Sunday, April 22, 2018

The Fine Line of Balance in Parenting: Grace-Based vs. Authorative-Based Parenting

My sweet brother called me for relationship advice today. It was such a blessing on so many levels. When I think back to our childhood years and the tortuous relationship we had - my, how much the Lord has done in us and to us as brother and sister. I'm so thankful that we have such a solid and close relationship today.

As our conversation came to a close, we briefly spoke about our parents and how differently they both parented. Our parents were who they were and God chose them to be our mother and father. And they were very different as parents, in many ways.

Our Different Parents

One parent was very good at being there for us and accepting us in our broken state, with no judgement and lots of grace. Yet, this parent failed at pulling us up when we needed correction and guidance in how to live rightly for God. 

The other parent faithfully prayed and spoke to us about Jesus our whole lives, helping us see what a life of honouring Christ looked like. Yet, this parent struggled with aspects of grace and not coming down too harshly.

And all this got me thinking:

The balance between grace and truth in parenting is such a fine line.

The Fine Line of Grace and Truth

There always seems to be two trends in parenting books on the market.

The first one, grace-based parenting (or gentle parenting) looks lots like my parent who loved us with lots of grace and no judgement. This isn't lenient parenting at all, but a strength that all children need. All little hearts need to know they are known as they are and loved deeply and unconditionally. That's how God loves us, right?

An Example of a Grace-Based Parenting Book

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The second trend is the authorative-based parenting where the parent takes their responsibility for training, correcting, and guiding the child very seriously. One of my parents did this very well and I am so thankful that my moral-compass has always been so solid because of this parenting skill. This isn't authority parenting at all, but a strong position of love and maturity that all children need to grow up well. That's how God loves us, too, isn't it?

An Example of Authorative-Based Parenting Book

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The Pendulum Swing

These two types of parenting are good and needed. They are also both legitimate and right. I would never say one is completely wrong and the other completely right. 

Yet, because we're humans, none of us do either very well. What do I mean by that? I mean that we, as parents, all tend to lean towards one and go at it full-swing. We grab hold of our convictions (usually based upon natural instincts towards our children) and pursue that wholeheartedly.

This isn't completely wrong. We know our children and I believe God gives parents instincts as to how His little heart needs to be loved. All parents and children are divinely matched, in strength and in weakness.

There is no perfect parenting position. Both sides have great strengths and great weaknesses. If we grab hold of one, we may easily manifest the weaknesses in our children. My brother and I know that only too well! It was easy to play one parent against the other and get away with many things!

How Can We Find Balance?

For myself, I know the one I naturally lean towards (authorative-based) and in my weakness, I know I can sometimes come down too harshly. I know, however, that if I lent towards grace-based parenting, I would struggle with coming down too gently. Both are detrimental to my children.

So what do we do? How do we find that balance that draws on the strengths of both sides and minimises the weaknesses?

Simply, we turn to the Bible. 

Truly. It is the perfect parenting Book. The Author (funnily enough) knows exactly how children need to be raised and what their little hearts need best to thrive and grow up beautifully.

God, our own perfect Father, parents with grace and authority. 

He expects obedience to His commands because He knows what true life is and what makes that life thrive. He knows how to discipline us for our good because He knows the future outcome of that discipline: eternity with Him. And the discipline He gives us when we need it is done lavished completely in grace. He is compassionate, gentle, tender, long-suffering, hopeful, loving, and kind. He accepts us as who we are and takes us as we are.

God does not punish us for our sins and I believe, as parents, that we should not punish our children. Jesus bore the punishment and wrath for our sins once and for all. There is still, however, consequences to our sin here on earth and consequences are good tool for discipline.

If you struggle, like I do, of hanging around one end of the parenting see-saw, ask the Lord to bring you back to the balance of the middle. He will. It won't be easy. There will be some wobbly moments but He will hold your hand along the way. I'm not there yet, but I see that I need to get there and need His help desperately.

We will soon remember and act on the truth that godly parenting isn't just grace or discipline, it is both. They marry one another well and will bear wonderful fruit in the lives of our children.

My Favourite Parenting Book

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