Why I Switched to Grace-Based Parenting
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If you are at your wit’s end, and you are close to giving up because “they just don’t get, they just won’t listen, nothing you do makes a difference, etc.” I recommend giving grace-based parenting a try.
What you learn about you and your children in the process has the potential to change the way you see them, and the way you see yourself.
It’s safe to say that most of us, as parents, have the same goal of raising our children to become polite, successful adults. You know, good citizens who get good grades through school that will hopefully turn into good careers. The “dream” of Christian parents is typically for their children to have this in addition to a relationship with Christ.
The pressure of rearing “perfect” children could not be more evident in today’s society. Before having kids, I remember seeing children in the grocery store screaming at checkout and thinking to myself “If that were my kid…I would (insert preferred discipline method here)” critical people are everywhere. We know them, we’ve been them.
Yes, I was quite critical of others and their methods of dealing with their own children. But nothing tears down that critical spirit and brings you to your knees quite like raising your own screaming, kicking, defiant two year old.
So here’s the thing…
The concept of grace has been distorted for most of us. The realization that there is a God who loves us despite our failures is almost…inconceivable.
I’ve spent the majority of my youth and adulthood “performing” for God. When I considered where this began I could only come to one conclusion.
My parents, in all their human effort, had a tendency to dish out additional laws for unwanted behavior. If there was something I did that they disliked, they created a rule around it.
This lead to me conforming to their rules and finding new ways to perform and ultimately gain their approval. As you could imagine, this created a web of other insecurities into my adulthood that I have had to overcome.
Predictably, I implemented this same family tradition in my own parenting. The problem with this is that law doesn’t change anything. If it did, Jesus never would have needed to come to save us. Our children don’t need more of the law. They need the grace of God. His grace is the ONLY thing that can truly change a heart.
So, after 6 years of having “perfect children” as the end goal in my parenting, after exhausting hours of long conversations where it seemed I just wasn’t getting through, I began this journey of grace-based parenting.
What is grace-based parenting?
Grace-based parenting is simply striving to love our children the way that God loves us.
It’s accepting that no human effort on our part could ever “change” the heart of our children and accepting that only God can.
It’s identifying the fact that strict observance and enforcement of law (rules), as opposed to grace, can result in either self-righteous or rebellious children.
What about discipline?
One of my biggest concerns with grace-based parenting, when I began to do more research, was if it was going to take the place of discipline completely.
This was not the case. In fact, because the principle of grace-based parenting is striving to love your kids as God loves you, you must take into account that God disciplines us because he loves us (Proverbs 3:12).
Furthermore, we continue to discipline our children BECAUSE we love them.
If you’re looking for a formula to grace-based discipline, there really isn’t one (you’re welcome). Every child responds differently to discipline and it’s ever important to seek wisdom from God on how to discipline your children based off of their unique personality.
What I can say is that seeing my children through a filter of “grace first – discipline second” has opened my eyes to my own human condition:
I say “yes” to things I should say “no” to – I lie.
I have a great distaste for my children’s eyes peering over the table at my hard-earned dessert at the end of a long day – I don’t like sharing.
I’d much rather relax than work on the house, run errands, or change dirty diapers – I’m lazy.
We are born sinners. Whether we like it or not, every natural fiber of our being is pushing us closer to sin and further from God. But God, despite our sin, gives us endless grace. It’s our responsibility as parents to direct our children back to His grace every time they sin. Without the acceptance of grace, our children will fight for something they can never reach.
I am no master at grace-based parenting. In fact, my journey is only beginning. I fail daily. That’s really the beauty of it though, I need God’s grace in order to guide my children in it.
I have found complete freedom in connecting with my child on the foundation that I am a sinner, too. And that God has still placed me as their parent in order to lead and guide them closer to Jesus. I still set boundaries and follow through on discipline. All that has changed is the lens in which I do it.
There is peace in knowing that no human effort on my end can “save” my child and that it’s God’s responsibility, not mine.