3 Simple Steps That Will Change Your Parenting

God’s grace frees you from having 
to deny your weaknesses. 
  
— Paul Tripp, Parenting

Isn’t it crazy that before I became a parent, I knew exactly how to parent?! I could tell you all the things my friends were doing completely wrong in their parenting. I was a total expert!

Until I became a parent. 

The tables turned and my waitress asked, Do you want anything else with your humble pie, ma’am? A side of inadequacy ice cream? 

And of course, this is not just my story. Isn’t this our collective story as parents? We start so self-assurred, so able, so prepared.

But as one broken human being parents another broken human being, the brokenness can feel overwhelming. You are inadequate for the job. But here’s the thing: when you are faced with your inadequacy, you are faced with an opportunity. I have an opportunity to humble myself and ask for help. But instead, pridefully, I often put on my best perfectionism, raise the bar for myself and my children, and harden my heart. I get in my own way of letting God change me into the parent He wants me to be.

I love how Paul Tripp colors in grace in the quote above. Grace frees us to stop denying our weaknesses. To stop beating ourselves up for falling short. Stop demanding perfection of ourselves and our children. Stop pretending we have it all under control. Because we fall short. We are inadequate. We don't know how. We are not in control. If you have trouble swallowing that, read it again and begin to admit the truth. Be free from denying your weaknesses.

So what's the good news here?

Chin up, parents. In the middle of our inabilities we have access, at all times, to God Himself. He is with us as we bound up the stairs about to break up another squabble, anger building because our children need, well...parented. In this moment, if we stop and notice Him, He will stop us from making a mess. Our inadequacy is our opportunity. He will give the grace to intersect our weaknesses and short fuses and frustration and remind us of the kindness we want from Him. He will remind us of our need for His tender heart for us. We can then give that kindness and tenderness to our kids. We can speak softly. We can be tender and firm at the same time. If we are willing, we can shepherd them the way God shepherds us.

You can humble yourself and find Him. If you have a willing heart, He is willing to help you. He is with you and can bring peace when you hold a grabby and screaming child in the grocery store and all eyes are on you. He is with you for the fifth time you need to break up a fight, offering kindness to you. He is with you when your child disrespects you, again, bringing patience. And when He is with you, He is offering goodness. You, then, can offer all the same goodness you receive back to your children. And God, by His grace, will change you. 

My son recently lost his Gizmo watch. He was very upset. As I was going to talk to him, I felt my inadequacy and I knew I had an opportunity. I could come at him with a “How could you?” in shame. Or I could come next to him with a “I lose stuff all the time” in grace. We all would want a parent who says: “I know. I’ve been there. Me too.” Of course there’s consequences. But consequences served with tenderness feel very different than consequences with a side of shame. 

So try these 3 steps and see what happens: Admit. Ask. Act. Over and over today.

1. Admit: Humbly admit to God you are unable to parent how you want. Stop denying your weaknesses.
2. Ask:  Ask Him to help you and change you to Father like He does: with mercy, tenderness, joy, love, and peace.
3. Act: Practice the grace He gives you back onto your children. Did He bring peace? Give peace. Did you remember His kindness toward you? Be kind toward your children. Did He calm your racing, angry heart? Calm your children’s racing, angry heart. Receive His grace, however it looks in the moment. And then pour it back out.

I promise, you will be more like Him if you practice these three steps. The practice may feel clunky and very hard, because, well, it’s practice. But you’ll get better at admitting, asking, and then acting. You will find life in the middle of the crazy-hard-beautiful gift of parenting. Because knowing God is knowing life. 

As a father has compassion on his children,
so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him;
— Psalm 103:13

So many of these thoughts are from Paul Tripp’s book “Parenting: 14 Gospel principles that can radically change your family.” I highly recommend it!

Amy Seiffert