When Giving Your Kids Grace Feels Impossible
Remember when your kids were just a growing bump in your carefree world? You already love them so much, that you can’t imagine a time when they wouldn’t feel like the most wonderful thing in your world.
Then they come, and they scream and poop and grow up to throw defiant tantrums and wake you up at 5:00 am on Saturdays. Those kids that you love with all your heart and would sacrifice your life for manage to strip you of all your ability to give grace for their daily difficulties.
Why is it so hard to give them grace when we love them so much?
- They make our lives really uncomfortable: They are a complete disruption of our physical comfort. They wake us up nightly. We must feed them first when our own stomach is angry with hunger. They want to be picked up and carried when our backs are aching. We hold our pee until it hurts because it’s just too difficult to take them to the bathroom with us at Target. They injure us constantly, not on purpose—most of the time. They simply make our lives physically uncomfortable.
- They put themselves first 99% of the time: Kids just don’t know how to put someone else first. Even if they start to learn to occasionally think of their sibling’s needs before their own, it’s a rare moment for them to remember that their parents have needs and desires too.
- They fight for the control we want: God has appointed us as the heads of our families, but they certainly don’t realize that. They will fight for control of every situation from what cup they want to the perfect arrangement for their pillows, blankets, and stuffed animals that must be achieved before we are allowed to leave the room at bedtime.
- They make us feel powerless: Nothing will make you feel less in charge of a situation than battling a tantrumming two-year-old in the grocery store. Even if you persevere in gentle discipline as your kid bangs their head against the floor in anger, you feel absolutely powerless to fix the situation.
- It feels like a personal attack: When kids forget or fail to meet our expectations, forget to follow our instructions, or deliberately disobey, it feels personal. It’s like they are saying, “Hey Mom, I see you and hear you and I don’t care.” We think that any shortcomings of our children show that we have failed as a mom. We imagine that they see right through us and are personally subverting our instructions. We give them way too much credit.
In the face of these challenges, how do we give grace?
Our most important role as parents is to be grace-giving gospel teachers. That doesn’t mean skipping discipline or even punishment. It means promoting and supporting the truth of the gospel through our discipline.
But we aren’t disciplining years-sanctified mini-Christians. We have a rebellion on our hands. There’s nothing comfortable, powerful, or controlling about giving grace in the face of overwhelming rebellion.
But that’s what Christ does. I seek my own comfort, not the glory of God. I put my own needs before the kingdom 99% of the time. I constantly fight God for control over my circumstances. I grasp for power through my endless list of expectations for my life. My utter rebellion is an attack on the very person of God.
“But he gives more grace.” James 4:6
Our supply of grace for our children in the face of their constant rebellion comes directly from the overflowing bounty of God’s grace to us. Because he gives more grace to us, we can give more grace to them. Because he laid down his life for us, we can lay down our comfort, desire for control, power plays, and self-esteem for the sake of our children. This kind of Christlike servanthood will be the grace that teaches them the gospel.
Our job is not to squelch a rebellion, but to spark a grace-built revolution in their little hearts. May we tap into the overflowing stores of God’s grace for us every day, to find the grace we will need to offer our children today.
This is a guest post by Maggie Combs.
Maggie is a wife, mom of three busy boys, writer, and speaker. When motherhood overwhelmed her, God drew her closer to him through writing her first book, Unsupermommy: Release Expectations, Embrace Imperfection, and Connect to God’s Superpower.