Are you a grace-based parent? You might be. First, think about how you would answer the following questions. Then, we’ll dive into what grace-based parenting is all about!
- Do you love your kids and long to see them succeed?
- Are you pulling for your children, on their side, and one of their biggest fans?
- When your kids mess up, are you quick to forgive?
- Is it more important to you that your children learn from mistakes than feel bad about them?
If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, then you are likely well on your way to becoming a grace-based parent. Keep reading, as we dive deeper into what grace-based parenting is all about!
Part #1: Grace-Based Parenting Questions and Answers
To get started, let’s examine some common questions and answers about grace-based parenting.
What is grace?
To understand grace-based parenting, first it’s necessary to understand grace.
So what is grace?
Grace is an unmerited love and unearned favor. When someone is guilty of wrongdoing, grace says, “You’re in luck, I’m not going to dish out the consequences you deserve.” Although these common definitions are good, for Christ-followers, grace is ultimately defined in a person and an act. The ultimate form of grace was shown when Jesus Christ willingly laid down his life, on the cross, for our sins.
Romans 5:8 says,
But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Instead of receiving the punishment we deserve, Christ took our consequences for us. Now that is amazing grace!
Romans 5:8 is significant because Christ didn’t die for us after we became good. We in no way, shape, or form deserved this. Christ’s act was extraordinarily grace-filled because there was zero merit on our part.
In Monopoly, grace is a get out of jail free card. At school, grace is a teacher who allows students to correct their wrong answers on a test to raise their grades.
My Childhood Grace Story
When I was a child, I stuck my finger in a power-socket after my parents told me not to. I got zapped and it hurt! On this occasion, my parents showed grace by providing comfort instead of discipline.
Ephesians 2:8-9 says,
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.
Once again we see that grace is an undeserved gift. It might be thought of as an unbirthday present. We don’t deserve the gift, yet, we receive it anyway! This is what my parents did with me. They provided the gift of comfort even though I got zapped because I broke their rule.
What is grace-based parenting?
Grace-based parenting is balanced parenting. Christ is the ultimate example of grace. He modeled grace for us, and grace-based parents seek to follow His lead. In grace-based parenting, the most important question is “What is Christ’s example?”
The answer is found in John 1:14, which says that Jesus dwelt among us “full of grace and truth.”
As Christ-followers, we look to the cross as the ultimate act of grace. However, Jesus was not 100 percent grace 100 percent of the time. Don’t forget, He also drove money changers out of the temple and called the Pharisees a “brood of vipers.” Now that is some serious truth!
Grace-based parenting is different from grace-only parenting. It is balanced parenting and a healthy combination of both grace and truth.
The Downfalls of Grace-Only Parenting
What do you call someone who parents with 100% grace? The answer is, “A doormat.” Psychology calls grace-only parenting laissez-faire parenting. This French term means “to let people do as they please.” It’s a hyper-relaxed parenting style that has little involvement. A grace-only parent allows their child to get away with everything. As a result, the child grows increasingly rebellious over time.
Both the life of Christ and Scriptures such as Proverbs 3:12, teach us that grace-only parenting is far from ideal. If you lean more toward the laisses-faire parenting style, know that a balance of truth is needed.
The Downfalls of Truth-Only Parenting
The opposite of laissez-fair parenting is the autocratic parent style. This is also sometimes called the authoritarian style. Think of a drill-sergeant. This type of parent makes harsh demands and exerts a high level of authority. This parenting style is heavy on the truth. The truth-only parent’s motto is, “If you break a rule you will receive the consequences—with no exceptions!”
Truth-only parenting is harsh and will ultimately damage the parent-child relationship. To truth-only parents, Christ would say, “A balance of grace is a must.”
The Assertive Parent’s Balance
In the middle of these two extremes is the assertive parenting style. The assertive parent is a grace-based parent. He or she had the best of both the laissez-fair and autocratic parenting style The grace-based parent (notice we didn’t say the “pure-grace parent”) is able to artfully balance truth and grace at home.
What is a graced-based parent?
