Kids, Grace, and a BIG Cup of Coffee
Today is the first day of summer break for our school district and one of my very best friends, who is a teacher, has taken on my three grandchildren to babysit, along with her son, for the entire summer. The first thing I texted her today was, "Are you ready for a BIG cup of coffee yet?". She has the capability at her house to create coffee in many different ways. Her kitchen mirrors mine in that realm; percolator, drip maker, Keurig one cup. So far, one hour in, she was doing fine, but she made need a really BIG cup by days end and definitely by the time summer is over. She is a saint in my eyes! Taking on kids, especially ones that don't belong to you can be a big challenge and will take a lot of extra grace.
Last week we discussed how to have grace and forgiveness within your family, which can be difficult at times, yet very necessary. I think it is important to spend some time looking at grace for our children, be it young kids adult children, or grandkids. Our first mission field is under our very own roof. If we are unable to show God’s grace, love, and forgiveness in our own home, how could we ever be trusted to go out into the world and help people know Jesus? Our children are a blessing that have been given to us and we are asked to show grace to them as well. This can prove to be very difficult sometimes and may require gigantic amounts of coffee from time to time, but the outcome for God's kingdom and our children’s future makes this task of utmost importance. When life gets busy, when children go through phases like blue hair and piercings, when they make mistakes, or throw fits because they don’t want to put toys away or shower, this is when we need to show the most grace, but it can often be the most difficult time to do it. You already know that there will be times of rebellion at each stage of life, times of miscommunication, times of anger, but when we think about how God reacts to us during these stages of our lives, it is important to remember to show his grace to our children. As stated often in my blogs, grace is an undeserved gift that we are all given. We can’t earn it and can’t do anything to make God give it to us. This should hold true for the grace we give to our children. Most of the time they do not deserve it either. Some of the time they may have taken us to the edge of anger and disappointment and we just can't see how we can give them grace that they don't deserve. I'm sure this is exactly what God thought when he watched his Son hang on a cross, beaten and dying, so we could see the cost of His grace. If this is what we keep in mind at all times, we certainly will be able to offer grace to our children. With God, there are no strings attached. For your children there should be no strings attached either. There can be discussion, boundaries drawn, expectations set, but the grace should be free. This means nothing hanging over their head and no bringing up the issue over and over again. This can be difficult when we have such deep love for our children, which also means we can have deep anger and frustration.
Because there is no book written to tell us how to parent and because every child is different, there are many books and articles written to give suggestions and help when we might be having difficulties showing grace. To begin, we must show ourselves some grace in our parenting skills and take time to read some of these great resources. There are also many websites that deal with parenting and children that are worth looking into. Focus on the Family is a tremendous resource with articles, books, podcasts and blogs to help us along the way. God has not left us to figure this parenting thing out alone. Part of His great grace is placing resources in our paths to help us navigate this crazy world of raising Godly children and adults. Don’t try to do it alone. One article I found on Focusonthefamily.com, written by Joannie DeBrito, PH.D., LCSW, LMFT shares these steps in showing grace to your children:
Here are some ways I’ve learned to show G-R-A-C-E:
G – Begin with gratitude. When I’m ready to react in anger, I stop and recognize that I’m grateful and blessed to have a husband, children and other loved ones who love and support me.
R – Resist the emotions. I make a choice to resist expressing negative emotions.
A – Adjust my thinking. I realize that whatever my loved one is doing that is annoying me is likely unintentional. Rather, it’s his or her way of communicating a need.
C – Communicate kindly. Sometimes it helps to start with a question. “What can I do for you?” “How can I help?” Or, offer an honest response. “I know this is hard on all of us.”
E – Express genuine appreciation. This becomes the underserved gift. You might be able to make a good argument for dishing out some criticism but when you turn that urge around and offer an encouraging word instead, most often that response calms the other person down. (DeBrito, 2020)
Oh man, did I need these suggestions when I was raising my son. I often went right to yelling, just like my mom would. She was my model; I am sure you have your models. But, because we live in such a harsh world, with so much unharmonious input coming into our children’s lives on a daily basis, it is our responsibility to bring grace into their lives in order that they may grow up to build a more gracious world as well. This doesn’t mean there shouldn’t be consequences when needed, we still need to be the parent. I have seen too many times when a parent just wants to be their child’s “friend”, and this doesn’t work. The Bible is clear when it says in Proverbs 22:6, “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” The verb translated “train” (chanak) means “to give elementary instruction” (Pulpit Commentary) Print Book, English, Publisher: Funk & Wagnalls Co, New York, [189-?]. The reason we are to do this is so that it becomes second nature to a child once they are older. Do you ever say something, or do something and you think, “Holy Cow, that was my mom coming out of my mouth”? I do that every time I yell at my child or grandkids. That’s because that was the way I was raised up, or trained. I wish I could have been shown more grace from my parents. It’s not to say that they didn’t show grace. I know they did and could give examples of it if asked, but I know there were times when I should have shown grace to my child and didn’t and I see him parenting the same way. Our goal should be to create homes where children are treated with kindness. This way we help them to see God’s grace that he gives freely to everyone. We can help them to see just how amazing God’s grace truly is.
Parenting is not easy. In choosing to have children and raise them in a Godly home, we have taken on the task of furthering God’s kingdom by helping our children to understand and pass on God’s great grace.
It’s a very large, never-ending task and we will not get it right every time, in fact, probably not most of the time, but it is worth the effort. The first time you see your child show grace to someone else, you will begin to see the fruits of this task and it will be worth it. You may see it on the soccer field, with their siblings, with their own children. It may show up in a restaurant as they treat a busy waitress kindly, or at a game when they choose to cheer on both teams and not yell at their child for a mistake. I promise, and so does God, you will see it and it will become one of the most special moments of your life, to raise a child that shows the love of God himself.
As God’s grace continues to shine down on us at all times, let’s work just as hard at shining it down on our children so they can feel God’s mighty love.
Now, get yourself that BIG cup of coffee that I am sure you need to get you started, and set off for this wonderful adventure of grace.