As we seek to shape our children’s character toward godliness, we often focus most on training and correction. How can we teach them to think and act in God-pleasing ways? How can we help them cultivate obedience, self-control, kindness, humility? Frequently our efforts center on our kids’ actions, hopefully also with an eye to the heart. Johnny pushes Sally, so we address the misbehavior, administer discipline, oversee the repentance/forgiveness process, and discuss underlying motivations. And indeed, this type of episode it a critical part of raising godly children. I find myself often mentally rehearsing Ephesians 6:2 -3: “Honor your father and mother… that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.” How can I help my child see that honoring me will contribute to life “going well” for him – and failing to do so is linked to things not going well with him? Or: how can I help him internalize concepts of sowing and reaping – that his choice to sow anger here will cause him to reap negative consequences?
But one can focus too much here and under-emphasize grace. Am I raising my children to believe that it’s all about them and their actions – everything rests on their obeying, behaving well, choosing the righteous path? Because everything does not rest on these things. Everything rests on the finished work of Jesus Christ and the fact that His perfection covers all of our earthly imperfections – that forgiveness and life are free gift from Him. So what am I doing to build this critical reality into my interactions with my kids?
Last week I got a chance to test out my “demonstrating grace to my kids” muscles; the episode revealed that they’re on the weak side. I had to mail a package at the post office, and I quietly decided we’d pop into the donut shop next door afterwards for a treat (the type of thing we rarely do on a weekday morning). The donuts would be a fun, low-key treat just to make them happy; I would surprise them with it when we were through at the post office. (more…)