So, what exactly is a grace-based parent? Grace-based parenting is difficult to define because the grace-based parent lives in the grey zone. For the grace-based parent, black-and-white rules don’t exist. Instead, the grace-based parent knows how to momentarily relax the rules when the situation calls for this. Grace-based parenting teaches and heals at the same time. In short, the grace-based parent is an intuitive parent. He or she doesn’t live by hard and fast rules but is concerned with what her child needs most.
For example, in grace-based parenting a child who breaks the rules haughtily will receive a healthy dose of truth.
However, children who:
- break rules sorrowfully…
- were unable to live up to mom and dad’s standard…
- already feel badly about their error and long to make up for it…
these children may need a parent who leans toward grace.
In short, a grace-based parent is an adaptable parent. Grace-based parents discern their child’s needs and what the situation calls for. Then, they respond accordingly.
What is grace-based discipline?
Grace-based discipline is a discipline that is based upon the laws of truth and grace. We call this type of discipline grace-based because typical discipline is heavy on the truth. Truth-based discipline says when a specific rule is broken, a specific consequence follows. For example, according to truth-based discipline:
- If you speed, then you get a traffic ticket.
- Take what doesn’t belong to you, and you will go to jail.
- Turn in an assignment late, and you receive zero credit for that assignment.
100 percent truth says, “These are the rules, and when they are broken, a specific consequence follows—every time and without exception!”
Grace, on the other hand, takes into account the other person’s heart and the needs of the moment.
- Was he speeding because his pregnant wife is in labor?
- Did she steal because she hadn’t eaten and couldn’t pay?
- Was the assignment late because of a family emergency?
If so, then relaxing the normal rules may be in order. This is where grace comes into play.
Let’s further explain with a story about how Jenny and I apply grace-based principles in our home. We do this with something we call family do-overs.
Part #2: Graced Based Parenting Examples with Family Do-Over Days
A few weeks ago, our family had a family do-over day. I wish I could provide more details, but I can’t. This lack of clarity is because the entire week was a blur. Jenny started a new job. I was trying to keep up with teaching, counseling, and consistent writing. Our two oldest girls were finishing their school year. This, of course, meant end of the year projects, parties, and activities. To top it all off, our newborn was teething—which meant especially long nights for mom and dad.
A tidal wave of stress hit our family all at once. The intensity culminated in a day where everyone felt overwhelmed and our stress leaked.
- Jenny felt physically ill.
- Like a crazy person, I was rushing around, trying to accomplish as much as I possibly could.
- Our two older girls showed their stress by having ongoing bouts of conflict throughout the day.
- And our teething baby did exactly what teething baby’s do. She cried, a lot!
Now, it’s important to understand that Jenny and I are incredibly blessed. During a bad day, our girls argue (which really is not very bad in the scheme of things). On this particular day, our two girls quarreled repeatedly. Normally this would result in time-outs and early bedtimes. However, this day was different.
Before any consequences were given, Jenny and I collaborated and agreed to put our grace-based parenting skills to work. We acknowledged that everyone was stressed, and decided that our entire family needed a, “get out of jail free” card. Our goal was for our family to use this time together to recalibrate and reconnect.
Grace-Based Parenting and Stress
Stress causes people to do funny things. According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, or DSM for short, there is a condition known as an adjustment disorder. In adjustment disorders, clinically significant impairment, such as increased anxiety, depression, and conflict, result from feeling overwhelmed by normal life events.
I bring this up because it ties into our conversation about grace and truth. Too much stress can lead a person to significant impairment. Therefore, learning to de-stress is incredibly important. Truth says, “You broke a rule and are in trouble.” When kids are already stressed, heavy truth only increases pressure. On the other hand, grace says, “Let’s relax, take a break from the fixing, and recalibrate.”
At first, Jenny and I talked about sending the girls to bed early. The only problem was we were just as much a part of the problem as our girls. Throughout the day, our attitude also stunk. So, on this particular day, Jenny and I decided a healthy dose of grace was needed for everyone.
Taking Grace-Based Action
Jenny and I called our family together. Our girls assumed it was because they were in trouble. But here is what we said. “We are all stressed, let’s relax together.” Our entire family then gathered in the living room for pizza, ice cream, and a movie. Afterward, we held a family meeting. We talked about our increase in life-stressors, and all agreed to be extra gracious with each other in the days ahead. In other words, this period of grace had a purpose. The goal was for everyone to recalibrate and start fresh.
