Grace-Based Parenting

One of the most-asked questions I get as I travel around is, “How do we raise our children in this new life of grace?” I often found myself lamenting the fact that I didn’t have a resource to recommend for people. Well now I do! I have found the best book on parenting I’ve ever read that blends freedom and grace with discipline and growth. It’s called Loving Our Kid’s on Purpose By Danny Silk. I have not read a book in the last two years that I would recommend with more enthusiasm than this one. Not only will it give you a framework to deal with your own children, it will also help you understand the process by which Jesus deals with us. It’s a real two-fer—grace without permissiveness, for children as well as adults!

Honestly, I’m confident the reason why so many people have a difficult time embracing God’s grace is that it feels too permissive to them. We know that grace is the polar opposite to the performance-based conformity models of child-rearing that we’ve learned in our homes, schools, and religious structures. I’ve been asked countless times, “So God just loves us while we do whatever we want?”

People who think such things, don’t yet understand God or grace. Fear and intimidation only work so long, but never transform the human heart. That only comes through choice. Grace is not a permission slip to go destroy yourself. Grace opens the door to know God. And you can’t know God without wanting to be like him. There is no permissiveness in grace—just freedom. That freedom opens the door to an amazing work of transformation God does as we follow him. And if you don’t get that, he will still love you. But like the prodigal son, eventually the destructive consequences of living with you at the center will eventually overwhelm you. Grace opens a door to relationship, it doesn’t negate our destructive choices. If you want to understand this process better, go out and get a copy of Loving Our Kids on Purpose. You won’t regret it. And if you have young children you want to parent with God’s heart, so much the better.

A young mother with two children from South Carolina first put the book on my radar screen. She wrote:

At first I was hesitant because Christian parenting books and I have never gotten along very well, and it’s been so nice to not be living under shame, rules and condemnation — and they tend to heap those on me in spades (rather, I heap it on). But this book has been very different. It illustrates how we can relate to our children in the way that the Father relates to us — out of a heart of love and patience and freedom without spirits of fear and control, yet not being permissive parents — still being our kids’ guides and teachers. It’s not a book of strict how-to’s or magic formulas. They’re just very simple, fundamental principles that jive with the glimpses of the Father’s heart that we’ve seen the last few years.

It’s not a silver bullet by any means because it’s not going to be an overnight change and things will never be perfect because there are four very human beings in the house who make selfish choices every five minutes. But I do believe the overall tone of our home can change and that the girls will then see Jesus modeled in us and come to understand the true nature of the Father’s heart. The first step in walking this out will be self-control on our parts — not reacting out of selfish anger, taking time to think through situations before we act, and intentionally choosing to allow love and respect to dictate our attitudes. That won’t exactly be easy because we’ve nurtured some bad habits, but hopefully as we make the right choice more often, the right seeds will grow in our hearts. The next step will be extending to them the freedom to make mistakes and learn from them without shame and condemnation, being there for them as they experience the consequences of their decisions. In the end, it’s really about treating them the way we want others to treat us and the way God does treat us.

She’s dead on! I talked my daughter into buying the book and then read her copy two nights ago. I laughed. I wanted to shout AMEN on just about every page. I could easily have slipped the best moments of our parenting into his illustrations, even though I didn’t know why those moments felt so right at the time. And I lamented those things that I’d done that only sought to win their conformity to my rules with fear and intimidation. This is parenting that puts the heart to heart connection with your child above anything else and out of that instills in them a culture of respect, good decision-making and consequences for their own choices. This is parenting with a sense of humor, not anger. It offers the ability to motivate kids without alienating them, and loving them without giving-in to their baser instincts.

Let me share with you some excerpts from the book:

This book will show you that the goal of obedience and compliance is an inferior goal. It can actually be detrimental to both your children’s development of personal responsibility and their perception of God as Father. Although obedience is an important part of our relationship with our children, it is not the most important quality. If we fail to take care of the most important matters first, what we build on top of our foundation will not support what we are hoping to accomplish as parents….

