Reviving Motherhood

Learning on the Journey

Grace Based Parenting, Chapter by Chapter

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Virginia Knowles of Come, Weary Moms is going through the book Grace Based Parenting chapter by chapter and writing her thoughts.

I remember when I first heard about this book and my knee-jerk reaction was that grace-based parenting must mean boundary-less, permissive parenting devoid of rules or expectations of obedience. Coming from my default position of parenting that focused highly on behavior (under the guise of “training”), which was actually more about winning and controlling than discipleship, I made a lot of assumptions about a way of raising children that included the word “grace.” I’m nothing if not stubborn, and it took me many years to realize that my way, the way of the “child-training experts” I had followed most of my life, created adversarial relationships with my children alongside superficial obedience, and that this formula-based method didn’t begin to address the unique challenges of some of my kids (despite the condescending assurances of the experts that the challenges were entirely my fault).

And to tell you the truth, that’s still where I am in a lot of ways. I’m not writing as someone who has perfectly obedient children or who has figured this parenting thing out. I admit humbly that I’m no model mom (although it might look that way on days when things are going extra well). Thanks to our unique circumstances, I find that the training, teaching, and discipleship aspects of parenting are an immense challenge, more like walking through deep sand every day than running with confidence down a neatly paved path! This part of being a mom is a million times harder than I anticipated, especially once I realized I couldn’t “formula” my way to a model Christian home.

You see, these are the influences that shaped my view of parenting my whole life. Parenting was simple in this paradigm. If you train and discipline your kids properly and consistently, they will be godly and well-behaved. Poorly behaved children are the result of bad parenting, no exceptions. Well, a child with profound, visible special needs might get a pass, but that was about it.

So imagine my surprise when the formulas didn’t work. To say I was disillusioned is an understatement.

Formulas work often enough that they can be convincing. A couple of my children would be poster children for a formula method. If I leaned on that method, I’d really have no reason to depend on the Spirit or my relationship with them, because a few episodes of consistent discipline and they would conform to my wishes for years, if not for life. They’re just made that way. In fact, I have to be careful that I don’t create situations where they feel responsible to keep me happy, to make up for any misbehavior of their siblings by being “extra good”, or to become smug little Pharisees, thanks to their pleasant, pleaser personalities.

I feel like I’m rambling, but I say all this to point out why I eventually bought Grace Based Parenting. Learning to parent by God’s grace, as he parents us, led by the Spirit instead of behaviorist “experts” is a constant journey of mind-renewal. I daily have to let God change my thinking, the way I interact with my little ones, the way I teach and train them. I am learning to communicate and build real relationships with them. I say this humbly. I mess up daily. I hope I get it right eventually, at least right enough to not make a total disaster of everything. If I do it will be only God, not me.

Does this mean a rejection of “child training” or discipline? Not at all. What these elements look like and how they play out in our family is something I’m constantly learning and growing in. Meanwhile, I look to God, accept his grace over my past and present failures as a mom, and seek with all my heart to extend that same grace to my little ones.

Please join me as I enjoy Virginia’s thoughts and read along, adding my own. Thoughts on Chapter One to come soon.

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