The end result was that although the next couple of days were still hectic, we banded together, helped one another, and pulled through with positive attitudes. Normally, in the Jurchenko household, arguing will not get you pizza, ice cream, and a movie. Yet, Jenny and I also long for our home to be a place of grace. As parents, we need grace ourselves. Jenny and I want to instill the value of grace in our kids. While do-over days are not our norm, they are a powerful grace-based parenting tool, when used at the right time.
[Tweet “When life feels overwhelming, it’s time to slowdown, relax, and de-stress. #Grace”]
Three Keys to Family Do-Over Days:
If do-over days are a grace-based strategy you would like to implement in your home, here are three points to remember.
- Do-over days should begin with you and your spouse getting on the same page. Sometimes correction and truth are the most appropriate response to the circumstances. At other times, an extra dose of grace is needed. Deciding whether to respond with truth or grace should begin with a conversation. The most important thing is that you and your spouse work together and find an agreement.
- Begin your do-over day by communicating to the family that these are special circumstances. Make it clear that you are not rewarding bad behavior, but are choosing to extend grace. You may even want to share why you and your spouse decided that an extra dose of grace is appropriate.
- Have fun and relax. If you are conducting a do-over day, then let the past go. Don’t bring it up later. Do-over days are about leaving the negative behind and choosing to move forward with excitement and hope!
A Grace-Based Parenting Recap
John 1:14 says that Jesus came full of grace and truth. Finding the balance between these two—sometimes opposing forces—is not easy. It requires a willingness to step out of black-and-white thinking and into the gray-zone. Things would be so much easier if there was a formula showing parents when to focus on truth and when to home-in on grace. Unfortunately, no procedure exists. The best strategy for parenting with truth and grace is to lay aside the hard and fast rules and make parenting an ongoing conversation.
Truth involves discipline, correction, and instruction. It focuses on making sure kids know what they did was wrong and helps them feel bad about it. Grace focuses on the needs of the moment. It lets things go and is good when hard lessons have already been learned. Good parents know that there is a time for grace and a time for truth. Finding the right balance requires an abundance of positive parenting wisdom, and tis is what grace-based parenting is all about!Everyone needs grace. Click To Tweet
It’s been half-a-decade since I first published this post, and I still wholeheartedly believe in grace-based parenting. I also believe in grace-based marriages and in being a grace-based you.
The Grace-Based Marraige
Just as kids need grace, couples and individuals need grace too. Jenny tells me of one mom who will catch herself with a bad attitude, yell out, “Plot twist!” and move on with a smile. This is an example of grace at its best! In our marriage, Jenny and I will sometimes request redos. Have you ever said something stupid? I mean so stupid the moment the words left your mouth you wished you could take them back?
While why can’t you take those words back?
Having grown up in the 1990s, I love the original Nintendo Entertainment System. I used that infamous reset button a lot. When I had a bad game of Super Mario Brothers, no worries at all. I’d just hit the reset button and do it all over again. I think more marriages need a reset button like this.
Take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.
Personal and marriage resets are not always appropriate. But they often are. When your loved one catches a mistake quickly and feels bad about it. Why not forgive, reset, and move on fast? Remember, according to relationship expert John Gottman, happy relationships have 5 positive interactions for every negative one. So instead of getting sucked into a downward spiral (weather personally, in marriage, or in your parenting), make use of your reset-button and get back to a happily connected norm!
Grace-Based Parenting Discussion Questions:
Now it’s your turn. Dive deeper into the topic of parenting with grace and truth with the following questions. You can leave an answer in the comments or use them for additional reflection and discussion.
- How does the idea of grace-based parenting resonate with you, and why?
- What are some ways you parent with truth?
- How do you show grace in your parenting?
- In what ways do you parent with truth and grace? How do you balance the two?
- Do you consider yourself a grace-based parent? Why or why not?
- Have you ever had a family do-over day? If so, what did this look like in your home?
- How are you at creating a grace-based marriage?
- Are you able to extend grace to yourself when it’s needed?
- Who do you know that needs an extra dose of grace right now, and what would it look like for you to freely give this?
I wish you and your family a week filled with joy, truth, and an extra dose of grace!