Taryn has never been a very "easy" child. While she is giggles and imagination and sass and frills she is also strong wills, irrational fears, and quick tempers. She keeps her emotions just under the surface and the littlest thing can throw her happy mood into tears and immediate noncooperation. Time, tears, prayers, experience and trial and error have brought us to this five year mark and boy do I LOVE that girl! But I know that this is just the beginning. Guiding her on issues like tantrums and whining are nothing compared to what will come. The big heart issues like purity, friendships, compassion and faith. Yikes!
So when my Bible study turned to a book study for the summer and chose the book Give Them Grace by Elyse Fitzpatrick and Jessica Thompson I was pretty excited. I had been hearing talk of this book and knew that it had some pretty strong ideas on parenting, particularly on a hot topic right now: teaching our children Christianity versus teaching them morality.
Last year, Veggie Tales founder Phil Vischer came out with this quote,
"I looked back at the previous 10 years and realized I had spent 10 years trying to convince kids to behave Christianly without actually teaching them Christianity. And that was a pretty serious conviction. You can say, ‘Hey kids, be more forgiving because the Bible says so,’ or, ‘Hey kids, be more kind because the Bible says so!’ But that isn’t Christianity, it’s morality."Elyse's book is over this very idea. In fact she states very simply, "If a Mormon (or any other religion) can parent the same way you do, your parenting isn't Christian." All of our attempts at teaching our children to be "good" is simply giving them rules....NOT the gospel. The gospel is the only thing that can save them. And the only thing that will give them a desire to truly obey. Boy was I guilty of this:
(from a blog post here: http://www.bobthune.com/2011/09/veggie-tales-morality-not-christianity/)
"I took every story in the Bible and made it about what my children were supposed to be doing. I didn't give my kids the gospel story. I assumed that they had heard it enough times and that they had believed it. The real action was in obeying, not in remembering. What I didn't know then was the the good news about Jesus' obedience and shameful death was the only motif that would grant my children a heart to obey." (28)She doesn't let us off the hook for teaching religious obedience of course. But the goal is not to have rule-following, pew-sitting, verse memorizing children. It is also not so that we can wave it in their face every time they fail. I will be honest and shamefully admit I've used the Bible in this way. Telling Taryn that she's failed to obey what the Bible says when she doesn't "Obey your mother and father." Using this verse as some sort of tactic to do what? Guilt her into listening? Make her feel that "poor Jesus is sad when you disobey?" This book has helped me be better equipped to use the law in the correct way. Grace-filled parenting will help me show her that while she cannot and will not be able obey God's law that it does point her to her need for a Savior. That this is why He came. Grace-filled parenting will also help guard her heart against self-righteousness because it continually shows her need for Him, not her ability to try again to follow the "rule".
Grace-filled parenting is also so very freeing for us as parents.
"We are not nor can we be the saviors of our children. He is the Savior. When we forget this, our parenting will be pockmarked by fear, severity and exhaustion. When we're quietly resting in grace, we'll have grace to give our children too. When we're freed from the ultimate responsibility of being their savior, we'll find our parenting burden becoming easy and light."Oh boy has my parenting been in fear and exhaustion! The hard truth is this: there are not promises in the Bible that even our best parenting will produce good children. None. So now I choose to live by faith in the Son of God, who loves me and gave himself for me, not by my own efforts. Parenting with grace isn't another set of rules for me to follow. Elyse reminds me that "it's a story that you're to rejoice in. Share the story with your children. Show them the Savior. Show them Jesus. Dazzle them with his love."
I've tried logical consequences. Natural consequences. Memory verses. Time outs. Sticker charts. Bribery. Spankings. Guilt. Heck, I even counted to three once....something I swore I'd never do! I hadn't tried grace.
Praise the Lord that he can redeem my past parenting mistakes. Also the parenting mistakes I made today and those that I will most definitely make tomorrow and the days to come. Praise the Lord that the same grace that I so desire Taryn (and my other girls) to rejoice and cling to has me covered too.
"Christians know that the gospel is the message unbelievers need to hear. We tell them that they can't earn their way into heaven and that they have to trust in Jesus alone for their goodness. But then something odd happens when we start training the miniature unbelievers in our own home. We forget everything we know about the deadliness of relying on our own goodness and we teach them that Christianity is all about their behavior and whether, on any given day, God is pleased or displeased with them. Instead of transmitting the gloriously liberating and life-changing truths of the gospel, we have taught our children that what God wants from them is morality. We have told them that being good (at least outwardly) is the be all and end-all of their faith. This isn't the gospel; we're not handing down Christianity. We need much less of Veggie Tales and Barney and tons more of the radical, bloody, scandalous message of God made man and crushed by his Father for our sin."
I'm still taking this parenting thing one day at a time. And there are still lots of times when just the traditional quick correction is right. But this book is the first book on parenting that has given me Truth about how to put the gopel to work in our lives. That truth is that every morning when I used to stand at the edge of a cliff with my little cup asking God for "just a little grace to get me through" that now I know that there is a title wave of that grace pouring over me so that it can be oozing out of me for my girls to see. That the gospel story that is for me is for them too and the only way that they can know that is for me to tell them. It is a challenging book. I didn't agree with it all (afterall it was written by human) but I'm grateful to have The Story, The Gospel, placed forefront in my mind again as I face each day. There's so much more covered in the book that I didn't even touch. If you're feeling the pressure to "save" your children on your own I'd encourage you to check it out.
Of course maybe you've already got a great handle on this grace thing in which case I will be moving into your house so I can do an indepth study of what it looks like!