Call it what you want. Love and law or grace and truth, most parents struggle with it. How do I effectively show love and grace to my children while at the same time speak the truth and making sure they measure up to what’s expected?
At times it can seem like a difficult task, yet not an impossible task. The Bible refers to grace as “unmerited favor.” Grace is a form of unconditional love. The law or truth is the reality of what “really is.” Usually one parent is the “grace parent” often perceived as a push over or weak, while the other is the “law parent” often thought of as too stern and mean. As parents we tend to lean toward one or the other and the worse part is that our children pick up on it.
I like what Raising Great Kids says, “Choosing between the two is not the problem. Getting them together is.”
Understanding how they work together is the trick. Grace and love is what creates that bond between you and your child. This is the human side of parenting. Your kids want to know that you relate and that you understand their pain. Truth brings direction and structure.
Here is a great example. Let’s say that Johnny forgot to put his clothes away before dinner. Law or truth would say, “Johnny, how many times do I have to tell you to put away your clothes!? You’re not listening. I wish you would listen. Go put your clothes away NOW!” The truth is that, yes, Johnny should be putting his clothes away, however without love or grace it comes across as negative, mean-spirited and empty. Love would say, “Oh, Johnny, it must be tough for you to put these clothes away. Let me help you do this after dinner.” Such love and warmth, but where’s the direction and boundaries. How is Johnny ever going to learn to do what’s expected of him if there’s no structure to guide his behavior?
Here’s a response with both love/grace and law/truth:
“Johnny, I know you want to play and picking up your clothes isn’t your favorite thing to do. However, you must pick up your clothes before you eat dinner. When your clothes are picked up and dinner is done then you can play.”
What just happened? Well, you totally related to Johnny and put yourself in his shoes, but then you laid out clear expectations for him and told him what must be done.
You can do it. Try it this week. Before correcting your children, think about correcting them using love and law—grace and truth!