When Adam and Eve fell into sin in the Garden of Eden, the whole human race was affected by the curse (Genesis 3:14-24).
This means that no person since the fall (excluding Jesus) has been born without sin. Romans 5:12 states, "Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned." No one escapes death and the curse of the fall. This means that everyone is born with a bent toward sin and guilty of sin.
This is a difficult pill to swallow primarily because children are both cute and ignorant. No one wants to believe that their little bundle of joy is evil, and no one wants to think that children can possibly lean toward sin with such limited knowledge. We like to think of evil as a learned behavior that we can keep our children from learning. In Psalm 51, King David writes, "Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me" (Psalm 51:5 ESV). The phrase "brought forth" is referring to the act of birth. David believes he was a sinner from the womb. Furthermore, this sin that has come to him from birth was passed on from the previous generation.
It does not matter how much our children adorably display our features, or how little knowledge they possess, they are prone to doing evil. Babies are able to masterfully manipulate their parents with their cries (oddly enough right about the time dinner needs to get started). Toddlers can throw selfish tantrums. No one has to teach a child how to do these things. In fact, quite the opposite occurs. Parents typically attempt to take the selfish nature of a child and modify that behavior to be more socially acceptable. If children were inherently good from the womb, discipline would not be necessary. Children are not inherently good and in need of socialization. They are inherently sinners in need of a savior.
Parents are Shepherds
If children are by nature sinners, then this has a profound impact on the role of a parent. The goal of parenting is not to produce well educated, socially adjusted, athletically talented adults but to produce disciples who trust in the saving work of Jesus on the cross. You are not merely your child's disciplinarian, life coach, or buddy. You are their shepherd. If you have a child, God has given you that child to lead them toward Jesus by the things that you say and do.
When the Israelites were preparing to enter into the promised land, Moses instructed them to take the commands of God and "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 ESV). The Israelites were commanded to lead their children toward God consistently as a part of their every day life. In the book of Joshua, when the Israelites cross the Jordan River on dry land, God commands the Israelites to build a memorial from stones carried from the middle of the river so that "this may be a sign among you. When your children ask in time to come, ‘What do those stones mean to you?’ then you shall tell them that the waters of the Jordan were cut off before the ark of the covenant of the LORD" (Joshua 4:6 ESV). The memorial created by the Israelites provided an opportunity for parents to shepherd their children toward trusting in the Lord.
In Ephesians 6:4, Paul instructs fathers to "not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord." When we inconsistently apply household rules for our own convenience, our children throw up their hands in frustration. Children are not meant to be beaten down by our need to feel powerful, and they are not meant to bear the weight of our athletic and academic aspirations that never came to pass. They are human beings and individuals created in God's image that need love, guidance, and most essentially the gospel in order to fulfill God's unique calling upon their lives.
You can find the first post on children and parenting, "Children Are a Blessing" here: