This sounds like an oxymoron doesn’t it? Why should we be adamant and strict about rules and boundaries in our children’s lives, if we are living in freedom from the law according to Scripture?
If God is gracious and merciful, and we are to emulate Him as we parent, does that mean we can’t dish a punishment if we feel one is deserved?
I have been thinking a lot about this as I consider freedom from rules and regulations, and my pastor had me thinking even further on the topic as he discussed 1 Corinthians when Paul is addressing the church and explaining a liberal phrase “Everything is permissible for me—but not everything is beneficial.”
How do I show/teach grace and mercy to my kids, the way I have been shown from God, and punish them at the same time?
How will they understand Jesus in Scripture, if I am bringing down the law on them constantly and expecting them to be obedient in training at home?
It’s character development--getting to the heart of the matter. It’s teaching them what is “right” according to Scripture. They already know what’s wrong, and they’re experts at it. And if being born sinners wasn't enough against them, they have sinners as parents who are still getting it wrong.
God introduced the law to Moses and the Israelites as a mirror; a tool to reveal their sin to them. And the only person/sacrifice who was able to fulfil this law was Christ himself. So the law has been satisfied. Christ satisfied the requirements of the law for us. We live in freedom from the law, because we are no longer bound to fulfil its requirements.
But how do we train up children to recognize all of this? Where does punishment fit in? It’s still difficult for me to understand! Won’t they just see me as a majorly wishy-washy and inconsistent parent if I sometimes punish them for their bad behaviour? And at other times “show grace” by letting things slide?
This is not what showing grace and freedom to our children means. Grace has nothing to do with loosening up the rules in your household and letting chaos dominate. Grace is not inconsistency in parenting at all. Punishment is a way of teaching consequences. Children don’t always reap negative consequences for their sinful behaviour, so we are there to help them along.
They must be shown rules and boundaries. Partly for their own safety; so they may grow up as responsible adults who will positively contribute to society. And guess what, rules exist in our world. So after they leave the protective nest of mom and dad, they need to know how to obey the rules of the land: If you break traffic laws, you can be written a ticket. If you shoplift, you can be prosecuted.
But while we are teaching them our laws, we can teach them that they can’t keep them perfectly 100% of the time. We are showing them their sin by having standards: their inability to be perfect—their need for Christ Himself.
This is grace in parenting.
Pointing our children to God’s unending grace we show them they haven’t broken mommy and daddy’s precious rules. No, as parents we don’t need to become emotional wrecks or have hurt feelings because they refused to keep our law. We can point them to Christ and remind them of their need for a saviour.
Punishment is necessary for breaking rules. A two year old who hit their sibling does not necessarily reap natural consequences for their action. As their parents we have the right and responsibility to punish in order to show that there are negative consequences to experience when a poor choice is made. Not only that, but there are blessings we can receive when we lead God-honoring lives.
We give our children grace when we lovingly build relationships with them through their sin and repeated shortfalls. As our children, they should not have to earn our love and protection. To keep our distance from a disobedient or rebellious child is not grace in parenting. It can be hard to cuddle up to a belligerent child who is repeatedly disrespecting us by their disobedience. However, as parents we must persevere by instructing them (in love) along the path they should go.
Scripture lights our path, and we will light theirs. This is showing grace to our children.
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