A few weeks ago, I dedicated my blog to the subject of parenting with grace. It was based on a great conversation we had earlier this month with our broadcast guest Jeannie Cunnion, who explained the reasons why parents can’t offer their children grace if they haven’t experienced it themselves.
It was such helpful information, we recorded another program with Jeannie. This time she’ll help us rethink discipline strategies that strip our parenting of grace, rather than enhance it.
Most of us rely on some sort of rewards system in our child-rearing. Our primary focus becomes about rules and correcting our children’s negative behaviors. After all, we want them to do the right things and behave in godly ways, don’t we? The trouble is, on its own, that approach isn’t a full expression of what it means to parent with grace.
Reward-based discipline can be beneficial to parenting, but many moms and dads rely on it exclusively. It’s simple, fast, and easy. You get the short-term, outward behavior you’re looking for in your children with the least amount of trouble.
But it has its down side. Jeannie offers an example from her own family. When her boys were younger, she and her husband put a jelly bean jar on the counter. When her boys did good things, they got a jelly bean in their jar. When the boys did bad things, a jelly bean was removed.
The idea worked … well, sort of. The jelly bean jar did help her boys control their behavior, but only by keeping them focused on their outward conduct. None of them were being challenged to deepen their character.
As parents, it’s so easy to think about the immediate results we’re after and forget that our long-term goal is for their hearts to be transformed by Jesus Christ through His grace.
As I said in my last blog: “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.”
To facilitate that process, Jeannie shares a helpful idea from her friend Elyse Fitzpatrick called the “Three Rs,” which stand for “remember,” “rely,” and “recognize.”
Before you tell your children what they should do to correct their behavior, take a moment to remind them of what Jesus already did. If your child needs to learn to be kind to others, point to a time when Jesus demonstrated kindness to someone in need or how He showed His kindness toward us by laying down His life for us while we were still sinners.
Encourage your kids to rely on Jesus. Remind them that we can choose right or wrong in the situations we face. But the only way that we are be able to live the way we desire is by the power of the Holy Spirit. We can’t live rightly on our own power. We have to rely on the power of Christ that is within us.
We often forget to recognize Christ’s work in our lives, so this is an important step. Parents tend to become what Jeannie calls the “sin patrol” in our kids’ lives. It’s so easy to see what they do wrong. Try to recognize where we see them relying on God or where we see the fruit of the Spirit on display in their lives.
These steps seem easy, and they are, but I know that parenting with grace isn’t always quite so simple. Jean and I struggle with it, and I’m sure many of you do as well.
That’s why we’re returning to this topic again. Almost all of us could use a little help in the form of practical steps we can put into practice today as well as the encouragement to believe that with a little time, a little practice, and plenty of help from the Lord, we can infuse our parenting with grace and transform our home.
I hope you’ll join us today. After you’ve heard the program, I invite you to comment below about ways in which you feel God has helped you parent with more grace. We can all learn from each other.
Jeannie Cunnion is an author, a counselor, and a public speaker. Also joining our discussion again with her insights and questions is my wife, Jean.