Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Grace, Mercy & Discipline

About a week ago, our family made a quick stop at the grocery store on our way home from dinner. Instead of lugging two tired girls into the store, we just decided that Kevin would run in to get the few things we needed, and I’d just wait in the car. Kate begged to go in, and I told her that she just needed to be patient and wait with in the car with me. She continued to beg, so Kevin got her out to take her into the store with him.

As they were walking in, Kevin was trying to grab Kate’s hand. She was frustrated and she jerked away. And then they had this little conversation…

Kate: “She is SO ANNOYING.”
Kevin: “Who is?”
Kate: “My mom. She never lets me do ANYTHING!”

Ouch. (And by the way, we have a 3 year old, but doesn’t it sure sound like we have a 15 year old?)

Let me be honest. I am struggling. Struggling to know how to exercise grace and mercy with my 3 year old, while still enforcing discipline.

You see, Kate is strong willed. She is VERY strong willed. Even that adjective might not be strong enough for Miss Kate. The definition “threenager” completely applies to her.

In her mind:
She knows it all.
She can do it all.
She makes the rules.
She is in charge.
She has an opinion on everything.

Who knew you were a grown person at three years old? She really thinks this. She tells me all the time “When I was a little girl…” and is just beyond shocked when I tell her “Kate, you still ARE a little girl.”

And, you know, she is really good at trying to convince us that she IS right:
She is a negotiator.
She is a manipulator.
She is stubborn.
She is independent.
She is so very smart.

She is what we will affectionately call “spirited”, and I love her so much it hurts.

If we give her an inch, she takes not just one mile, but 50 miles. And I am not exaggerating. Not even slightly. So to say that we have to be diligent in our discipline is an understatement. We cannot give in to her, or she thinks that she really IS in charge and she completely takes advantage of it.

However, I don’t want her to perceive us, her parents, as dictators and punishers. Yes, we do punish her, but we don’t want her to think that is all we do. We want her to understand mercy and grace and what that means. How much easier must it be for a child to understand God’s mercy and His grace, and what that means for them, when they have received mercy and grace from their own parents?

But how do we accomplish that? How to we let her experience mercy and grace without just letting her get away with whatever she wants. Because that just wouldn’t work.

In my opinion, the best way to show our kids mercy and grace is when they mess up.  If they mess up, or if they accidentally do something that causes negative consequences, they might deserve to be disciplined, but it is a perfect time for us to show them mercy and grace. It is the perfect time for us to explain “Yes, you did this and you deserve to receive some type of punishment, right? But I know you did not do this on purpose. I know you made a mistake. So this time, I will not give you any consequences. But, what can we do to make sure that this does not happen again? You’re not getting a free pass. You can learn from this. What have you learned?”

You see, we can still learn while receiving grace and mercy, and isn’t that the point of discipline? Focus on the Family has a great chart that shows the purpose of discipline. It specifically defines the purpose of discipline as to “train for correction and maturity”.

I am thankful for a Creator who freely gives us both grace and mercy, if we choose to put our trust in the Son, Jesus Christ. We are bestowed mercy when we are not punished for our sins, as we deserve. Mercy is NOT getting what we DO deserve. We deserve hell, but we are delivered from judgement through Jesus Christ.

But when God our Savior revealed his kindness and love, he saved us, not because of the righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He washed away our sins, giving us a new birth and new life through the Holy Spirit. Titus 3:4-5

I’m thankful for God’s grace, and for the blessings and kindness that He gives us, though I am not worthy. Grace is a gift, it is getting something we DO NOT deserve.

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. Ephesians 2:8-9

I want my children to experience grace and mercy from their parents. And above that, I want them to know that they have parents who mess up and daily receive grace and mercy from our heavenly father. As parents, we’re to lead by example. And leading a strong-willed child is no easy task.


  1. I completely agree! Lily Caroline is starting to be more strong willed, sassy and bossy towards us- it is hard! While the toddler years are so tough, I'm already praying about the teen years!! Thankful for friends to go through it together ;)

  2. You are so right- it's not an easy task. My 4 year old is strong-willed as well and I get SO frustrated! I struggle with knowing how best to discipline her but to also show her grace and mercy. I know I've not done a very good job so far. Oh, and my daughter frequently tells me and/or her dad that she doesn't like me or she wants a new mommy. I guess it comes with the territory.


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