Grace and Parenting

by Edie Wadsworth on April 20, 2009

Gracie and I–7 years ago
One of the speakers at the homeschool conference had a session titled ‘The Education of a Child–the Wisdom of Fenelon.  I was intrigued–so I ordered the book on Amazon before the trip and read it on the way.   Francois Fenelon was an archbishop in the Catholic church in France in the late 17th century, along with being a writer and poet.   One of his books, called  ’The Education of a Daughter’  is fascinating if you can lay aside your feminist sensibilities long enough to get past lines like this,  ”…they need not be learned, per se…it is sufficient if they (girls) know how to govern their families and obey their husbands without reason”.    I am not easily offended, so I read on, and am certainly glad I did.  His overarching message for parents:  grace and unconditional love, exercised with humility, reaches a child’s heart, and not just his behavior.
The speaker, Mark Hamby, from Lamplighter publishing, used Fenelon’s points to drive home the idea that parenting is about seeking relationship and not merely behavior from our children.  Far too often, I find myself so determined to achieve a certain level of obedience and respect from them, that I’m oblivious to what is really at the heart of their ‘discord’.  And admittedly, the desire for prompt obedience is often self-centered.  We want our children to make us look good;  to prove to the world that we are indeed good parents.   We’re so afraid of letting them make mistakes.   We parent them more like drill sargents than we do loving mothers and fathers.   Have we not been given the unconditional love of our heavenly Father?  Do we not defy and disobey and display profound ingratitude to Him daily?  And what does He do?  He welcomes us with open arms…..the arms of One who poured out His life for us on the cross to ransom us.   He forgives and forgets.  His mercies are new to us every morning.  God gives us grace, pressed down, shaken together, running over and  yet we measure out to our children tiny doses of mercy laced with hosts of rules and scoldings and “I told ya so’s”.
Our authority should be exercised with humility.  Christ is our supreme example:  His humility cost him His very life.  We often associate authority with power and might, but as C.S. Lewis once said,   
“Authority exercised with humility and obedience accepted with delight are the very lines along which our spirits live.”

   We must surrender our need to always be right and humble ourselves in service to our children.   As foreign as that may sound, that is exactly what our Father has done for us.  He could have come in power, seized upon our frailties and weaknesses and demanded right behavior.  But instead, He took on human flesh and died that we might have life.  

Does this grace and humility mean that we have no rules, no boundaries.  On the contrary.   Those whom the Lord loves He chastens.    It is our primary job to ‘discipline’ our children, but that word means ‘teach’.   I think we often jump right to ‘punish’—which should be reserved for extreme cases of direct defiance.  Likewise, God has given us rules, that if followed, will lead to happiness and unity.  His standards are incredibly high, as should ours be for our children.  But the final answer does not lie in following the rules.  He has not been content to see our behavior realigned.   He went to every length to reach our hearts:  His grace and mercy cannot be exhausted.  
You might think that I am providing the solution to our parenting conundrum as a simple ‘Show more grace to your children’.   I am not.
 The solution is always Christ.   I will always fail to bestow enough grace.  I will always, even in my best attempts, fail to love them unconditionally.  The real answer for us all is the forgiveness and mercy of  the One perfect parent, whose love has no limits and whose grace knows no bounds.

  

He alone can restore the years.
I’m linking with Emily from Chatting at the Sky as we celebrate ‘thankfulness’ and ‘noticing’. You’ll love her blog!

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{ 17 comments… read them below or add one }

1 snoodlings.com April 21, 2009 at 11:54 am

This reminds me so much of a book I read, FAMILIES WHERE GRACE IS IN PLACE by Jeff Vanvonderen. I think one of the most freeing thing for me to realize is that the only person’s behavior I can control is my own. I can not control my children’s behavior. I can teach and model, but I can not control. I am responsible TO my children for their behavior but I am not responsible FOR their behavior. Sounds like semantics, but the difference made a big impact on the way I parent. Thanks for sharing this today!

