Framework for Grace-Based Discipline


Grace based parenting is simply treating our kids the way God treats His kids (us).

It’s a common misconception that the grace based parenting philosophy means softening our discipline. I think that may be because people equate grace and mercy. While there are similarities between grace and mercy, they aren’t the same thing. Theologically, (and according to the Newsboys) mercy can be defined as not getting something that you do deserve (i.e. punishment), grace is getting something that you don’t deserve (i.e. God’s favor and the opportunity of salvation). When it comes to our salvation, mercy and grace often stride hand in hand into our brokenness and do a tag-team justification work in our hearts. But they are two separate attributes of God working in tandem.

In our parenting, extending grace to our kids means administering discipline and correction. Failure to do so is the opposite of grace. Remember, grace based parenting is simply treating our kids the way God treats His kids (us). Does God discipline us? Absolutely. He loves us too much to allow us to self-destruct. It isn’t gracious to raise our kids in a home without discipline, and it isn’t loving either. When we lack discipline in our parenting it is love of self thinly veiled behind the excuse of “loving” our kids. Most parents who choose not to discipline do so because it is difficult, inconvenient and forces them to appropriate the power of God by spending lots of time on their knees.

With that in mind, there is no formula for grace based discipline… but there is a framework. Here is the first part of that framework, and in future posts, we will discuss this more in depth.

1.) With every perceived infraction, ask yourself, “Is this a violation of moral/biblical values or is it a violation of ‘house rules’?”

This is the important first question because nothing drives a wedge between our children’s hearts and God’s heart as quickly as making amoral issues into biblical/moral issues. When we drop the name of God and His word into discussions about hairstyles and table manners, we are taking the name of the Lord in vain. House rules have a place, and it’s perfectly acceptable to have arbitrary rules about things like cleaning rooms, television time or dietary restrictions but we need to see the two categories separately. On the other hand, we must properly identify the times when our kids’ actions violate one of God’s principals, for example lying, cheating, ungratefulness or unkindness.

Generally speaking, a grace based parent is keen to recognize the broad base of moral values made clear to us in scripture, but tends to have a very short/concise list of house rules. Building character into our kids takes dedication and loads of time. The less bogged down we are by enforcing a long list of house rules the better. We don’t want our homes to resemble a boot camp. We want our homes to be places that give our kids the freedom to be different, vulnerable, candid and to make mistakes.

 Written by Karis Murray 


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