Here’s an important parenting question:
What if your hands were empty, but I asked you to give me one of the apples you were holding?
That’s not a trick question, a riddle, or some odd math problem from your junior high days. It’s a simple question that makes an equally simple point.
We can’t give away something we don’t have.
How does that concept relate to parenting? In this way: We can’t parent our children with God’s grace if we haven’t embraced it ourselves. I don’t mean to imply that moms and dads who love the Lord aren’t truly saved. I’m talking about Christian parents who struggle to live their lives with a tangible awareness of the love and grace Christ offers us each day.
Sadly, we here at Focus hear from too many moms and dads who feel like they have to earn God’s love. They live under a daily burden of guilt, as if Jesus’ last three words on the cross were, “Make me proud” instead of “It is finished.”
But Christ’s sacrifice wasn’t an invitation to white-knuckle our way through life and try harder, all the while fearing that we just don’t cut it. It was an invitation to find peace and true life in Him. That comes from fully embracing the reality that there is absolutely nothing that we can add to His work on the cross. His sacrifice frees us to live in His love, not in an effort to win His favor, but out of gratitude and awe for the way that He has loved us – the real, broken, flawed, imperfect us.
That’s the message that we all want to instill in our children.
But, again … we can’t give away something we don’t have.
Which, of course, is why our parenting often resembles the lack of grace we sense in our own Christian walks. Apart from God’s grace, we’re weighed down by a cruel lie – perfect parenting produces perfect kids.
Have you encountered that one yet? If you haven’t, you will soon enough. Raising children exposes our weaknesses. Parenting isn’t meant to be God’s test to see whether or not we can achieve perfection, it’s meant to stretch us and to make us rely on Jesus even more than we did before our children were born.
Another problem is the fear that centering our parenting in grace is tantamount to permissiveness. But grace is not the absence of discipline or consequences. Children need to learn that there are good outcomes for good choices and poor outcomes for poor choices.
But the delivery system for consistent, effective discipline is not guilt, fear, and shame. It is – almost by definition – love and grace.
In fact, research tells us that consistency in both boundaries and consequences are not interpreted as rigidity in the parent by the child, they’re interpreted as warmth. In other words, children with parents who set consistent boundaries are more likely to have a thriving relationship with their parents. Fuller Institute also released a study which said that family warmth is one of the most essential ingredients in the transmission of the parents’ faith to their children.
Grace in parenting is responding with God’s grace to our child’s sin and weaknesses. It’s weaving the unconditional love of God into our methods for establishing our authority, requiring obedience, and training and disciplining our kids.
So many parents struggle in this area that we wanted to dedicate today’s program to exploring it further. To do that, we’ve invited Jeannie Cunnion into our studios to talk about the power of what she calls “grace-based parenting” and how that approach can transform the way we interact with our children. Jeannie is an author, a counselor, and a public speaker.
Also joining our discussion is my wife, Jean, who has some insightful questions and thoughts of her own to share.
This is good stuff, and you won’t want to miss it. As a matter of fact, there’s so much more to be said that we recorded a second program with Jeannie and Jean related to this important topic. We look forward to sharing “part 2” of our conversation with you in just a couple of weeks.