Saturday, 11 January 2014

Teaching Grace

Last night I had a very interesting experience with my Little A. She was being a grump as we neared bedtime and was not playing nicely with her brother or her baby cousin.  I had already sent her to her room for a break and to think about her actions and while we were up there we talked about what God has told us about how we treat others.  Before letting her go back downstairs to play, I reminded her of the consequences of her actions and told her that if she wasn't sharing and playing nicely she would be sent back upstairs and would go to bed early. (There wasn't that much time til bed, but any thought of an early bedtime is a bad thing in her mind)

After a few happy, playful moments Little A wanted to cuddle her Daddy and read a book.  She climbed up on the couch with her chosen literature and as the were about to read, the worst thing happened!  Her little brother wanted to read to! (Insert sarcastically shocked face here)

So of course, the best way to handle this terrible situation is to try to push him away from her and Daddy, with her feet.  She kicked/pushed him and knocked him into the coffee table. I looked at Little A sternly and she immediately began to cry as she realised that she was going to get into trouble for the choice she made.  I sent her upstairs to her room to think about what she did and went up after a couple of minutes to talk with her.

When I got upstairs I began our usual discussion.  There are always 3 things on my list to talk with her about when she has gotten in trouble or has gone for a break. We always try to ask her:
1) what she did that was wrong?
2) why is that wrong? ( normally we try to talk to her about what God has called us to do or behave like when we talk about the why, it's not just a simple "it's not nice" kind of answer)
3)what should we do next time ?

This time when I asked her what she did that was wrong, she started to answer then began to sob and say "I have to go peeee!" So we ran to the bathroom to do her business and continue our discussion.
She knew exactly what she had done that was wrong and began to sob as we discussed the rest. It took a long time to get through our 3 point discussion.  She had a hard time answering my questions because she kept saying things like, "I don't want a spank, you shouldn't give me one."

Spanking is not something that happens very often in our house, I would rather exhaust all other alternatives consequences first. But we have actually sat down with Little A and asked her what she thought we should be consequences for certain behaviours and she herself chose spankings. I was shocked but it is what works for her.

Anyway, to try to help her understand things I asked her what should happen to her little brother if he kicked her. "He should have a spank." She responded without tears.  "So, if you kick him, what should your consequence be?"  "I should have a spank," she replied with a sad nod.

This is when my heart was rocked by 8 little words from the cutest girl I know.

"Mommy, I want you to show me grace."

Please just let that sink in for a second.

How would you respond?

I was horribly torn.    On one hand she had just been trying to get out of her consequences for kicking her brother and she really did not want to have a spanking.  On the other hand, I believe that we are the best example of who God is for our children until they have a chance to experience his love on their own. So because I feel like we show her a picture of who God is, in how we love, show grace and in discipline and correction, I was stuck with indecision for a moment, thinking"what should I do?"

This is not a normal request for a 3 year old, to ask for grace.  Maybe to ask not to be spanked or not to have a time out, but the words that she chose made all the difference.  

Probably a week and a half ago Little A got into trouble for being disobedient. It was mild and really wasn't something I needed to stand my ground on, but I had told her to do it and she chose not to listen.  She did not get a time out but I did pull her aside, sit her on my lap and have our normal 3 point discussion. She asked me if she was going to get a spanking for what she did.  Really, I was not about to give her one for something I didn't think was a big issue, but I used the opportunity to teach her about Grace.  " Do you think you should have a spanking for doing what you did?"   
"Yes." she responded downcast. 
"Well, this time mommy is going to show you some grace. I know that you were caught up in what you were doing and that you were not trying to disobey, so I am not going to spank you. I am going to show you grace just like God shows us grace." That was all I said. I didn't go into much detail of what grace is or tell her a long story about what God has done for us. It was short and sweet and I didn't think it sunk in at all.   
She had not talk about grace since then and never had before that time. 

Until yesterday. 

So, there I am torn, her sad little face staring into my eyes waiting for my response.  I had to ask myself, is it more important for her to have the consequence we just discussed her deserving, or is it better to show her the grace of God and let her continue without the consequence. 

I don't allow my kids to manipulate me with their tears (they are both amazingly gifted at faking them), and we, Hubby and myself, both believe that we must follow through with any consequence that we have set out, consistency is key with parenting.  But.  She really seemed sincere in her request for grace. It didn't feel like manipulation and I felt a stirring in my spirit to allow this to be about something bigger than a consequence. 

So I sat her down in front of me and held her hands. "You know what sweetie, this time, I am going to show you grace.   It was not okay that you kicked your brother. God has told us that we need to be kind to our brothers and sisters. ( John 13:34  simplified for kids) But God has also shown us grace, we sin and he still chose to send his son and forgive us even when we don't deserve it.  Next time when you don't like what your brother is doing, you need to remember that I showed you grace and that you need to show him grace as well."

She hugged me with tears in her eyes and ran to her room to finish getting ready for bed. 

Thats when I started to doubt.  I started to feel like I had been played and she just got away with something and was going to continue to use the "show me grace" thing to get out of trouble. 

But then, when she was laying in bed and saying her "Thank you" prayers (when she says thank you to God for a million things that she is thankful for), part of her prayer went like this:
"And thank you God that Mommy showed me grace like you do."

The doubt began to slip away and was able to trust again in the leading I had thought I felt.  Today, to add to the reassuring, Little A stopped herself a few times when she was being mean to her brother. Then at one point she actually stopped herself when he was being a pest and said "I am showing you grace, here let me help you."

I almost cried.  It was amazing to actually see her grasp hold of grace and what it means.  

Grace is something that most of us adults don't really understand.   We get the basic idea but we constantly fight against it feeling like we must do something to earn it instead of allowing the real miracle of grace to cover us and all of our sin. Then, because we don't walk in grace, we fail to show the grace of God to others as well.  

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.
Ephesians 2:8-9

Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
Hebrews 4:14-16

Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.
Romans 6:13-14

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