Grace based parenting

Written by Sarah R. Moore
Published on August 09, 2022

When I write about grace based parenting, I’m not referring to the book by Dr. Tim Kimmel, or any parenting books for that matter. Grace based parenting is more than a book or even a parenting style. Rather, it’s a way of raising children with God’s grace, limitless tenderness, and very real presence in the details of our lives. It’s not a “parenting tool”—it’s a life we create for God’s glory. 

Grace based families feel the fruit of the Spirit alive in their homes. In a grace filled life, we feel peaceful together. Life feels safe. It’s the kind of life that helps children grow up loving God because they feel him in action every day. 

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law” (Galatians 5:22-23 ESV). 

What grace based parenting isn’t 

Some parenting books and experts focus on rigid rules. Cause and effect. Behavior and consequences. The focus is often around the importance of obedience. 

To be clear, I am not denying the importance of obedience. God wants us to obey him. Naturally, we want our children to obey us, too. However, true obedience is not just about following rules. 

The Pharisees were great at rules, but we know how Jesus felt about them (he called them hypocrites in Matthew 23). In fact, God supports us rejecting rigid rules if they’re not in line with serving his kingdom. In moments of conflict, we can question whether we’re wanting our children to serve us, or to feel God’s presence. 

Does this mean we should disobey God’s instructions for living pure and holy lives and let our families run wild? No, that’s not the point at all. To the contrary, God wants very much for us to live lives that honor him. 

God sent Jesus to be our role model in life, and that includes in our parenting. That translates to the way in which we guide our children, we should guide them with Christ’s love and the fruit of the Spirit. We offer compassion like Jesus did. We offer an invitation into a forever-loving relationship, also like he did.

Grace-based parenting isn’t just for “show” to make us look good, or to “show our kids who’s boss” (that sounds like parenting the Pharisees would’ve used, doesn’t it?). It’s about honoring God by loving and living like Jesus did.

Similarly, grace based parenting is not about comparing yourself to what other parents are doing. “Not that we dare to classify or compare ourselves with some of those who are commending themselves. But when they measure themselves by one another and compare themselves with one another, they are without understanding” 2 Corinthians 10:12 ESV).

One paradigm shift for many families is to consider the difference between obedience by choice and obedience by force. God invites us to follow him. This concept of invitation is worthy of exploring in our own lives. 

When we lead peacefully, our children want to do well for us. We are born craving authentic and loving relationships, starting with the first time a parent looks into their newborn’s eyes. That desire for deep connection never goes away—it sometimes just gets distracted. 

When the distractions become too great, however, we end up focusing only on the outward expression of how our kids are feeling, and their emotional struggles morph into behavior challenges. 

Offering grace and forgiveness

The antidote, then, isn’t to push them away emotionally with punishment, but rather to draw them near with grace and forgiveness. Best-selling author Dr. Ross Greene said, “Kids do well when they can.” 

Truthfully, we all do well when we can. The thing is, though, none of us can do it alone. In true grace based parenting, we create a new map for parenting the way God intended. We parent as well as we can—and we let our kids do as well as they can—and for the rest? God is with us. 

When we come back to the core of our Christ-inspired relationship and deeply connect with our kids, the fruit of connection is healing. And from healing comes better behavior, naturally. 

Freedom from fear

Grace based families remove fear from their children’s hearts. 

God doesn’t scare us into following him. Jesus has already paid the price for our sins, as well as for those of our children. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9 ESV). 

We are forgiven. We can forgive our children when they sin against us, as well. 

Nurturing peaceful obedience

With this in mind, let’s look at discipline in a bit more detail. Jesus pursues humankind through gentleness, just like his disciples pursued the early believers. Jesus didn’t send out his disciples to punish people into believing in him—they lived by example and shared God’s love and forgiveness with the world. 

Likewise, as peaceful parents living by the fruit of the Spirit, we invite our children into relationship with us—into the holy communion of family–and from a feeling of connection and trust. 

Obedience isn’t something we need to force but something we can nurture peacefully. We want to do well for God because we love him. Our children want to do well for us because they feel safe with us. As such, we can proactively forgive our children and teach through peace, following Jesus’ model for us. 