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2 Christi April 21, 2009 at 12:33 pm

Edie, thanks for this post. Such a great reminder!

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3 Jo April 21, 2009 at 1:03 pm

Found you over at Chatting….. thanks for a beautiful reminder this morning to live in freedom. Not just for me but for my kids as well.

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4 mimi April 21, 2009 at 1:07 pm

I am commenting to recommend Families Where Grace Is In Place by Vanvonderen too. Such a great book, it showed me a different way to parent….also a different way to view my husband and the way I respond to him.

I always have found it interesting that we expect so much more from our childrens behavior than we do from our own. Great post Edie!

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5 emily April 21, 2009 at 1:30 pm

I love that Jeff VanVonderon book they are recommending in the comments. I’ve read it twice :)

Thanks for linking up, Edie. More, thank you for this truth-filled reminder of what it means to truly parent from a heart of love and grace. I’m beginning to realize it is impossible. Only as I depend on His life in me…pouring out all over those little ones.

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6 Musings of a Homeschooling Mom April 21, 2009 at 1:54 pm

Thank you for the reminder to live in grace. I have felt like a failure as a parent lately. This post gave me things to think about.

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7 Hi! I'm Kirsten... April 21, 2009 at 2:16 pm

“grace and unconditional love, exercised with humility, reaches a child’s heart, and not just his behavior”

I wish my own “father” had known this. Even my mother. In reality I raised myself and my brother more than we were raised. If more parents exercised this idea the world might be a better place!

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8 gina April 21, 2009 at 3:21 pm

WOW. Stunning thoughts on such an important matter- one so close to my heart.

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9 Jessica April 21, 2009 at 3:44 pm

Kimball and are both guilty of this, more so when we were new parents. Thank goodness our kids are so forgiving of our crazy behavior. Poor Jaxon was the ‘guinea pig’ and got it the worst. Great post, very thought provoking as usual and I can always use reminders like this. Thanks Edie

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10 Alli Worthington {@alliworthington} April 21, 2009 at 7:00 pm

You rock.
xo

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11 mamamia April 21, 2009 at 7:04 pm

thanks for the comments on parenting. it is a nice reminder that we aren’t perfect, but God’s grace is.

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12 Definitely, Maybe... April 21, 2009 at 8:11 pm

I sooo needed this reminder today! I love your blog. I am constantly inspired by all that you share. Thank you for shedding a little light, giving me the giggles and, reminding me of the blessings being a “Mommy” brings!

Im on the lookout for that awesome book!

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13 Kathy Eller April 21, 2009 at 11:13 pm

So…I’m sitting here crying completely ticked off at the lack of respect here when my children KNOW better…..

wow. your post and snoodlings.com comment. WOW….

I agree with Mimi and have often wondered about that we expect so much from our chidren..and they are CHILDREN…

I also know that my children are sinners and not be offended by their sin….but….

ok deep breathe…..GRACE.

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14 Holly April 22, 2009 at 3:24 am

I must say, on several occasions, I have asked my girls’ forgiveness for my over-reacting or anger at their behavior. It can be quite a struggle to maintain grace in the middle of emotion. Thankfully, as you have said, we have The Truth and author of grace to look to. . .

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15 Jennifer April 22, 2009 at 4:35 am

Thanks so much for your post today. I really needed to hear that. I have been having “issues” with my 7 yr old daughter lately and I have to admit that a good part of it is me and not her.

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16 Vintagesquirrel April 22, 2009 at 10:35 am

Edie,
Thanks so much for this thought-provoking post. It is exactly what I needed to be reminded of this morning.
-Michelle

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17 Melanie May 3, 2009 at 8:27 pm

I found your blog through Kelly's Korner Homes Tour & I love this post. It is such a needed reminder to me to exercise more grace each day with others, especially my children & husband. I took a class at church this fall based on the book "Grace Based Parenting" by Tim Kimmel & it talked about the very same things. I needed this reminder today & I'm also going to check out the other book mentioned here in the comments, thanks! Enjoy this Lord's Day!

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