Babies cut teeth and kids get sick. All children forget homework assignments or permission slips, and choose to exert their free will in public at the worst times. Kids get hurt, disappointed, lazy, and angry. Kids have bad days and usually want parents to “share their pain.” There are some days when parents crawl into bed without a single Facebookable or tweetable moment. The good news: that just makes you a normal family.
Kids have bad days. The trick in parenting is to figure out when you need to give grace and when you should dish out some discipline. A bad day is simply the day before the do-over day. Sometimes kids just need a hug and the chance to do better tomorrow. Other times they need the incentives to try harder to do better tomorrow.
The challenge as a parent is to make the right response—so you do some praying, some thinking, some reading and then you will be ready to make your educated guess. And that is the good news. Perfection is to parenting what jumping is to a worm . . . impossible.
Parents want to set high standards and lofty goals for their families. Everyone wants to succeed at their most important job. You probably will . . . but not every day. There is no amount of parenting that will remove your child’s free will and you have to deal with yours as well. Sometimes kids defy everything you work to teach them and sometimes they should defy some of what you teach them.
The key is to measure success according to reality. Kids are born with the same sin nature their parents were born with. The word “sin” actually means “missing the mark.” Paul promised that everyone sins (Romans 3:23) and “falls short.” In other words, Paul promised all of us that our kids were going to blow it and have some bad days, bad months and maybe even a bad year or two.
So maybe it’s time to get to the good news! The word “gospel” means “good news.” Jesus told us to share the gospel because he knew that all of us would need the hope of his salvation. Jesus lived and died for every one of the bad days. Jesus set high standards for our lives and then gave his, because he knew we wouldn’t be able to keep those standards.
If Jesus expected we would fail, we owe that same expectation to our kids. The good news for bad days is found in the word tomorrow. There is always a chance to redeem the bad days for something better. Bad days don’t usually mean bad character. Most of the time our mistakes just mean we are human beings who need another chance.
So keep your standards high and holy, but expect your kids to “miss the mark.” After all, their parents did. Grace is the gift we give our kids so that tomorrow is a better day. Discipline is the instruction we give so they know how to make tomorrow better.
So the next time your three-year-old throws their toy through a window, or the eight-year-old walks up with a note from the teacher, or the teenager drives up with a dent in the fender . . . consider the possibility that it was just a bad day. Crawl into bed knowing that God is still God, Jesus is still in the business of saving and the Holy Spirit is always ready to guide. Tomorrow will probably be better.
“But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift” (Ephesians 4:7).