I've heard many people say that God "meets you where you are." He's not angry or punishing us for not being able to do everything the way he knows is best. Nor is he throwing out expectations and standards; he expects us to grow and mature. But God recognizes our abilities and weaknesses at any given spot in our journey and he guides us through them. He patiently disciples us and helps us grow, and as we mature, we start living more as he desires us to live.
It hit me the other day that this is an excellent model for me as a parent, and it's something I've forgotten quite a bit lately, if I'm being honest. I've realized how often I refuse to meet my children where they are. As the adult, with my adult logic and rules and plans, I end up frustrated because my children are simply not on the same level. And it is so easy to become harsh and punitive when, rather than meeting my children where they are, I expect them to be where I am! But I was reminded that this is not how God treats me.
So I have been re-evaluating my parenting and reminding myself that my children are in completely different places developmentally than I am. They have their own abilities and weaknesses. I need to understand what they are and are not capable of at any given age/stage and meet them where they are. Of course this doesn't mean tossing out rules and standards of behavior; that would be permissive, and that's not how God treats me either. ;-) It means coming alongside them and patiently discipling them, guiding and teaching them, and helping them grow and mature.
I want the fruit of the spirit to be evident in my parenting-- love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. I am reminded of God's patience, kindness, and gentleness to me, and I want to show the same to my children. It seems that in meeting my children where they are, there is a greater likelihood for grace, patience, and understanding to characterize my relationship with them.