Big picture thinking is important when it comes to parenting. It is so easy to get caught up in the moment with your child’s misbehavior, responding in knee-jerk fashion to attempt to get a certain behavior to STOP. Sometimes, our swift discipline does make the misbehavior stop. But, does it teach grace and result in a child’s changed heart or in a deeper understanding about the way actions affect others and his/her relationship with God?
As parents who hope our children will walk in love and truth, we would do well to consider: How do I want my child to view God when she messes up?
An Opportunity to Creatively Teach Grace: Via a Smartphone!
A young dad named Ted sent us this story about an opportunity he had to share grace with his misbehaving daughter, along with a lifelong lesson about the character of our heavenly Father:
I was working hard to encourage Liddy, my seven-year-old, in her piano practice. She was having a rough day, and it spiraled into a huge meltdown. As she was shouting and screaming, I subtly began to record her outburst on my phone. I wanted to build insight in a grace-filled way, so I waited until we connected that night at bedtime. I showed Liddy the video and asked if she liked feeling that way. She was discouraged and ashamed. “Daddy, I don’t like seeing that,” she answered.
Creative Parenting to Teach Grace in Misbehavior
It is at moments like this where a parent might tend to say things like, “If you don’t like how you acted, you can choose a different response next time.”
Yet, Ted went another route:
The Lord helped me to see Liddy’s struggle with eyes of compassion. I saw a great opportunity to shape her heart with a valuable truth. I explained that because of what Jesus has done for us, when we ask for forgiveness, God forgets our sins and doesn’t look back. “It’s like He erases the tape,” I explained. Then I asked if she wanted to say anything. She looked up and said, “I want your forgiveness and God’s forgiveness. And I want to erase the tape.”
Liddy watched me hit the delete button and smiled in relief as the vivid reminder of her failure disappeared. As we said bedtime prayers, she thanked God for His forgiveness.
Grace One Step at a Time
Although Liddy is learning to harness her intensity, she still struggles. As her parents persist with grace, she’s learning about a God who loves her at her worst and will forgive in all circumstances. In these moments parents can have a unique and intimate influence on their children’s hearts. After all, there is no one better positioned to influence a child’s heart than that child’s parent.
Spiritual Insight for Children and Their Parents
Consistently expressed this way in families, love comes to define household life. Squabbles and trials will still occur, but they’ll lose their defining power as parents and kids alike learn to get back to “love no matter what.” Parents will model forgiveness by seeking it. True reconciliation will occur. Then as parents become more thoughtful about how to demonstrate and talk about God’s love in the midst of difficult behavior, children are potently discipled. They grow to really believe, “I am loved—no matter what!”
- How might I use our struggles to share about God’s love, grace, and forgiveness with my children?