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Are You Parenting with Grace and Mercy?

Are You Parenting with Grace and Mercy?

Years ago I attended a parenting class focused on encouraging obedience in our homes. The following general expectations were highlighted:

1. Obedience should be immediate.

2. Obedience should be complete.

3. Obedience should be with a joyful attitude.

I sat in the classroom staring at the board in contemplative silence. Truthfully, I wasn’t thinking about my children’s obedience. I was thinking about my own.

The standard of obedience I was to enforce for my children was much higher than the standard of obedience I typically apply to myself. When faced with the various tasks the Lord has given me for the day, I can be slow to obey. (Let me just check Facebook one more time before I write that article.) I can leave jobs incomplete. (Please don’t look in my mud room when I’m hosting a party.) And I can often approach my work with a less than joyful attitude. (God doesn’t really expect me to clean my toilet joyfully, does he?)

Let me clarify, the standard given in the class wasn’t wrong. Jesus never lowered the standard so that we could meet it. He didn’t take away the law; he fulfilled it on our behalf. We shouldn’t lower the standard for our children, nor should we fail to correct their disobedience. However, we can be considerate of their need for patience and kindness as we enforce it.

Just as Jesus sympathizes with our weaknesses, our children need our sympathy as we call them to immediate, complete, and joyful obedience. We teach the standard so our children will understand their need of grace when they inevitably come up short. It should not come as a surprise that they are slow to learn and that it takes years of careful instruction to see small steps of progress. Should I expect my six-year-old to obey in a way that I haven’t mastered at forty? Being aware of the log in my own eye as I remove the speck from my children’s spurs me to gentleness and kindness in my discipline.

Parenting our children gracefully means that we treat their sin with the same patience we’d want to receive. Can you imagine someone following you around all day to point out your faults? You just had an unkind thought. Those words you spoke at lunch were laced with gossip. You drove ten miles over the speed limit. You showed disrespect to your husband when you mentioned his faults in Bible study this morning. Wouldn’t you feel a bit undone?

When my children come to me with splinters in their hands or feet, I always attempt to pull them out with gentleness and patience, knowing the discomfort the process brings. It requires a great deal of trust to let someone else poke around in a tender wound. In a similar way, correcting a child’s wrong behavior requires gentleness. As we dig around in the sinful places of their hearts, it’s helpful to consider how we would want someone to do the same for us. A humble perspective provides the foundation we need in order to lovingly correct our children.

Gracious parenting begins by daily recognizing our own need for grace. We must guard our hearts lest we fall into the trap of the unmerciful servant, who accepted the master’s forgiveness of his own debt, but failed to extend mercy for a much lesser offense. Considering our inability to change outside of the Spirit’s work fosters both a prayerful and patient attitude towards our children. As they struggle to obey the biblical standards we put before them, we have the opportunity to lovingly point them to Jesus. Only by his grace can their hearts learn to joyfully proclaim, “I run in the path of your commands, for you have set my heart free” (Psalm 119:32).  

Excerpted from Walking with God in the Season of Motherhood by Melissa B. Kruger Copyright © 2015 by Melissa B. Kruger. Excerpted by permission of WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

Melissa Kruger serves as Women's Ministry Coordinator at Uptown Church in Charlotte, North Carolina and is the author of The Envy of Eve: Finding Contentment in a Covetous World (Christian Focus, 2012). Her husband Mike is the president of Reformed Theological Seminary, and they have three children. You can follow her on Twitter @MelissaBKruger and at

Publication date: April 10, 2015