Judgmental parents spend most of their time making sure their family is better than the ones around them.

They live to monitor everyone else. Their children are supposed to support their concerns about what is wrong with everyone around them.

If you were watching them in action, you would notice them pointing their fingers at others and having little to do with anyone who doesn’t see life their way. They can be especially hard on children who don’t accept their narrow view of life.

Their advice to their children would be a mixture of:
→ “God is watching you, and so am I.”
→ “You may be bad, but you’re better than so-and-so.”

When it comes to boundaries, their exhortation to their children would be: “If it feels good, it’s probably wrong!”

When it comes to God, they are so distracted by looking down on other families that don’t see life their way, they don’t really enjoy God much. God has something to say about them: “If you think you can judge others, you are wrong. When you judge them, you are really judging yourself guilty, because you do the same things they do” (Romans 2:1).

Legalistic parents spend most of their time trying to make sure their family does everything right. They live to keep score of their good deeds. Their children are supposed to help them stack up “brownie points” with God. If you watch them in action, they appear burdened and stressed out. They are especially hard on children who don’t toe the line.

Their advice to their children would be a mixture of:
→ “You owe God, so you better get busy.”
→ “You may be bad, but if you try harder, you can ultimately please God.”

When it comes to boundaries, their exhortation to their children would be: “If it feels good, stop it!” They assume that what God demands of them should be their primary business. When it comes to God, they feel they need to reimburse Him, but God has something to say to them: “People cannot do any work that will make them right with God”

Tim Kimmel, Grace-Based Parenting (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2005).