When a child really “loses it” – the freakin’ out, screaming and kicking kind of lose it – parents have a wonderful opportunity to demonstrate either grace or “ungrace.” Having done the “ungrace” response many times, I know that the impulse is to meet a child’s tantrum with a little tantrum of my own. But I’ve learned over time that meeting a child’s tantrum with my own demands never really helps me accomplish my goals of connecting with my child’s heart. We also learn from others, and here’s a great story from one of our coaching clients about taking advantage of a great opportunity for “abounding grace.”
I was working hard to encourage my seven-year-old daughter Liddy in her piano practice, but she was having a rough day, and it spiraled into a huge meltdown. As she was shouting and screaming, I thought it would be good to record this so we could discuss it later, so I subtly began to video tape her outburst on my phone. After recording it I came up with a plan to use it gracefully with her.
As we connected that night at bedtime, I showed her the video tape and asked Liddy if she liked feeling that way and seeing herself on the video clip. Liddy was discouraged and ashamed. “Daddy, I don’t like seeing that.” (This is where parents typically might say something like, “Liddy, if you don’t like how you acted, you can choose to respond differently next time!” But Ted had on lenses for grace.) The Lord helped me see Liddy’s struggles with eyes of compassion, and I saw a great opportunity to shape her heart with a valuable spiritual truth.
I explained that because of what Christ has done for us, when we ask forgiveness of others and God, He forgets our sins and doesn’t look back. “It’s like God erases the tape!” I explained. Then I asked if she wanted say anything. She looked up and said, “I want your forgiveness and God’s forgiveness! And I want to erase the tape!” I let her watch me hit the delete button, and Liddy smiled in relief as the vivid reminder of her failure disappeared. As we said bedtime prayers she thanked God for his forgiveness.
Liddy is an intense little girl, and she still struggles. But as her parents learn to respond with grace when times are tough, Liddy is learning real time about a God who loves her even at her worst, and is there to forgive and love her in all circumstances. These are the kind of moments through which parents can have a unique and intimate influence in their children’s hearts that no Sunday school teacher or youth worker ever could have. This is truly – Discipline that connects with a child’s heart! Thanks for sharing it Ted!
We would love to hear your stories about how parenting challenges at your home have been opportunities for God’s grace and truth to come alive in your child’s heart!
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