How to Walk the Line Between Grace and Discipline as a Parent
Before I became a parent I didn’t think or realize how difficult it would be. I really thought I had it all figured out. I went to seminary before I became a mom and one of the classes I took was all about marriage and family. In this class we read books on parenting and were able to glean the wisdom of our professor when it came to raising children to know and love the Lord.
This class helped to ease my parenting fears. I didn’t exactly grow up in a Christian environment and felt unsure about how to raise my children with Christianity as their foundation. But, of course, after reading a few books and having a few classroom discussions, I was ready!
Except I wasn’t. My kids are still young, they’re only four and three, but they have already given me a run for my money. Parenting can be so overwhelming. There are so many joys, but also many disappointments and moments of utter confusion.
You never think when your child is a tiny baby that they will one day infuriate you with their backtalk and blatant disobedience. I remember staring at my babies with their itty-bitty noses and heavenly newborn smell. They seemed so perfect and cute. They couldn’t possibly ever make me upset. But as my babies grew older, they began to get themselves into trouble. Some of it is innocent enough. Small children can be expected to make messes or throw a tantrum here and there. It’s easy to forgive and lovingly guide them in the right direction.
But then they start getting sassy. They start to purposely disobey and may even have a few choice unkind words to say. They may scream in your face instead of listening and obeying. They may embarrass you in front of a room full of strangers. They may drive you to the brink of insanity with their undesirable behavior. And that’s when it gets hard.
As a Christian I have experienced the love and grace of Jesus Christ. I am a grateful recipient of His undeserved grace and mercy. As a parent I feel it is my duty to be a reflection of His love, grace, and mercy for my children. I believe that the way I treat my children will shape the way my children see and relate to God. Do I want them to think He is a hard, authoritative, cold, unforgiving dictator? Or do I want them to truly experience His loving kindness?
On the other hand, I really don’t want my kids to be spoiled brats. Discipline is a vital part of raising children. Without discipline kids can be lost. They don’t know what’s right and wrong. They don’t understand the behavior that’s expected of them. I don’t want them running around, mouthing off, and thinking they can do whatever they want.
There’s a fine line between grace and discipline, and walking that line can be difficult. I look at my spirited four-year-old’s face and I feel the need to make sure he doesn’t grow up to be a brat, but I also want to make sure he knows he is fiercely loved, and there’s nothing he could ever do to make me stop loving him. I know I don’t always make the right choice. I know there have been times when I should have extended grace instead of punishment. I have had humbling moments with my children when I have had to ask their forgiveness for my own mommy tantrums. I’m sure there have also been times when I have failed to discipline them effectively and unintentionally delivered the message that they needn’t respect the adults in their lives.
When I’m faced with a situation where I’m unsure of whether I should extend grace or discipline, I have learned to step back and take a breath. I say a silent prayer asking for wisdom. Sometimes I even pray out loud, “Lord! Help me, Lord! Before I lose my mind!”And sometimes I even invite my child to pray with me. I pray for God to give me patience and my child the ability to listen and obey.
I don’t always make the right choice and I know there will be times in the future when I will fail. But I’m happy to know that the same grace I should extend to my children, is always extended to me. God forgives and redeems. He redeems my parenting mistakes the same way He redeems my children’s souls. “For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.”Amen and thank God for that.
Kristel Acevedo is a wife, mom, and writer living in Miami, FL. She’s an introvert who loves people and helping women find their freedom in Christ. You can keep up with her writing at her personal blog at www.KristelAcevedo.com. You can also find her at her favorite social media spot, Instagram and on Facebook and Twitter too.