Friday, July 8, 2011

Love and Grace are Not Permissive

In my last post, I talked about reflecting God’s love and grace in parenting. That all sounds very good, and I think it is very good; after all, how can treating our children the way God treats us be a bad thing? But it also raises questions– questions that I think are legitimate.

Most parents know that permissiveness is not something to strive for. And when someone starts talking about the role of love and grace in parenting, it can cause people to freak out a little bit. “Love and grace? That sounds permissive. What about setting limits and enforcing consequences?”

Here’s the thing. If you read my last couple of posts, you know that I’m coming from the perspective of reflecting God’s love and grace in our relationships with everyone we encounter, and I certainly think this should include our children. So let me ask you this: is God is a permissive God?

My answer is no, of course not! The fact that he is a God of love and grace certainly does not mean that he isn’t firm or that he doesn’t set limits or that he doesn’t enforce consequences. If parents fail to set limits, are not firm when the situation calls for it, and never allow their children to experience consequences, that isn’t parenting with the love and grace of God.

But let’s be honest: it can be really, really difficult to figure out how to be firm, set limits, and enforce consequences in a way that reflects love and grace. I know that is a challenge for me! I am too quick to become punitive sometimes; at other times, it is easy to err on the side of permissiveness. I’ve talked to many parents, and I think this is something a lot of people struggle with– sometimes we end up swinging back and forth from permissive to punitive in our attempt to find the right balance of firm but gentle parenting.

I guess this is the part of the post where I’m supposed to give you my answers. I’m supposed to tell you how to determine how to disciple children with love, grace, limits, and firmness, without ever becoming too permissive or too punitive. Right?

The only answers I can give you are the ones I keep coming back to in my own life. Personally, I am trying to get to know God better, draw closer to him, and reflect on how he disciples me. I’ve spent a lot of time in prayer, asking him to help me see my children the way he sees them and to help me show them his love and grace. I’ve been asking God to help me lead my children in a way that reflects him, and to teach them patiently. I also try to know each of them individually and parent them as the unique people they are. And I have been learning more about positive parenting; there are several excellent books with ideas for parenting in a way that is both firm and positive. Let me know if you’d like any recommendations. And, for me, it has been huge to remember that I am not going to get it right all the time because I am human too and I’m still learning. Thankfully, God has patience and grace for my screw-ups, and he continues to lead me gently on this journey (which has been a beautiful parenting lesson in itself for me).

I am so thankful that God disciples me with love and grace. And I think you can rest assured that endeavoring to show God’s love and grace in the way you parent is not permissive. :)

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