As parents, we want to raise our children to know and love God, nurture their spiritual growth and teach them the values of love, forgiveness and grace. Believe me, this journey as Christian parents is not without its challenges, but amidst the ups and downs it is crucial we model God's grace to kids.
When our kids were young, my husband would give them “Christmas spankings” — ask my kids about it one day. They’ll be embarrassed but they’ll tell you. When they made a bad decision, instead of punishment, he’d give them a “Christmas spanking” which was a kiss. Then he’d tell them, "That was grace," and "Let’s try and do better next time." I know my kids will never forget the grace they got on a regular basis from Dad.
Here are three easy yet impactful ways to extend grace and demonstrate God's love to our children.
"For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them" (Eph. 2:8–9).
Extend Love in Their Imperfections
One of the most powerful ways we can show grace to our kids is by embracing their imperfections. As children grow, they make mistakes, learn through trial and error, and sometimes fall short of our expectations.
Instead of responding with harsh criticism or undue punishment, let us remember God's grace is abundant and covers all our imperfections. By offering understanding, patience and forgiveness, we create an environment where our children feel safe and loved, mirroring our God's unconditional love and forgiveness. This is the point I am working on and praying about most. I don’t want to be harsh with my kids or ever make them feel like failures.
"Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord" (Rom. 5:20–21).
Encourage Honest Communication
Our kids know they can talk with us and they are both pretty open about the things they share. Our son often tells us when he got in trouble at school before we even hear from the school. Our daughter often shares her interpersonal struggles with classmates. The relationships we’ve fostered with our kids feel good. Open and honest communication is vital in nurturing a relationship built on grace.
Create a safe space where your children feel comfortable sharing their thoughts, concerns and struggles without fear of judgment or condemnation. When they confide in you, resist the urge to react hastily or dismissively. Instead, actively listen, seek to understand their perspective and respond with empathy and compassion. By doing so, we foster an environment of trust and acceptance, demonstrating God's grace and His willingness to hear our hearts without condemnation.
"For from his fullness we have all received grace upon grace. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ" (John 1:16–17).
Teach the Power of Apology and Forgiveness
I’ve mentioned before that I am trying to always ask my kids for forgiveness when I mess up. I literally apologize and humbly ask them to forgive me. Teaching our children the importance of apologies and forgiveness is an invaluable lesson which reflects God's grace in action.
Encourage them to also take responsibility for their actions and apologize sincerely when they have wronged someone. Let them hear you apologize to your spouse. Model what an apology looks like. We are always working on forgiveness in our home; that one is a lot harder. But just as God forgives us when we repent, we need to forgive others. By emphasizing the transformative power of grace, we cultivate a culture of reconciliation and healing in our homes.
As Christian parents, it is our responsibility to show God's love and grace to our children, and that is scary and humbling most days. By extending love in their imperfections, encouraging honest communication, and teaching the power of apology and forgiveness, we create an environment where they experience and understand the depths of God's grace more clearly.
It is my prayer that our efforts in extending grace to our children reflect the overwhelming love and forgiveness God freely bestows upon us, shaping their hearts and drawing them closer to Him.
In the moment, it can be hard to communicate with our kids in a way that models compassion. Try remembering these ten things to say instead.
- Instead of saying, "You're a bad kid," say, "You made a mistake. I forgive you, and with God’s help, let’s learn from it and do better next time."
- Instead of saying, "I'm too busy right now," say, "I would love to spend time with you. You are a blessing. Let's find a time that works for both of us."
- Instead of saying, "Stop crying, it's not a big deal," say, "I understand you're upset; let's pray about it and find a solution together."
- Instead of saying, "Because I said so," say, "Let me explain the reason behind my decision, so you can understand why it's important."
- Instead of saying, "You're not good enough," say, "You have God-given unique strengths and talents. Through prayer let’s work on developing them further."
- Instead of saying, "You're such a mess," say, "Everyone makes mistakes. Let's clean up together and build new habits."
- Instead of saying, "You're always so lazy," say, "I believe in your potential. Let's pray about this and find ways to motivate and inspire you."
- Instead of saying, "You're being a burden," say, "You're an important part of our family. God specifically gave us you. How can we support each other better?"
- Instead of saying, "You're a disappointment," say, "I love you unconditionally. Let's find ways to overcome challenges and grow together."
- Instead of saying, "You're not listening," say, "I value your thoughts and ideas. Let's have a respectful conversation about this."