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How to Parent with Grace but Avoid Entitlement

How to Parent with Grace but Avoid Entitlement

One evening, while my family sat around the dinner table, I asked them to share their thoughts on entitlement. Surprisingly or not, we did not share the same viewpoint.

My “mom” voice prepared to let them know that assuming privileges based solely on status was wrong. My husband and I, however, were seeing it from a secular viewpoint.

As I probed, though, I discovered my children were seeing it from a spiritual aspect. My kids reminded me that God’s grace promises eternity for those who believe. That’s an entitlement I don’t want to ignore.

Before you start thinking my children are angels, they are not. They’re good kids, but, like us all, still have their own set of issues to deal with.

Parenting is an ongoing activity over here. They’re just really good at popping these profound thoughts into the air for us to chew on. Their perspective made me realize there’s a positive view of entitlement and a negative one.

 One stands in the way of grace. The other recognizes that it’s because of grace that we have special privileges as God’s kids. How do we create a positive view of grace in a society driven by entitlement?

Entitlement is the right to a guaranteed benefit. Grace is the unmerited love and favor of God and is the source of all the benefits mankind receives from him when they receive his gift of salvation.

Grace is the divine favorable influence of God in our lives. His grace is the application of Christ’s righteousness for the sinner, spiritual instruction, improvement, and edification.

Grace reconciles us to God.

I can see how my children came to the conclusion they did when we wrap our inheritance in Christ around entitlement’s definition. But like all good things, there is a negative side. Those who pursue selfish gain use it as an excuse to avoid accountability.

As parents, we can counteract our human tendency toward negative entitlement by how we raise our children to handle their own sin, failures, and their identity in Christ. Here are 5 ways how.

1. Allow Failure

Our role as parents is to put safeguards around our children. Then, as they mature, we widen them and help them grow into the person God wants them to be.

We have to let them feel the sting from the consequences of their choices. It’s hard to see our kids fail. We know how hard it hurts. But it’s failure that builds resiliency.

Through the effects of failure, they learn that suffering produces perseverance, perseverance produces character, and character, hope (Romans 5:3-5). We need resiliency to stand for God’s ways in a world that wants its own way.

Failure teaches our kids dependence on God. They learn that their gifts and talents come from him and they develop them for God to use for his glory.

Our kids learn to run to God for strength when they’re weak and refuge when they’re discouraged. They learn these by experiencing the pain of failure. Protecting our children from failure lulls them into thinking that success means God’s blessing and failure means God’s abandonment.

Both are wrong. This belief stands in the way of understanding how much they need God’s help. As hard as it is, failure deepens their reliance on God’s grace.

2. Allow Appropriate Consequences

Consequences should be appropriate to the offense. Sometimes, though, those big blue eyes derail me from issuing consequences.

Parenting so our kids know why grace matters teaches them the lesson of reaping what they sow. Dealing with the short-term pain of present consequences is easier than dealing with a future power struggle to avoid taking responsibility for their actions.

We, as parents, must follow through with realistic and appropriate consequences.

Living a life covered in God’s grace realizes that everything a Christian is or has is centered entirely on Christ. God desires us to live by the Spirit and not by our sinful nature, yet he makes a way for us when we miss the mark of his righteousness. This is grace.

If our children never experience the power of admitting their wrong and dealing with the consequences of their actions, they will struggle to understand unmerited favor.

3. Parent the Heart of Your Child

Sin, while it separates us from God, also give us and our kids the opportunity to have heart transformation when we receive God’s grace. If we only focus on the behavior we can see, our kids get the message that they only need to “act” right instead of being “made” right.

Parenting to the heart of our children is key in showing them why grace matters. Grace transforms us from the inside out. When we emphasize outside behaviors and neglect the heart, we inadvertently allow roots like jealousy, selfishness, and pride to grow.

When we parent aware of what’s motivating their behaviors, we’re able to direct and guide our children toward grace.

Some of the ways we can do this is by addressing heart issues during a “neutral” time, when the behavior we don’t want to see is not being exhibited. This ensures that we, as parents, remain calm and our children remain open to our instruction.

God’s word is not meant to be a weapon, but an instrument for teaching and training.

Three ways to make this a reality in our homes is to have daily or weekly heart check-ins. Heart check-ins are simple questions that invite open dialogue, such as: “How’s your heart today? Do you have anything you’re struggling with? Do you feel yourself tender or hard toward God?”

Another easy way to parent the heart of your child is to compliment the motivating attitude behind the behavior. Call out their kindness, thoughtfulness, and selflessness. If they help a sibling, we can praise them for how they saw someone else’s need and did something about it. This helps our kids see that behavior flows out of the heart.

Parenting the heart of our children gives us ample chances to show our kids why grace matters. It’s out of the overflow of the heart that we speak and act. By addressing the heart, we show how God’s grace works in the hearts of those who follow him.

4. Model What You Want to See

While our kids are learning that the heart is just as important as outward behavior, they still need to practice making right choices.

When someone learns a new skill, they practice. They play the wrong notes, run the wrong play, or forget an ingredient in a recipe. So, we practice being kind, thoughtful, and considerate.

Not to work an angle or manipulate us into giving them what they want, but because these right behaviors need cultivating.

As we help them make right choices and extend grace to them when they fail, they too will learn the power of grace in their lives.

Grace removes the guilt of sin and empowers them to live holy lives. The New Testament is full of instruction on inter-personal interactions. When we teach our kids by modeling what that looks like and helping them to practice it, they learn the blessing of grace.

5. Forgive Often

Forgiveness and grace intertwine. The passage from Luke 7:44-47 reveals how much our awareness of our need for forgiveness and grace play off each other. Jesus declared, “Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—for she loved much. But he who has been forgiven little loves little.”

How can we know the depth of God’s grace without knowing the depths of which we need forgiveness? There’s nothing I want more than for my children to love the Lord Jesus with their whole hearts.

If love of Jesus is tied to an awareness of how much they need forgiveness, then I need to be talking about forgiveness—both receiving and extending it--with them from a young age.

We practice with the offender and the offended. The offender admits wrong and seeks forgiveness. The offended offers forgiveness and learns to let it go. It’s always about their heart.

Every word, every action comes back to the state of the heart.

Parenting kids to see why grace matters is a dance between covering their mishaps with grace and capturing teachable moments about consequences.

God’s grace transforms.

The negative perspective of entitlement leads our children farther away from God’s grace. But the heart that’s rooted in Christ, and knows that in him we have blessings beyond measure, knows and rejoices that it is entitled to all Christ has to offer in the life to come.

Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/fizkes

Jessica Van Roekel author headshotJessica Van Roekel loves the upside-down life of following Jesus as she journeys to wholeness through brokenness. As an author, speaker, and worship leader, she uses her gifts and experiences to share God’s transformative power to rescue, restore, and renew. She longs for you to know that rejection doesn’t have to define or determine your future when placed in God’s healing hands. Find out more You can connect with her on Instagram and Facebook.