You would think that with as much love as I have for my children, it would be easy to have grace for them. I mean/intend/purpose to have grace for them, but I often fail at it. Maybe it’s because I am a horrible mom (I don’t really think that) or maybe it is because having young children demands more grace than meets the eye (especially when you get into the two, three, and four-year-old zones).
One photo a week of our family throughout the year. 38/52
Parenting young children is a big job. There are many joys, many messes, and many opportunities to practice the art of having grace for one another. Children are a gift from the Lord (Psalm 127:3). There is no match for the wonder, innocence, adventure, and honest faith of a child. Children are great teachers, and if we watch with open eyes, and listen intently, we learn a lot about how to experience the best of life. They are also capable of driving a perfectly well-adjusted adult to the brink of a total breakdown if the right recipe of chaos comes together. Mamas stretch their arms and lives wide to love their little ones, and the stretch is often uncomfortable.
Mothering little ones is life in the trenches. Our kids see the best and worst of us. They see us when we’ve had disrupted sleep for months on end. They see us toil through meal prep and cleanup, laundry mountains, and toy tornadoes. It is tough to have grace for their kid shenanigans in such a physically demanding and emotionally draining season of life. Because of the challenge, it is important to have a game plan before we bump up against the struggle. How can we practically have grace for our children?
I made myself a list of ways to show grace, so I can remember them during the moments I am at risk of forgetting.
Make space for their personalities and interests even if they are not convenient for me. This is a big struggle for me. In a big family, there are certainly limitations on our time and resources, so it is not possible to pursue every interest. There are so many things to be done in a day, I sometimes find myself barking out, “No, you can’t get that out. No, you can’t paint right now. No, that just makes a big mess,” all because it doesn’t work for me. I still say no when I have to (sanity is important, yes?), but I try to say yes whenever I can. If it’s about the mess, I tell them so. I teach them what I need them to do in order to clean up from an activity that I would otherwise decline if I had to do all the cleanup myself. If it is about going to the park when the house is a mess and I’m already spent, I tell them about what (age-appropriate) tasks need to be done at home before we can go and let them have at it. If they complete them, we go, if they don’t, we stay. I look for ways to make things work for all of us.
Setting appropriate boundaries and doing everything in my power to consistently and compassionately enforce them. Kids are looking for guidance. They are looking to know that they have met our expectations, that we are pleased with them. Children will feel insecure and act out when boundaries are too loose, or the boundaries we have set have been tested and found to be…not boundaries. I think consistency with our children is one of the most gracious things we can do for them. It grows trust in our relationships, and builds their confidence in themselves when they know where the real boundaries are.
Taking time for each one independently. I know life is busy. This might seem like an impossible thing for some, but it is important that our children receive our individual attention, even if for just a few minutes a day. They need our hugs. They need to be heard. They need our encouraging words for their developing hearts. It doesn’t have to be a ‘date’ or something that takes us away from the house (although, it can be!). It can be reading a book together on the couch. It can be unexpectedly tackling a 6-year-old and tickle-wrestling him to the ground with kisses all over his face when he is least expecting it. It can be sitting at the kitchen table making watercolor pictures together.
Respond to their needs and mistakes in a loving way. This one challenges me at times. Every time someone spills a cup of milk, their eyes dart straight to me. They are looking for my response. Will I yell and make them feel awful for a momentary mistake or will I offer a towel and clear, level-headed instructions instead? When one child has repeatedly disobeyed, will I act as patiently and calmly as I did the first time they stepped out of line or will I give my power to influence away with impatient words or inconsistent discipline? I psych myself up for this battle every single morning. Plan my steps in advance, commit myself to patient and loving words, and pray for God’s help through the day.
Remembering that home should be a refuge. While I have dozens of friends I could call if I’m having a tough day my children have no one else but me. They are young enough that as of yet, they do not have the freedom to call whomever they choose, whenever they choose, and if they are short on encouragement, this is where they will get it…or not get it. Cultivating peace in the home starts with me and my own attitudes, and while I am not always perfect at it, I actively try to make our home an emotionally ‘safe’ place for them.
Realize that I’m setting an example, whether I recognize it or not. When I have grace for myself, I am modeling for them how to have grace for themselves, which is something that will only help them when they encounter the world outside our home. When I lose my patience and yell, it is up to me to own my wrong choices and apologize for not having self-control in the situation (even if there are real reasons for my frustration). There is no excusing our own poor behavior–unless our aim is to teach our children how to not take responsibility for themselves. When we humble ourselves before our children, they learn valuable lessons about what it looks like to own our choices, apologize honestly, and make things right with others.
Those are just a few tidbits, but hopefully they help you think about how to show grace to your children. Grace is an important ingredient in a happy home!
“You will seek Me and find Me, when you seek Me with all your heart.” Jeremiah 29:13
326. nibbling on baby rolls, 327. after dinner all-family clean-up, 328. sentimental stuff, 329. new babies everywhere!, 330. park climbing wall and a little girl’s discovery of her own strength, 331. super fun seahawks game, 332. sewing time and hand stitching, 333. perspective and letting go, 334. tender times with my oldest, 335. God’s faithful provision again and again, 336. a super successful school day, 337. quieting the heart, 338. turning leaves and fall tones, 339. treasures discovered in study time, 340. finding my center