Extending grace to our children can be tricky. Grace is defined as undeserved favor and when you think about it, many of us give this daily to our children.
Or are we really giving something else?
Many parents engage children so intensely that they overread, overthink and overreact to just about everything children do. They have difficulty seeing their child’s faults because they so strongly believe in the child’s goodness that when things go wrong, they are convinced someone other than their child is responsible — the teacher, a friend, or even another adult.
Parents like this see their children through rosy lenses, and while this isn’t all bad, it can disrupt the giving of good grace to a child. And this is important.
Never holding a child responsible for his behavior gives him a sense that he has no power, very little control, and must be dependent on others to “behave” so that his life goes smoothly. When parents make his days smooth, covering all wrinkles in the road, he never feels that he makes a mistake because that’s what others around him do.
Think about this for a moment.
If you lived without a sense of responsibility for your behavior, you would feel little control over your life and never need forgiveness or to say that you were sorry.
Mistakes and disappointment make success that much greater.
People who know they have hurt someone, disappointed parents or a teacher, and made mistakes have no need for grace. Only those who really mess up in life need kindness and acceptance that they don’t deserve. Mistakes and disappointment make success that much greater. Most importantly, those mistakes give grace a sweetness and refreshment that would never come if we were always right.
If you want to extend grace to your child, take off the rosy glasses. See his faults and make him responsible for many things in his life. And when he does make those mistakes, hold him accountable but show him kindness and compassion that he knows he doesn’t deserve.
Then, he will find deeper connection with you, understand life better, and learn what grace is all about. Then, he can extend grace to others as when he grows up.
Dr. Meg Meeker has practiced pediatrics and adolescent medicine for 30 years. She is the author of the online course, “The 12 Principles of Raising Great Kids.”