When my oldest child was a toddler, I read a couple of parenting books and decided I had this parenting thing figured out. I loved the book Don’t Make Me Count to Three by Ginger Plowman and recommended it to everyone I knew. I was wholeheartedly on board with the idea of teaching my kids to obey me, just as they need to obey God someday. If any of my friends encountered parenting struggles, rather than listening and praying with them, I told them to read the book. (Seriously. How do I still have friends??!!)
As my kids grew older, parenting got more complicated. It became less black and white (“don’t run into the street!”) and a little more confusing (“are you supposed to punish them for being irresponsible?”). And I was introduced to a couple of newer parenting books that talked less about first-time obedience and more about giving your children grace.
These books seemed just as biblically-based as the earlier books I had read and left me confused. Was I supposed to demand obedience or give grace? Or both? And how?
I saw an article posted on social media lately that talked about not giving your kids a warning before expecting them to obey. There was a lot of backlash in the comments, and people were clearly in two camps: either agreeing with the article that parents should demand immediate obedience or disagreeing and saying parents need to discipline with grace.
This brought to my mind the division I see among Christian parents today. There’s the group I will loosely term the “obedience camp” and the group I will call the “grace camp.” These are probably unfair generalizations–I know that those in the obedience camp often give grace and preach the Gospel to their children. And those in the grace camp set boundaries and require obedience. But many parents and authors I know tend to fall more on one side or another. And we silently (or sometimes not-so-silently) judge those on the other side for being too strict or too lenient.
So I wonder, which camp should I fall in? I feel a lot of pressure from both sides. One side has a curriculum called Growing Kids God’s Way. Of course I want to grow my kids God’s way! Another book I’ve read is Grace-Based Parenting. There’s nothing more important that grace, right? How do I choose between parenting God’s way and basing it on grace? It’s enough to keep a mom awake at night, and trust me, that’s really saying something!
But what if the obedience camp and the grace camp are both biblically correct? What if they are both God’s way of showing His grace to our children?
What if God, in His wisdom and sovereignty, gives parents different personalities and preferences and strengths and weaknesses that match the needs of their children?
What if God loves our children so much that He gave them the parents they would need to grow into what He wants them to be?
What if, rather than following a formula or a book or a list of ten parenting application points, we search the Scriptures to see what God says about how to relate to our children and others?
What if not having all the answers causes us to fall on our knees every morning and beg the Lord for the wisdom to deal with whatever we will face that day as parents?
I bet that would lead to some grace-based, obedience-demanding, radical Christian parenting.Share