There is a huge difference between a culture where obedience and compliance are the bottom line and a culture where relationship is the bottom line.

In order to train our children in love, our behavior as parents must reduce fear, not increase fiear. When happens when you go toe-to-toe with one of your kids? What happens when one of your kids does not want to obey? What do you do when your child lies in your face? What is your response when your child gives you something ugly like disrespect? …As much as love casts out the fear, fear will cast out love. Love and fear are enemies. They are completely different sources. Love is from God , and His enemy produces fear. We need some methods, tools and skills to respond to ur child’s sin in such a way that we create love, not fear.

And what’s more this grace-based parenting works with children of all ages—from our youngest toddlers to our adult children. It offers hope to restore that heart connection where it has gotten lost to our power-based conformity tactics with older kids. And what I like most is that while this book is incredibly practical, Danny doesn’t give how-to formulas for every situation. Instead he gives us a very simple framework in which to consider our possible actions and the opportunity to look to the Holy Spirit for direction as we work through the daily realities with our own children.

If you want to understand how God’s discipline functions in your own life and how that can change the way you parent, go get a copy of this book! Devour it. You won’t regret it!

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30 Comments
  1. kent April 18, 2009 at 10:38 am

    Wayne, one of the other vital components that had been missing in my life that hindered my ability to be for my daughters what they needed is described in this excerpt from Anne Lamott. She is speaking about some advice she had recieved from a youth worker in regards to what her son Sam needed from her.

    “My friend Mark, who works with church youth groups reminded me recently that Sam doesn’t need me to correct his feelings. He needs me to listen, to be clear and fair and parental. But most of all he needs me to be alive in a way that makes him feel he will be able to bear adulthood, because he is terrified of death, and that includes growing up to be one of the stressed-out, grey-faced adults he sees rushing around him.”

    Grace set me free from my stressed-out, grey-faced former life. Our culture produces stressed-out, grey-faced, scrambling adults and it unfortunately grabs hold of our children rather early also.

  2. Shannon Brown April 18, 2009 at 12:13 pm

    Thank you for sharing this Wayne. As a mom of 3(2 teens, 1 pre-teen), I have had a hard time wrapping my head around parenting my kids with the grace and love that God has shown me. It has been so ingrained in me that obedience without questioning is top priority. I have made many mistakes and wish I could do it all differently, but God has been showing me that it’s never too late. I have been hesitant to buy any parenting books for quite awhile…they usually make me confused and magnify my failures. From your description, I think this book will clarify questions I have about God’s discipline in my own life and what that looks like in my role as a mom.

  3. Free Spirit April 18, 2009 at 12:25 pm

    Wayne, thank you for this recommendation. I have so been sensing His leading me to change my parenting approach, and do find it slowly happening as His own heart and love are more and more revealed to me. It is changing everything about me, and how I think. But, I welcome a book that will help to further open up my understanding, especially on matters of parenting by grace. I have far to go, here, and I have 4 small children (ages 7 and under) who, no doubt, will appreciate the change.

    This has been a big question in my mind of how to balance and reconcile teaching of obedience with that of grace, when it comes to raising young kids. Thank you again!!

    Kent, you continue to offer me hope!

  4. kent April 18, 2009 at 1:38 pm

    Wayne, one of the other vital components that had been missing in my life that hindered my ability to be for my daughters what they needed is described in this excerpt from Anne Lamott. She is speaking about some advice she had recieved from a youth worker in regards to what her son Sam needed from her.

    “My friend Mark, who works with church youth groups reminded me recently that Sam doesn’t need me to correct his feelings. He needs me to listen, to be clear and fair and parental. But most of all he needs me to be alive in a way that makes him feel he will be able to bear adulthood, because he is terrified of death, and that includes growing up to be one of the stressed-out, grey-faced adults he sees rushing around him.”

    Grace set me free from my stressed-out, grey-faced former life. Our culture produces stressed-out, grey-faced, scrambling adults and it unfortunately grabs hold of our children rather early also.

