Grace vs discipline? It’s not a dichotomy!

“For it is by grace you have been saved,through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.”
Ephesians 2:8-9

“Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.”
Ephesians 6:1

I have been blessed to observe many wonderful examples of parenting amongst my friends and family. I am always seeking to learn how to become a better parent myself. When I see children who are full of love for God and others I look carefully at how they have been parented, hoping to find some wisdom I can apply in my own family. There is nothing so important as the job of a parent, and we only get one shot at it. I desperately want to get it right!

It is a combination of my own experiences, observations of others and study of the Bible that has lead me to believe that grace-based parenting and parenting with discipline are two pivotal parts of the parenting puzzle. I believe they must work together, and that when they do the result is beautiful to behold. Yet so often grace and discipline are seen as opposing perspectives – an either/or choice. My experience is that to show grace without discipline leads to stress, strife, and sadness. To insist on discipline without grace leads to fear, shallow faith, and distant family relationships. The most successful parents I know apply both of these principles, balanced in just the right way – and their children are a delight and an inspiration. Let’s look at these two aspects in a little more detail.

So blessed I get to parent these two precious kids.

So blessed I get to parent these two precious kids.

It is abundantly clear in the Bible that we are saved by grace, and that NO amount of good behaviour or Godly virtues can get us to heaven. It is essential that we teach this to our children. We need to model grace in our daily interactions with them, and we need to show them that we, too, are in constant need of grace. Our children should know in their innermost being that they are part of a messed up humanity, AND that they are loved beyond imagination by a God who wants to freely offer them salvation. This truth is vital. We need to talk about it and live it out openly at every opportunity. It is foundational.

Secondly, we need to parent with strict discipline. I include the word ‘strict’ here because I think most parents discipline to some degree. The type of discipline I’m talking about here is the kind that requires obedience and respect. This is where I begin to hear some dissent. Within the Christian parenting circle we talk a lot about grace. It is generally agreed that grace, unconditional love and forgiveness are central parts of parenting. But when discipline comes into the conversation many people begin to look wary. It’s not that parents don’t want their children to be obedient – but many seem to be afraid of enforcing it. They appear to feel that being strict is at odds with offering grace. But if we look at the Bible, I think this idea is unfounded.

The Bible  shows us two very clear aspects of who God the Father is, and how he relates to us as his children. Firstly, he is “compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love.” (Psalm 103:8.) Yet at the same time we are told – no, warned – that “it is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” (Hebrews 10:31.) Also, that “the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.” (Hebrews 12:6) We can see here that despite our free access to God’s grace, he also disciplines his children and is not afraid to punish those who reject him. That seems very much like a balance between grace-based parenting and parenting with strict discipline.

Proverbs 13:24 is pretty straight forward on the topic of parental discipline: “Whoever spares the rod hates their children, but the one who loves their children is careful to discipline them.” This verse tells us that avoiding discipline equates to hating our children. Yikes. In fact, if you really love your child (and most people say they do), then you will prove this by being careful to discipline “diligently”, or “promptly”, as the NASB and NKJV put it. Why? Because living according to God’s principles will bless your child, their family, their friends, their neighbours, their country, and the world. Hebrews 12:11 sums it up perfectly: “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.”

So YES – it is by grace, not works, that we are saved. This is the foundation we absolutely need to teach our children to live upon.  But let’s not allow that wonderful truth to prevent us from disciplining our children – for their own good.

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Guest Post: Laying Strong Foundations

“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.”
Matthew 7:24-25

Hi! In this family I am known variously as Sinead, Sineadanne, Tobe (pronounced ‘Toby’) and Aunty Tobe – I think that covers it! We have been so blessed by God to have one foster son (adult) and four precious princesses (ranging in age from 7 to 12). We love God, family, music, nature, being creative, food & laughing together!

I was thinking the other day about some basic concepts it is helpful for children to know. It was a useful process for me: taking a step back to survey our parenting focus from a ‘big picture’ viewing point. Below is what I came up with, vaguely grouped but in no particular order of importance.

I thought I would share these ideas in the hope that God may be able to use something to help someone somehow 🙂

RELATING TO GOD

Laying strong foundations is important in parenting.

Laying strong foundations is important in parenting.

