Blog  /  Grace, Parenting  /  How to be a Grace-Based Parent? Just add water.

grace based parenting

Sometimes there is confusion around this whole wonderful big idea of grace-based parenting.  Some read articles like this and think it’s saying that good Christian parents should offer their kids as tribute or throw them to the wolves. Or you might read something like this and think actually what grace-based means is clamping down and not letting our kids out of arms reach – ever.  Neither article I linked to is advocating either of these things, by the way – but it’s often how they are perceived.

Grace-based parenting is a clarion call to reason, to finding that middle ground – the third option- that is neither too open-handed nor tight-fisted.  It is a call to train and teach our children to grow in strength and wisdom. 

I had an epiphany about raising strong kids vs. safe kids one summer while preparing to embark on a right of passage for children all over North America – swimming lessons. Like all analogies it’s probably not perfect, but stay with me while I try and explain how I wrapped my head around what Grace-based parenting is, and perhaps more importantly, what it isn’t.

If you live anywhere near a decent sized body of water, or have a community with a swimming pool, it stands to reason that at some point in your child’s life they will find themselves in said liquid.  There are a number of approaches one could take to teach their children about how they should respond to the water.

One option would be to take our five year old to the pool and chuck them in the deep end and say “figure it out, kiddo, you’re gonna have to deal with the water someday.” I could write a paragraph on why this is probably not the best idea – but I’m not going to.  You’re smart enough to figure that one out.

The second option is bringing them to the pool year after year and pointing to the water and telling them how entirely bad it is, without ever letting even their toes get wet.  Hey, you could even avoid buying them a bathing suit altogether just to ensure they wouldn’t want to get wet.  In fact maybe it’s best to not even take them anywhere near water altogether.  Forget even going to the pool.

Instead, you could tell them one horror story after another about how dangerous the water is and all the bad that could happen from being in the water.  We could keep them safe on the sidelines and teach that there is no possible way they could survive, so they best just stay away and stick to lukewarm baths and quick showers.

Obviously this is a disaster waiting to happen.  Our kids would be a danger to themselves and they would miss out on a lot of water fun.

We could also try option three.

We could slowly and carefully, year by year teach them how to swim.  Ideally we start when they are young– we just take them into the water with us.  We hold them close and just do stuff with them in the water.  We don’t expect a three year old to begin with the butterfly stroke, we just want them to be with us in the water, right?

And then little by little we teach them to navigate the waters, to learn to swim.  And we are totally ok with the fact that every kid is going to move through their lessons at a different pace.  Some are going to take a long time before they are even ready to get their heads wet, we might even need to help them overcome some fears to do so, but we do it because in the long run it’s in their best interest.

Other kids we’re going to have to watch extra carefully and hold them back because they don’t understand the potential danger they are to themselves.  And for all of our kids we’re going to make sure we surround them with good teachers – sometimes that’s us, and sometimes it’s other people.  We’re going to cheer them on and praise their successes and pull them out when they get in over their heads.

Our highest goal is to raise independent swimmers who know enough about the water to respect it and be cautious when necessary, but who aren’t so afraid of it that they can’t enjoy an afternoon of fun at the beach.

So it is with grace based parenting.  We want our children to grow up to be people that will make a difference in the world.  We need to teach them to be wise as serpents and innocent as doves – both wise and innocent, not one or the other!  We need to do that back and forth dance of holding back and letting go, all the while pointing them to a magnificent Saviour who is always with them.

Karina Loewen

Karina Loewen lives with her husband, Josh, and their five kids just outside Vancouver, BC, Canada. She is passionate about living life on purpose and growing grace in her family. She blogs about their crazy-wonderful life at in between doing other important things like:  dating her husband, pretending she can cook and craft, drinking coffee, homeschooling her kids, and folding laundry. Like any good Canadian, her favourite thing to do is to add a superfluous “u” to important words, but she probably doesn’t know your cousin Jim who lives in Saskatchewan.

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  1. Kevin says:

    This is an excellent post, Karina. I like your big illustration with learning how to swim. Well done.

  2. Thanks Kevin! My mind understands things in metaphors, I’m very glad if it makes sense to someone else! It took a while to get the big picture of what GBP really means – but there has been such freedom since I’ve wrapped my head around it!

  3. Tim says:

    I really like this blog entry back-to-back with the previous one “The Call of the Wild: Safe vs. Strong Kids”. They’re making similar points using two different analogies. The safest kids are kids raised by shrewd parents who know how to BALANCE protection and preparation in such a way that the source of either/both in a child’s life is the mighty power and presence of God.

  4. Erin Chensky says:

    Great post and such great advice for parents! :)

  5. Dawn says:

    Fantastic illustration! I think that this breaks down a big truth in a way most parents can totally relate too. Thanks again for a well written post!

  6. [...] How To Be a Grace-Based Parent?  Just Add Water. @ Family Matters Blog {Excellent analogy!} Tweet Category: Uncategorized Tags: Volumes Of Interest [...]

  7. Arcelia says:

    This is a great illustration i can understand…when I read the title I thought the adding of ‘water’ was God’s Holy Spirit. I’ve only been IN Christ for 3 years and He has taught me He is the one that is meek (in between the extremes) and I must remain in Him, remain yoked in Him, rest in Him and remember what has been given to me and walk in that newness of life while walking alongside my children discipling them and He, His Holy Spirit will regenerate their spirits and they learn how to walk with Him as they watch me worship Him in Spirit and in Truth. Oh what a joy to show them Christ in me. I can’t do anything apart from Him (John 15:5)