Is Your Child Experiencing Grace?

Grace is the beauty of form under the influence of freedom.

-Friedrich Schiller

One of my parenting journeys is learning how to teach my kids things I feel they need to know or understand. How do I instill values in them I believe they should have?

This desire to teach is most pronounced when I’m learning something myself. As I’m learning or experiencing this “thing” in my life, how do I convey the lesson or value to my children?

Currently I’m learning a lot about grace.

While I’ve received grace (a lot) in my life, as well as given it to others, right now this lesson is being impressed upon me by watching my community.

Watching Those Around Me

A friend of mine made a mistake that affected quite a few people. How our community has extended grace is pretty astounding, and I don’t know that I could explain it or put it into words in a way my kids would understand.

Part of the nature of life is that our decisions result in consequences both good and bad. But in the midst of a bad decision and facing the accompanying consequences my friend is receiving grace from loved ones.

The simplest way I’ve heard grace explained is it is getting something you don’t deserve, i.e. God forgiving us the debt we owe for the sins we’ve committed. Conversely, mercy is not getting something you deserve, i.e. eternal damnation to Hell for the sins we’ve committed.

How do I bottle up the concept of grace for the understanding of a 5-year-old?

Grace isn’t something that can be explained easily. It’s really more of an experience. And oddly enough, 5-year-olds have LOTS of opportunities to experience grace.

Kids are going to make mistakes. How we handle those mistakes is going to be a big factor in their understanding of grace.

Do we freak out, or yell at them, or panic? Or do we respond by helping them see the mess they’ve made, then come along side them to clean it up?

Watching Cartoons

One of my parenting inspirations right now is the man in the yellow hat from Curious George. The amount of crap George throws his way is easily as much as any young child. Yet the man in the yellow hat is always poised when George creates a problem.

He doesn’t get angry or freak out. There’s usually a deep sigh of “here we go again” that seems to help him maintain his composure, and he calmly helps George accomplish whatever he was originally after.

For the man in the yellow hat, every mistake George makes is taken as an opportunity to teach George how to handle things on his own.

One of the more recent episodes I watched with the boys had George dig about a 3' x 3' hole in the front yard in an attempt to plant some carrots.

If Asher did that I think I’d run outside yelling, “What are you doing?!” Then after putting him in his room, because I’d have no clue how to handle him and the anger I was feeling, I’d go outside with a shovel and fill the hole. Fixing the problem would probably help me cool down.

The man in the yellow hat takes his deep breath and determines George’s original intent. Realizing he just wanted to plant some carrots, he fills the hole in with George and teaches him what he needs to do. Together they properly make the right-sized holes, drop seeds, then water their new garden.

Instead of freaking out over the giant hole this stupid monkey dug in the front yard, the man in the yellow hat taught his “son” how to properly plant carrots in addition to showing him that he cared.

Grace paved the way.

What got communicated through grace was, “You made a mess, but I see what you’re trying to do. Because this seems important to you, and you’re important to me, I’d love to help.”

My reaction of yelling and putting Asher in his room would most likely alienate him from me. It would show him that when he makes mistakes I get mad. Then I make sure he knows that what he did was wrong, I didn’t like it, and it was his fault that I’m now angrily filling in this hole.

The man in the yellow hat deepened his relationship with George by extending grace, understanding George, and teaching him something new.

Furthermore, he showed that he’s in control of his emotions. George’s choices don’t dictate the state of being the man in the yellow hat carries. We are responsible for ourselves. Others don’t make us feel anything we don’t let them.

Watching Ourselves

What would our kids look like as adults if their childhood looked like Curious George and the man in the yellow hat? What would they grow up knowing? How would they feel about us, their parents?

My guess is they’d have a lot of skills built from experience, and they’d believe their parents cared about them more than anyone in the world. I also have a suspicion they’d feel they could approach us with any mistake they’ve made, big or small, because they would understand grace. They would have experienced it.

That sounds like a son or daughter I’d be pretty happy to have raised.

How do you react when your child goofs up?

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