Have you noticed more than a hint of anger creeping into your parenting style? Do you parent more with your vocal chords than you do with your heart? Are the typical frustrations, annoyances, and irritations associated with parenting beginning to get you down? Are you feeling like you need a two week vacation from your children? If your answer to any of these questions is “yes,” you may need the gift of grace-full parenting.
Grace-full parenting is uncommon parenting that comes from the heart. It holds children in a state of grace, even as they are held accountable for their behaviors. It communicates love and caring while simultaneously implementing the discipline strategies that are called for.
Described below are 12 strategies for infusing grace into your parenting style. Consider using them to parent like no one else so your children can grow up to be like no one else.
1. Assume the stance that mistakes are permitted here.
Do not assign a positive or negative value to your children’s mistakes. Instead, simply see those errors as choices that offer opportunities for growth.
Do not name a behavior a “mistake” or judge it until you see how the child chooses to use it. If your teenager gets a speeding ticket, is confronted with the consequences, and then uses that experience to slow her driving, was the ticket a good thing or a bad thing? If your child forgets to put his bike away and loses the opportunity to use it for a few days and learns from that experience to see himself as cause, is forgetting to put the bike away good or bad?
Refuse to see children’s mistakes as bad, wrong, terrible, or awful. See them instead as opportunities for growth, as data and feedback to be used for learning. Children make mistakes. Why not add grace to your parenting style by choosing to see those mistakes as valuable, important cogs in the learning process?
2. Separate the deed from the doer.
Children are not their behavior. They are not their report card. They are not their table manners. They are not their anger. Those behaviors are only their behavior in the present moment. It is not who and what they are as human beings.
“I like you and I don’t like that behavior,” is Parent Talk that separates the deed from the doer. It tells the child that it is the behavior that is inappropriate. Love remains for the child while the behavior is disliked. Using a communication style that clearly separates the deed from the doer keeps your verbal responses full of grace.
3. Accept that what is…is.
The fact is that your twins did decorate the kitchen wall with permanent markers. That’s what is. No amount of anger, frustration, noise, or irritation will change that. The wall is the wall and it is covered with permanent marker.
Yes, work to make changes on a physical level. Teach the necessary lessons to encourage that markers are to be used for writing on paper. Involve your children in cleanup. Implement appropriate consequences if necessary. Dealing with the situation on the physical level is important and necessary—and that part of parenting can be handled more effectively if you emotionally accept your present-moment circumstances.
4. See it all as perfect.
Another way to become a grace-full parent is to see your present parenting circumstance as perfect. If your child is disrespectful to her grandparent, why not see that situation as the perfect way for your daughter to communicate to you that she needs to learn more about respect for the elderly? It is also the perfect time and the perfect opportunity for you to teach a lesson on respect.
When your child leaves his toys out, that is the perfect time for him to learn about what happens when he makes that choice. If your teen turns off the alarm and goes back to sleep, that becomes the perfect opportunity to allow her to experience the natural consequences of being late for school. If the dishes are stacked up in the kitchen, that’s the perfect time to delay dinner until the kitchen is in order.
Choose to view the present parenting events that show up in your life as opportunities to practice seeing it all as perfect.
5. See your children as unfinished.
Your children are only beginning to move down the path of becoming who they are meant to be. Yes, there will be imperfection. Yes, there will be derailments. Yes, they will experience delays and misdirection. Don’t we all?
None of us is complete and finished. God is not done with any of us yet. Keep that in mind as you raise your children and you will move closer to parenting that is full of grace.
6. Make no assumptions.
Beware of the assumption trap. As parents we think we know. We think we know why our child lied to us. We think we know what she is thinking. We think we know what she will do next. We assume we know who started the fight in the next room. And our assumptions are not always accurate.[
If you remind your ten year old about his responsibilities with the garbage, and he turns and walks away, you assume he didn’t hear you or that he heard and doesn’t care. With your assumption firmly in place, you use a tone and volume in your next communication that escalates the incident. Before you find out your son was on his way to get his shoes so he could take the garbage to the road, the situation sinks to a lower lever.
