7. Michele Morin August 18, 2015 / 5:40 am

    Beautiful . . . but chilling.
    I’ve had those same conversations with parents who truly and honestly believe that their son would never lie to them, or they know their child and s/he would never [fill in the blank]. Your post is a challenge to parents to KNOW their child, and it is reassuring to be reminded that I am God’s child, and He knows me, but loves me anyway.
    Karen, I am always challenged by your words here.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Karen Brown August 18, 2015 / 5:43 am

      Michele- It’s a challenge to myself, also. Thank you so much.for stopping by!

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Mary Geisen August 18, 2015 / 5:43 am

    Our children do need to know that as parents we have have unconditional love for them. I love the “what if” game that you play with your kids. I wish I had done it with my own when growing up. I also smiled as you talked about being a teacher because there were many times that parents needed to hear that their child was wrong and was not good. Can I get an “Amen”? Loved your words today.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. betsydecruz August 18, 2015 / 6:23 am

    This is such a good reminder for me right now, Karen. We drop my son off to college tomorrow, and it’s so good to remember that loving him no matter what is the most important thing I can do. It’s time to let him stand on his own a bit, and that means trusting God in new ways. How reassuring to remember that God loves my son just like he loves me.


  10. Ifeoma Samuel August 18, 2015 / 10:33 am

    This is very thoughtful Karen.
    I like that you sincerely approach your kids with the trust issue.
    beautiful analysis with what if God really loved you enough to forgive?
    Blessings to you.


  11. Beth Willis Miller August 18, 2015 / 5:43 pm

    Karen, I love this post! The what if game is a great way to get conversation started…thank you! Many blessings to you ❤️


  12. Anita Ojeda August 18, 2015 / 9:57 pm

    You have beautiful thoughts on parenting, my friend! I was shocked when my kids started protecting me from things–“Mom, you wouldn’t like that movie. They swear.” It showed me how little my kids knew ME because I always made it sounds like I’d been born holy (I didn’t TRY to sound that way).


  13. Tiffany Parry August 19, 2015 / 2:27 am

    So grateful that we are loved even still. I try to remember to extend my son the same grace I’ve received. I don’t always hit that mark, but I purpose to remind him he is loved no matter what. Thanks for the wise words, Karen.


  14. Kelly Balarie August 19, 2015 / 5:48 am

    Wise words spoken, Karen. Our kids are not above the law and are certainly prone to fall for it. I love the idea that we have to let them know our love for them is indestructible. It is powerful in the face of consequences. Thank you for getting me thinking today Karen.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. positiveadoption August 19, 2015 / 10:01 am

    Karen, I love this! Kids are people too, it is important to treat them that way, not as good or bad. Unconditionally loving them as our Father does. I know from counseling with adoptive families that children from hard places can have some pretty destructive behaviors and I tell parents not to overreact or tell the child that he is “bad”. It’s so important that children feel secure and accepted for who they are, not what they do. Their do is not their who.


  16. joanneviola August 19, 2015 / 12:23 pm

    Wonderful post, Karen. As parents, may we show our children unconditional love & in so doing, show them the love of God towards them. So glad to have read this post today.


  17. sarahgirl3 August 19, 2015 / 1:36 pm

    That’s s great game! We need more time with our kids, time that is silly and serious at the same time. I think this gets the point across better than other methods!


  18. Rebekah August 20, 2015 / 6:21 pm

    Love this! Wow – what a blessing!
    I’m sharing this tomorrow at Grace & Truth. Thank you for sharing it with us!

    Liked by 1 person

  19. Kristin Hill Taylor August 20, 2015 / 9:35 pm

    I read this the other day and now I’m reading it again. We all need Jesus. Amen. I’m so glad we get to be fully and perfectly loved and know by our Creator. Thanks for linking up at #ThreeWordWednesday.


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