Along with building joy and feelings of love, a very important part of family life reflects the very family of God—that of giving grace, favor that is not deserved. Giving grace to those around us draws them to God and His ways. Children who grow up in a family filled with grace are more likely to want to know God.
A grace-filled family separates who the family members are from what the members (and others) do. One very easy way to do this is by the words we use, especially when disciplining the children. Since lying is one of the first sins committed by us humans (Psalm 58:3), we can begin early to teach and model grace by saying things like, “We don’t like lying in our home. We don’t want any lying around here and we won’t have any lying around here.” The opposite of grace-filled phrases will sound more like, “We don’t like liars in our home, we don’t want any liars and we won’t have any liars around here.” Just this simple change in one word makes a huge difference in how a child will view himself. It is vital to communicate that the actions are unacceptable, not the person.
There is another phrase commonly used by parents and teachers that helps communicate the difference in actions and personhood. This phrase has taken the place of one used in days past that did not help to distinguish this difference. That phrase is “good job” used in place of “good boy” or “good girl.” Children are realists enough to know that they are not always good, so they may not believe us when they hear, “You are such a good boy (girl) for helping pick up your toys.” But they can be proud of themselves when they know that what they did was done well.
We can also encourage and affirm personhood by affirming good character, saying things such as, “I like the way you were kind to your sister.” Or “That was such a helpful thing you did.” It is more helpful to affirm specific qualities that we want the child to have and exhibit than to just throw out, “good boy or girl.”
Taken from Handbook to Joy-Filled Parenting
In Part 2, we will look at how grace fits with mistakes and failure.