Want to practice grace filled parenting? These five thought-provoking principles will help you put biblical motherhood into practice in a healthy, purposeful way!

This post was first published on April 22, 2013. Updated October 10, 2019.

When it comes to parenting and child-training, it’s easy to quantify how we’re doing by the results we’re getting:

First time obedience? Check.
Says please and thank you without a reminder? Check.
Eats all his vegetables with great joy? Bonus!

There are a lot of parenting methods and books out there, many with value and wisdom. And many of them are written by Christian authors. However, there is a danger in the way we go about implementing these parenting ideals in our homes.

The Wrong Way to Use Christian Parenting Books

I’m afraid that sometimes the way we use this advice is by attempting to “master” a certain course or “perfect” a certain system in the hopes that we’ll have some measurable results and purely obedient children who respond delightfully to our every request {because, after all, we’ve worked hard at this!}.

This has been my response more often than I care to admit. I’ve become a top scholar at the “school of sin management”. And when my children don’t behave the way I want them to, my frustration and anger tend to get the best of me.

It becomes a cycle that repeats itself over and over again, much to my disappointment. Honestly, it must make my children disappointed as well!

When our parenting delves again into nothing but a pattern of law-focused effort and a battle of the wills, we should come to realize that something is missing.

The Key Element of Biblical Parenting that We May be Missing

What’s often missing is grace.

Giving grace to our children is something that doesn’t come naturally. But it is exactly how God treats us!

He disciplines {teaches} us because He loves us {Hebrews 12} and along with teaching us character, perseverance and strength, He revealed to us the greatest act of grace by His Son, Jesus Christ. Christ’s sacrifice is the over-arching theme of the Bible, the way in which God redeemed us from our disobedience and sin, and this grace flows into every area of our lives as we are all the while reproved, challenged and changed.

What is grace and how do we use it rightly as we raise our children?

Grace is unmerited favor, something we do not deserve. It is a gift of God to us {Ephesians 2:8-9} and it is a gift that we, by the Spirit, can give our children.

And here’s the thing. Not only are we saved by grace, but we also live by grace! Does this mean we neglect discipline or character training? By no means!

But parenting by grace in part means that instead of focusing on blind obedience and legalistic following of “rules” in order to produce “moral, upstanding members of society”, we infuse into our children the same grace that God has extended to us, all the while teaching, training and lovingly correcting.

So what does this grace look like in real life? How can we give it to our children when we often struggle to give it to ourselves?

Here are five principles to live by when you desire to parent with grace {and believe me, we’re still learning over here too!}

How to parent with grace according to the Bible

Pray Scripture over your kids (and your parenting!)

Pray the Scriptures over your kids and upon your parenting and hold each method you use up to the scrutiny of God’s Word. Pray that the Lord will give you the wisdom you need to accept God’s grace each day of your life and in so doing, bring that same attitude of grace to the way you raise your children.

Some beautiful downloadable free Scripture cards to pray over and with your children that will help them grow in character and grace can be found here, here and here.

“But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.” James 1:5, NASB

Give your children the grace to mess up

We don’t condone sin nor do we ignore it, but we want our children to know that they can come to us even if they have done something wrong, because we want them to be restored to us and to God. We have told them we will never be upset at them for being honest and confessing to us. Our frustration about their sin is a separate matter entirely.

“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and righteous and will forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9, NASB.

Give your kids grace to ask questions

Whether our children are homeschooled or schooled in a private or public setting, they will come to us with questions about the world around them. Unfortunately, our culture by and large does not support a biblical worldview and so my husband and I work to learn as much as we can and then explain things when our children ask questions.

We want to honor these curiosities because we know that if we don’t listen patiently and answer {even if the answer seems obvious to us}, they will look for the answers somewhere else! Let’s be graceful to our children, no matter what their age, if they are searching for truth.

“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.” Matthew 7:7, NASB

Give your child grace to learn obedience

Rather than forcing our children to blindly obey, we can help teach our children character as they grow by explaining why we want them to comply with our requests.

Using Scripture to explain is the best way to do this, but not for the purpose of “beating it over their heads” to make them think that God is simply a task-master.

Speaking the truth in love while letting our child know that we are all in need of grace and forgiveness brings God’s Word to their hearts rather than just their heads.

Our children will not learn “first-time obedience” the first time but through consistent effort and prayer, they can see the heart behind the call to obedience. 

You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, be on your guard so that you are not carried away by the error of unprincipled men and fall from your own steadfastness,but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory, both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.” 2 Peter 3:17-18, NASB

Take a “Prayerful Pause” before you speak

In the moment, it can be so hard not to get frustrated with our kids for foolishness. There are yelling triggers for each of us and it can take time to overcome.

This is one thing that SO many moms struggle with–guilt over hurtful things they’ve said to their kids. Believe me, I know how it feels!

As Christian moms who are sometimes overwhelmed and busy, it’s good for us to pursue the fruit of self-control.

Two effective ways to pursue self-control over our speech are:

1) Take a “prayerful pause”. Ask the Holy Spirit to “prick” your heart when you when you are starting to lose your cool and then step away to pray. This is the only time I recommend walking away from your children during conflict–and it’s mostly for your benefit!

2) Commit to memory the verse from James 1:19 that says, “my dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.” Literally say it out loud instead of letting your hurtful words fly in an frustrating moment. You might feel silly, but this really works!!

We want our children’s hearts to be full of purpose and the love of God.

It can be hard to balance the day-to-day training of behavior and decorum while keeping in mind the main purpose of our parenting, which is this:

To teach our children about the depths of our sin and the love, grace and mercy of God while praying that the Holy Spirit will draw them to know Jesus in a personal and devoted way.

But, friend, there is good news! We can do this, by the grace of God!

“Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” Hebrews 4:16

The Best Book About Grace-Filled Parenting

My absolute favorite book about gospel-centered, grace-filled parenting is Parenting: The 14 Gospel Principles that Can Radically Change Your Family by Paul David Tripp.

This book will absolutely transform the way you view parenting. It really shifts your thinking so that you can parent from a place of grace and love, rather than rules and “lording things over” your children or responding in anger.

And what I love is that it not only has “descriptive” advice, but also “prescriptive” advice–ways that you can put the truths in this book into action in your own family.

Get your copy of Parenting by Paul David Tripp on Amazon!

WANT TO SPEAK WITH GRACE TO YOUR KIDS INSTEAD OF YELLING?

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