The question: Given the unregenerate state of our children, is it creating hypocrisy to require outward fruit of them, knowing that there is no inward fruit?
I would say that it depends. If we treat the inside and outside as essentially equal, then yes, I think so. In other words, when you act kind, you are kind; when you act patient, you are patient, and so on. If instead we as parents understand and acknowledge that the outside fruit is only part of what God requires of us, and not complete until we walk in the spirit, then I think not.
It’s not a bad thing to be happy simply because it is habit. I must not think that it’s evidence of a walk with God in itself, especially if I’m neglecting my walk with God. I don’t have to worry about making my joy a fruit of the spirit and not simply what I am. I don’t have to wait until I’m not naturally happy. I can simply obey what I know one small spiritual step at a time. Starting with… time with God. the laundry. school with the children. time listening. choosing not to worry. and so on.
As far as my children are concerned, it is helpful to remember that a good child is not necessarily a godly child; however, a godly child will be developing the fruit of the spirit. I can teach them biblical principles that will lead to love, joy, peace, and so on.
For example, God’s Word tells us that peace comes from keeping our minds stayed on God. Jesus told us that we would be happy when we obey his words (particularly in the context of serving others). Faith comes by hearing the Word of God. Many verses directly apply to the fruit of the spirit, and it might make a really great study to look at those more closely with my children. (note to self)
I think I can also teach this concept by sharing what God is teaching me about walking in the spirit. I can remind them that conforming on the outside is wonderful, but not complete when we discuss certain Bible stories (like Judas Iscariot, or Saul obeying partially). I can talk with them in third person about how a Christian walks in the spirit, and what that means. I don’t think I must point out the insufficiency of outward goodness every time I praise it. It is still praiseworthy to be patient and kind, and I want to encourage it.
When they make a profession of faith, then I might add something, but I’m not thinking that far in advance. Sufficient for the day are the challenges thereof!