Often here at Family Matters, whether it’s a question that’s emailed to us, or someone who’s at a conference with us, we’ll get questions like, “What do you think of (such and such) book or (so and so’s) brand of parenting method?”
Sometimes we’re familiar with what they’re referencing and sometimes we aren’t but the answer that we usually give is that while people can glean great advice and tips from many books and “brands” of parenting methodology, if it’s truly a method, then it has a fatal flaw. Let me explain.
A methodology is a step by step process…a list of rules that must always be followed. A methodology is like an equation that if followed assumes that the same result will be reached. The problem with this is that it doesn’t take into account the differences that exist in kids and in parents. If you plug different variables into the same equation, you get different outcomes.
We’re constantly asked by parents to simply give them a list of things that they should and shouldn’t do. They want the steps … the rules … the words they should say, because we all know that it’s easier to just follow the instructions. We can not, and do not offer this to parents for one vital reason: It doesn’t exist. When you boil down parenting into one method it ignores the vast diversity God has created. A method will work great with some kids and backfire with others.
What we do offer to parents is a philosophy. We believe we ought to parent our kids the way God parents His kids (all of us) … with grace. God’s grace sees all our flaws and loves us anyway. It knows that we are pre-programmed to fail (sin nature) and rather than allowing that to define our relationship with Him, He says, “Get back up, walk with Me… because you are my child and I delight in you!” God’s grace doesn’t circumvent consequences and the Bible says God disciplines those He loves but God does those things knowing there is nothing we can ever do to earn our favor with Him. He simply gives it as His gift to us because of what Christ sacrificed on the cross.
Grace Based Parenting gives kids:
The freedom to be different
The freedom to be vulnerable
The freedom to be candid and
The freedom to make mistakes.
Again, we will have parents who will ask, “Aren’t you worried that if you give your kids so much grace they will be more inclined to sinful behavior?” The short answer to that question is: “Nope.”
A grace-based parent doesn’t subvert consequences or standards because God doesn’t do that for us. But, at the same time, a grace-based parent doesn’t lose sleep over “sin entering the camp.” We know full well that sin was already alive and well in our kids from the moment they took their first breath; and from the moment we took ours. That’s why we all need a Savior. That’s the Gospel.
There’s a lot of advice out there and a lot of strong opinions about how things should be done. As a parent, you’ve got to constantly have your filters ready to vet the advice, curriculum and materials that come your way. Let me give you the filter that we use here at Family Matters.
Does this method/advice/curriculum focus on outside-in behavior modification and sin management, or does it focus on the inside-out transformative power of God’s truth and grace?
Something that focuses on the outside-in is doomed to failure from the start because the issue lies within our hearts and the hearts of our kids.
We’ve got to be transformed by the Holy Spirit ourselves and then we’ve got to hit our knees daily and ask our Father to give us wisdom. We need to ask Him how to apply His grace to parenting our children in a way that takes into account their unique inner differences.
There is no autopilot. There is no formula. Where methods fall short God reminds us that He is the ultimate Father and the only one we ought to look to as an example for our parenting.
And His grace is indeed sufficient.