  5. Anonymous April 18, 2009 at 1:57 pm

    Mom Blogs – Blogs for Moms…

  6. Richard April 18, 2009 at 2:55 pm

    Wayne,

    We’re going to look into this book you’re recommending, and please hear me, I’m not nit-picking here at all, but this seems to keep crashing into me when and where ever it comes into a conversation regarding the story that Jesus spoke of from Luke 15.

    You said, (as well as many continue to say, imply), “But like the ‘prodigal son’, eventually the destructive consequences of living with you at the center will eventually overwhelm you.”
    Why is this picture so one sided, meaning wasn’t it actually as you have shared in different ways, a story about a most generous Father dealing out of His great love for TWO prodigal sons?
    Is the lifestyle depicted in the one, (the oldest) son who stayed at home any less destructive than his in your face defiant self-willed younger brothers?

    It is my growing awareness, that His amazing grace was something greatly needed by both of his lost sons. As it is that which has and is made available to all who were born into this fallen world, whether outwardly broken, dented, damaged or those who are blinded to the destructive ruin that sin brought into those ones who like the elder son in Luke 15 who didn’t enter into outward observable depravity.

  7. Shannon Brown April 18, 2009 at 3:13 pm

    Thank you for sharing this Wayne. As a mom of 3(2 teens, 1 pre-teen), I have had a hard time wrapping my head around parenting my kids with the grace and love that God has shown me. It has been so ingrained in me that obedience without questioning is top priority. I have made many mistakes and wish I could do it all differently, but God has been showing me that it’s never too late. I have been hesitant to buy any parenting books for quite awhile…they usually make me confused and magnify my failures. From your description, I think this book will clarify questions I have about God’s discipline in my own life and what that looks like in my role as a mom.

  8. Wayne April 18, 2009 at 3:20 pm

    Richard,

    Of course they are the same and the destructive consequences also caught up with the older. It just takes longer and is harder to see when he is caught up in religion. Unfortunately, however, most parents are more worried about their children going worldly than they are going religious. But that’s a different discussion.

  9. Free Spirit April 18, 2009 at 3:25 pm

    Wayne, thank you for this recommendation. I have so been sensing His leading me to change my parenting approach, and do find it slowly happening as His own heart and love are more and more revealed to me. It is changing everything about me, and how I think. But, I welcome a book that will help to further open up my understanding, especially on matters of parenting by grace. I have far to go, here, and I have 4 small children (ages 7 and under) who, no doubt, will appreciate the change.

    This has been a big question in my mind of how to balance and reconcile teaching of obedience with that of grace, when it comes to raising young kids. Thank you again!!

    Kent, you continue to offer me hope!

  10. Anonymous April 18, 2009 at 4:57 pm

    Mom Blogs – Blogs for Moms…

  11. Richard April 18, 2009 at 5:55 pm

    Wayne,

    We’re going to look into this book you’re recommending, and please hear me, I’m not nit-picking here at all, but this seems to keep crashing into me when and where ever it comes into a conversation regarding the story that Jesus spoke of from Luke 15.

    You said, (as well as many continue to say, imply), “But like the ‘prodigal son’, eventually the destructive consequences of living with you at the center will eventually overwhelm you.”
    Why is this picture so one sided, meaning wasn’t it actually as you have shared in different ways, a story about a most generous Father dealing out of His great love for TWO prodigal sons?
    Is the lifestyle depicted in the one, (the oldest) son who stayed at home any less destructive than his in your face defiant self-willed younger brothers?

    It is my growing awareness, that His amazing grace was something greatly needed by both of his lost sons. As it is that which has and is made available to all who were born into this fallen world, whether outwardly broken, dented, damaged or those who are blinded to the destructive ruin that sin brought into those ones who like the elder son in Luke 15 who didn’t enter into outward observable depravity.

  12. Wayne April 18, 2009 at 6:20 pm

    Richard,

    Of course they are the same and the destructive consequences also caught up with the older. It just takes longer and is harder to see when he is caught up in religion. Unfortunately, however, most parents are more worried about their children going worldly than they are going religious. But that’s a different discussion.