– God loves them and desires that they love Him
– Our value comes from the unchangeable fact that God made us and loves us; we & God belong together
– Jesus is a friend like no other they will ever know – even us, their parents – and He demonstrated this on the cross
– When we do wrong things, we deserve to be punished by God. God keeps a record of every wrong thing every person does – but Jesus’ sacrifice means that a Christian does not have to take their punishment as Jesus has already taken it for the
– Following Jesus includes:

  • Putting God first
  • Putting other people before ourselves
  • Showing grace (a simple definition = undeserved favour)
  • Being humble
  • They can talk to God about anything

– Sometimes things are hard/bad things happen – this is actually good in the end as God uses these situations to train and strengthen us

RELATING TO US (PARENTS)

– They can talk to us about anything
– We love them and like them  (Note: these are connected but different things and they need to know BOTH)
– God has given them us, their parents, to look after them and teach them about His love & His ways – THAT is why it is wise & beneficial for them to listen to us
– Our love is unconditional and we will support & encourage them through the ups and downs of their lives
– Unlike God and just like them, we make mistakes (this gives us an opportunity to role model humility, repentance & the joy of God’s grace)

PURPOSE

– Our purpose on earth includes:

  • to love God with all our heart, mind, strength and soul
  • to love others as we love ourselves
  • to fear God
  • to serve God
  • to praise God
  • to honour God

– Our lives (time, words, actions) are created by and for God, not ourselves

Take joy in everything!

Take joy in everything!

JOY

– God will take care of problems and help us cope in hard times, which means there is nothing we can’t get through in life with Him = JOY!!
– Christians go to heaven = JOY!!
– All good gifts come from God and He gives us many every day = JOY!!
– God wants us to look out for these good gifts all the time and be thankful to Him and others for them = JOY!!
– CHOOSE joy – in the end it is always better to look on the bright side

RELATING TO OTHERS

– God will meter out justice (so they don’t have to!)
– Do good to others as much as you can, especially if they are unloving to you
– Imagining what others might be thinking/feeling is useful in knowing how to bless them
– Show grace & forgiveness as you have been shown grace & forgiveness
– Wisdom is seeing things as God sees them & it is something good to desire
– Think BEFORE you speak or act
– It is great to be an encourager/helper

  • Everybody needs one
  • It is good for everyone involved e.g. helper & ‘helpee’.

– People make mistakes – including us and them – it doesn’t make the people less lovable: God forgives them (and us) so we should forgive them (and ourselves) too

Wow – that ended up being a lot longer than I thought it would be! This may seem overwhelming to some of you but let me encourage you; when I start to feel overwhelmed by the magnitude of the responsibility of parenting, I have learnt to remind myself that there are THREE parents: God is working tirelessly to lay strong foundations in our children’s lives – we are just His helpers! Furthermore, we have surprisingly many opportunities in the day to gently teach & reinforce these foundational concepts.

I am sure there are others, too – probably some obvious & important ones – this was just a mind dump with a little revision. Can you add any ideas on foundational concepts children should know? I’d love to hear them 🙂

Brick image courtesy of Kai4107  www.freedigitalphotos.net.

Of men and muscles

For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.
1 Timothy 4:8

Every night I watch my brother and husband work out in our lounge. This started about two weeks ago, due to their desire to flatten their tummies and grow their muscles, and they are pretty faithful to do it every evening. Sometimes they even cajole me into joining them, but I have to admit I prefer to just watch… 🙂

We live in a world where health and fitness is seen as somewhat of a god. People join gyms, buy protein shakes from health food shops and sign up to all kinds exercise classes. Children are taught about the value of regular exercise, cigarettes are legally obliged to come with huge health warnings, and mothers are given information on post-partum ways to work out as soon as possible after giving birth.

Now there is nothing wrong with being healthy – if you’ve read my previous posts you will know that I myself am concerned with helping my family to stay healthy by eating the best kinds of food we can afford. Being healthy is great – but it’s value is a limited-time offer. You see, we can be the healthiest, fittest person on earth, who never gets sick and avoids cancer, diabetes and heart attacks. But in the end, health is only valuable for this life. When you die, health and fitness won’t be an issue! Godliness, however, has eternal value.

Prince takes every opportunity to strengthen his physical muscles. Do we take every opportunity to strengthen our kids’ spiritual muscles?

As parents, we need to keep this truth in mind as we train up our kids. It’s easy to spend hours of time researching how to give your kids the best nutrition for their growing bodies. It’s easy to spend money and time enrolling them into sports and gymnastics, knowing that you are supporting their physical well-being. But more than all that we need to be seeking after ways to regularly feed them spiritually nutritional food, and find ways to encourage them to exercise godliness.

One of the reasons people seek after health is to avoid getting sick. They don’t want to go down with the flu or risk a heart attack by clogging up their arteries with grease. In the same way, we need to exercise godliness so that we can avoid falling into sin. We should be aiming for peak spiritual fitness – for ourselves and our kids. We need to give our families the best spiritual nourishment available to strengthen their souls, so that they will be able to resist the harshest of temptations.

My little boy loves to compare his muscles to Daddy’s muscles. He take joy in seeing how strong he is, and even takes it upon himself to exercise in the hopes of getting stronger as quick as possible! My hope is that I can teach him to have the same kind of passion for developing spiritual muscles, because this will last him for eternity.

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