Keep your communication on the high road, and use grace-full parenting by freeing your mind of assumptions.
7. Focus on the situation, not on the child’s character or personality.
When you are frustrated, upset, or irritated with a child’s behavior, speak to the situation. If you see the recently purchased baseball glove lying out in the rain, tell your daughter, “I see a brand new baseball glove laying out in the rain. I feel irritated. Baseball gloves belong in the garage with the sports equipment.”
This style of communication talks about the situation. It refrains from attacking character of belittling personality.
“What are you blind? You have no value of money. Get your lazy butt out there and take care of it,” addresses character. Comments about eyesight, money values or laziness are about personality and thus, lack grace.
By speaking to the situation instead of a child’s character you refrain from wounding their spirit and stay firmly grounded in grace-full parenting.
8. Implement consequences with an open heart.
Remember, implementing consequences, holding your children accountable for their actions is one of the most loving things you can do as a parent.
It is not the severity of a consequence that has the impact. Consequences do not need to be severe. They only need to be certain.
Let children experience the related, respectful, legitimate consequences of their behavior. But do it from a heart-felt space. Let the consequence come from the love and concern within you rather than from disgust, anger, or feelings of retribution or revenge.
9. Give second opportunities.
Once a specific consequence has been experienced, give the child another opportunity to handle the responsibility. If you child fails in his responsibility to put his bike away at dark, he loses the opportunity to ride that bike for a few day. Three days later he needs another opportunity to show he can handle that responsibility. If he doesn’t choose to take care of his responsibility, implement the consequence again. Later, give another opportunity.
Lessons aren’t always learned the first time. Grace requires many opportunities to learn the lessons that are before us. Extend those opportunities and you regularly extend grace to your children.
10. Search for solutions.
To parent grace-fully you must believe that fixing the problem is more important than fixing blame. Searching for solutions and problem-solving puts you in a teaching mode. Handing out punishments places you in the role of policeperson, judge, and warden. Grace occurs when errors are corrected, not when they are punished.
Energy spent blaming your son for spilling milk does not improve his milk-pouring skills for next time. Angrily reprimanding your daughter for forgetting to feed the dog does not insure that the dog will be fed tomorrow.
Invest your time searching for and creating solutions and problems will not need to be continually addressed. By solving a parenting problem while refraining from punishing, you apply grace to the situation.
11. Look for the gift.
As you stay home with your sick child, your mind may send you messages of “poor me” and “this isn’t fair.” Your mind is taking the victim stance by generating limiting thoughts and concentrating on negativity.
Change your mind about your present circumstance by looking for the gift that it offers. It could be an opportunity to clean out a closet, wash the car, or catch up on thank you notes. Perhaps there is a gift waiting for you in a chance to snuggle with your daughter and watch a video. Maybe your gift arrives as a change in routine, a day off work, or time to play your guitar. The gift is there. It’s up to you to train your mind to find it. If you do so, you will take another step into grace-full parenting.
12. Stay in the present.
Focusing on the present and forgetting about the past is essential to the state of grace.
Treat every discipline situation as if it was happening for the first time. Remove phrases like, “OK mister, that’s the third time this week,” “This is getting to be a pattern with you, isn’t it?’ and “Here we go again,” from your Parent Talk repertoire. If your son wet his be for the fifth time this week, approach the fifth time as if it were the first. This ensures you treat your children as they are right now rather than holding them to what they have been in the past.
Grace-full parenting takes practice. It requires a conscious effort to purposefully implement the ideas above. Make these suggestions a priority in your life and add grace to your parenting style.
Thomas Haller and Chick Moorman are the authors of The 10 Commitments: Parenting with Purpose. They are two of the world’s foremost authorities on raising responsible, caring, confident children. They publish a free monthly e-zine for parents. To sign up for it so you can learn to parent like no one else, visit their website today: www.personalpowerpress.com