  13. Mark April 18, 2009 at 6:26 pm

    Wayne, I would like to get this for our daughter who has a 8 month old boy, (OUR FIRST GRANDSON). I appreciate your love in sharing & teaching on this journey. For my wife & I this is the beginning of a new journey away from the I-Church, (Institutional Church), which is our little code word after being in the I-Church for 20 years. So anything you have to offer I want to look into. I feel as if we were hard on our 2 kids who grew up in church with all the baggage we gave them to pack away. Now that they are older I have talked with both of them and asked for forgiveness. I want our daughter to understand now while she & my son-in-law raise their new son that they may look into a grace type of raising instead of works. The part in “You don’t want to go to church anymore?” where John is checking out the young ones in Sunday school spoke a lot to me about how we were with ours. By the way love this book and “He Loves Me” that I even read them through twice and I am certain I will be reading them again. Helped me bunches, believe me. Thanks my brother, love you.

  14. Mark April 18, 2009 at 9:26 pm

    Wayne, I would like to get this for our daughter who has a 8 month old boy, (OUR FIRST GRANDSON). I appreciate your love in sharing & teaching on this journey. For my wife & I this is the beginning of a new journey away from the I-Church, (Institutional Church), which is our little code word after being in the I-Church for 20 years. So anything you have to offer I want to look into. I feel as if we were hard on our 2 kids who grew up in church with all the baggage we gave them to pack away. Now that they are older I have talked with both of them and asked for forgiveness. I want our daughter to understand now while she & my son-in-law raise their new son that they may look into a grace type of raising instead of works. The part in “You don’t want to go to church anymore?” where John is checking out the young ones in Sunday school spoke a lot to me about how we were with ours. By the way love this book and “He Loves Me” that I even read them through twice and I am certain I will be reading them again. Helped me bunches, believe me. Thanks my brother, love you.

  15. Jonathan Hutton April 19, 2009 at 6:38 am

    Thanks for this review. I went straight to amazon to order it.
    You’ll have to ask Danny for a commission. I keep reading your books for free. 🙂
    (Tho I’ll likely buy a paper copy of He Loves Me to share with others).

    Thanks!

  16. Jonathan Hutton April 19, 2009 at 9:38 am

    Thanks for this review. I went straight to amazon to order it.
    You’ll have to ask Danny for a commission. I keep reading your books for free. 🙂
    (Tho I’ll likely buy a paper copy of He Loves Me to share with others).

    Thanks!

  17. Gary R April 20, 2009 at 3:23 pm

    Wayne, We develop and offer online Masters Degrees in Education. We integrate faith and learning into our course by having the students read a faith-based book that they can apply professionally as well as to their lives. Do you feel that this book would be a good faith-based read that teachers could apply to their profession as well as personally?

  18. Wayne April 20, 2009 at 3:58 pm

    Gary,

    I think it would be a great tool to use in the classroom. I know teachers who use a First Amendment model in the classroom for all discipline. Instead of writing endless, repetitive sentences, they write an essay on “how my behavior infringed on the freedoms of others today. This approach to making good decision-makers and helping kids understand consequences is the missing element in our academic approaches to class discipline. Read it, see what you think.

  19. Gary R April 20, 2009 at 6:23 pm

    Wayne, We develop and offer online Masters Degrees in Education. We integrate faith and learning into our course by having the students read a faith-based book that they can apply professionally as well as to their lives. Do you feel that this book would be a good faith-based read that teachers could apply to their profession as well as personally?

  20. Wayne April 20, 2009 at 6:58 pm

    Gary,

    I think it would be a great tool to use in the classroom. I know teachers who use a First Amendment model in the classroom for all discipline. Instead of writing endless, repetitive sentences, they write an essay on “how my behavior infringed on the freedoms of others today. This approach to making good decision-makers and helping kids understand consequences is the missing element in our academic approaches to class discipline. Read it, see what you think.