Grace based parenting… in action

We can lead by example, as Jesus did. We can teach through stories and by sitting down together and talking peacefully, as Jesus did. Indeed, we can have healthy and loving boundaries, but we can uphold them with the safety that the rod provided to the sheep in the Bible, knowing that the rod was there to keep the sheep safe, not to harm them. 

“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me” (Psalm 23:4 ESV). 

The nature of Jesus is peace, and he came in peace as the perfect and eternal sacrifice so that we’d know how much God loves us. 

As such, when we focus on the benevolent invitation God offers to us to follow him, it changes things in our parenting. Just as Jesus sacrificed his life for us, we sacrifice our time, money, and energy for our children. 

We do this not because they’re a burden, but because Jesus modeled giving freely. Our kids don’t “owe” us anything, and therefore, they shouldn’t have to “do” anything to earn our love and approval. Our love for our children can mirror God’s love. 

Grace based parenting removes fear from the parent-child relationship and replaces it with the eternal, expansive, and true greatness of God’s love. Loving parents instinctively reject the notion that we need to rule with an iron fist because that’s not the way God shows his grace for us. 

He opens his arms to us no matter what. We can lean in and embrace our children just as they are, too, and invite them into community with us. When we see them for who they are and welcome the love they naturally receive from Christ, we can remember that God raises them with pure and compassion-based love. 

He charges us to do the same. God wants us in community with each other. 

The reality is, of course, that parenting is hard sometimes, and we’re not designed to do it without support. Whether we’re connected with other parents or even just with our spouse, God designed us to take care of one another. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ (Galatians 6:2 ESV). 

We can’t live by the fruit of the Spirit when we’re exhausted. Unbalanced child-rearing responsibilities deplete our capacity for grace for our children. When we lean on each other and let others help us, we accept that God loves us through other people. This helps replenish our resources so that we can show up peacefully for our children. 

Grace based parenting…for the parent

All this said, we will make mistakes. Lots of them. Sometimes, it can feel like we have impossible standards to live up to when we try to love like Jesus. 

Part of the beauty of grace based parenting is that not only do we show grace to our children, but we also show grace to ourselves because God gave us grace first. The grace God offers, however, isn’t just for our children. It’s for us, too. 

In grace based families, we accept that we, too, are worthy of forgiveness when our actions require it. In fact, in a healthy family, we model how to recover from mistakes. This is actually healthier than raising children in a so-called “perfect” family—who could live up to those standards? 

When we act as grace based parents, even toward ourselves, we create spiritually motivated children. How? We show them what repentance looks like. We apologize when we mess up, not only to God, but also to our kids. 

We accept that today’s Christian parenting is hard—spiritual warfare definitely sneaks into our parenting struggles. Sometimes it’s tempting to “give up” on gentle, grace based parenting, but when we remember that God never gives up on us, we can find the strength in Jesus to keep going. 

And when we model how to repair with our kids, we give them ammunition against spiritual warfare that they can use to heal their mistakes as they grow older, too.

 Leading with compassion

You can parent without fear you’re getting it “wrong” when you lead with the compassion of Christ. True, it’s hard to slow down and really see our kids sometimes. Raising kids takes time and effort. When we do slow down and put the relationship first, we lay a sound foundation for our family. This shift helps us parent them in a truly liberating way, and we have the freedom to just plain love them. It doesn’t need to be more complicated than that. 

Consider a few extra resources:

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Sarah R. Moore

Sarah R. Moore is author of Peaceful Discipline: Story Teaching, Brain Science & Better Behavior and the founder of Dandelion Seeds Positive Parenting. She’s a public speaker, armchair neuroscientist, and most importantly, a Mama. She’s a lifelong learner with training in child development, trauma recovery, interpersonal neurobiology, and improv comedy. As a certified Master Trainer in conscious parenting, she helps bring JOY, EASE, and CONNECTION back to families around the globe. Follow her on InstagramFacebookYouTube, & Twitter.

Read more about Sarah R.

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