I’ve been hashing over a dilemma that has plagued me to a degree ever since my first kid told me no, and continues to challenge me these days as we parent many teens. In nearly every parenting journey, there’ll be times when a kiddo looks you in the face and blows a big fat raspberry, whether you’re asking him to pick up his blocks off the floor or reign in a sassy tongue or walk upstairs to get something. Obviously that kid is immature and needs some re-directing. Usually the first time or two it’s not too hard to look him in the face and say, “Answer me with respect, please.” But along about the 4th or 14th or 44th time that the same old junk rears its nasty head, it can be darned hard to keep the tone even yet firm, with eyes that are loving instead of flashing your own personal brand of flames.
Kids can be relentless. And some are just plain more hard-headed than others. How do you act in love toward them when they are choosing wrong? How do you keep your own frustration from clouding your judgement (not forgetting that ALL of us have a great need for grace and love exactly in our hard moments) while also lovingly addressing the very real issues that parents are called to address?
I do it so imperfectly. But one of the things that I was reminded of recently in Bible study is this: though God calls me to guide and direct and speak truth to my kids, He doesn’t call me to sanctify them. I can’t stop them from sinning, or from struggling with their fallen human nature. All true growth and change is between them and God. And even when I handle things well, there will be times when the middle of their struggle can look really messy. My job is to be faithful to the best of my ability. But the outcome belongs to God.
Another thing that I was reminded of by a friend is that God’s grace is there for me too, even as it is there for my kids. Yes, even when I get impatient and zip out angry words I instantly regret. That very forgiveness that I’m so grateful to have myself is also the forgiveness I need to keep offering my kids. We all need grace.
I’d love to hear your thoughts about balancing grace and guidance, and avoiding frustration when a child is being hard-headed. How do you encourage stubborn kids in a better direction?