  21. kbcrazy April 21, 2009 at 7:13 am

    It has always made sense to me that you have to love someone before you can be a role model or disciplinarian in their lives. Relationship has always come first. Why is it such a shock to so many that this message is simple? I guess I dont get parents who forget to love their children and be there for them, no matter what. Seems like common sense to me.

  22. kbcrazy April 21, 2009 at 10:13 am

    It has always made sense to me that you have to love someone before you can be a role model or disciplinarian in their lives. Relationship has always come first. Why is it such a shock to so many that this message is simple? I guess I dont get parents who forget to love their children and be there for them, no matter what. Seems like common sense to me.

  23. Mike April 22, 2009 at 6:36 am

    I just read the 1st few pages on Amazon and I am sold. Sounds like an excellent read on more levels than just parenting.

  24. Mike April 22, 2009 at 9:36 am

    I just read the 1st few pages on Amazon and I am sold. Sounds like an excellent read on more levels than just parenting.

  25. Marie June 8, 2009 at 11:17 am

    Hi, Shannon Brown,

    I am in the same boat as you
    ie: “As a mom of 3(2 teens, 1 pre-teen), I have had a hard time wrapping my head around parenting my kids with the grace and love that God has shown me. It has been so ingrained in me that obedience without questioning is top priority. I have made many mistakes and wish I could do it all differently, but God has been showing me that it’s never too late. I have been hesitant to buy any parenting books for quite awhile…they usually make me confused and magnify my failures.”

    Do you have an e-mail address so we could converse more? I am looking for other wives in a similar position.

    Thanks,
    Marie

  26. Marie June 8, 2009 at 2:17 pm

    Hi, Shannon Brown,

    I am in the same boat as you
    ie: “As a mom of 3(2 teens, 1 pre-teen), I have had a hard time wrapping my head around parenting my kids with the grace and love that God has shown me. It has been so ingrained in me that obedience without questioning is top priority. I have made many mistakes and wish I could do it all differently, but God has been showing me that it’s never too late. I have been hesitant to buy any parenting books for quite awhile…they usually make me confused and magnify my failures.”

    Do you have an e-mail address so we could converse more? I am looking for other wives in a similar position.

    Thanks,
    Marie

  27. TeenDad August 11, 2009 at 5:54 pm

    I’m now 19 and experiencing being a dad. I must say although it feels good it’s still hard. I knew it wouldn’t be easy but to be honest, the hard part is having to balance time. My daughter is great and makes managing her never dreadful. -Teen dad

  28. TeenDad August 11, 2009 at 8:54 pm

    I’m now 19 and experiencing being a dad. I must say although it feels good it’s still hard. I knew it wouldn’t be easy but to be honest, the hard part is having to balance time. My daughter is great and makes managing her never dreadful. -Teen dad

  29. Kevin Swartzendruber July 6, 2012 at 10:32 pm

    It is untrue that all fear is from the enemy. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom… not love. Love is the end of wisdom. My children are at the beginning of learning wisdom, so they need a healthy dose of fear just as Israel did. Children should never be allowed to disrespect parents without fear. Those who teach this unbalanced approach to child rearing claiming it’s based on how God parents, haven’t kept in mind that God parented Israel in the wilderness and sometimes used fear. He even used a healthy dose of fear early on with the church with Ananias and his wife. The sad fact is, that many who go up this rabbit trail will not only not get the rabbit, but will also lose their children to the big bad wolf.

  30. Kevin Swartzendruber July 7, 2012 at 1:32 am

    It is untrue that all fear is from the enemy. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom… not love. Love is the end of wisdom. My children are at the beginning of learning wisdom, so they need a healthy dose of fear just as Israel did. Children should never be allowed to disrespect parents without fear. Those who teach this unbalanced approach to child rearing claiming it’s based on how God parents, haven’t kept in mind that God parented Israel in the wilderness and sometimes used fear. He even used a healthy dose of fear early on with the church with Ananias and his wife. The sad fact is, that many who go up this rabbit trail will not only not get the rabbit, but will also lose their children to the big bad wolf.

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