In today’s loud and sometimes cruel world, teaching our children to show grace is more important than ever…
How many of you hear on about a daily basis:
Why does so and so get to do XYZ and I can’t?
Why does so and so get to watch (insert TV program of choice) and I don’t?
Why does so and so have a (insert any technological device) and you won’t let me have one?
Why is so and so allowed to see rated R movies?
We can answer our children’s questions, by teaching them about grace, rather than encouraging them to judge the choices of others.
It can be a tricky road to navigate explaining to your children why your family makes certain choices or sets certain boundaries without sounding like your passing judgement on the lives and choices of others.
There are certainly some cases when a parent or a child is acting in a way that is clearly wrong by just about anyone’s standards. In those instances, being clear about the behavior and why it is not okay is the right thing to do. Unfortunately, most situations are not that black and white, and it often comes down to different values and different family dynamics.
If you are looking for ways to respond that show grace and will teach your child to be considerate of others choices, rather than setting an example of condemning others, here are a few tried and true options I’ve used with success over the years.
Simple Graceful Responses That are Effective:
1. Not all families are the same and not all families will make the same choices.
2. Our family choices are not made by looking at what others are doing, we make our choices based on what we feel is right for us.
3. Our job is to parent you and we make our decisions based on who you are. Each child and each family is unique.
How to Handle the EVERYBODY Argument:
Another common tactic children use in their arguments is “Everybody” is doing x,y,z. “Everybody” has a,b, c. While we are all familiar with the age old response of, “Well, if everybody was jumping off a bridge….” I think we have to acknowledge that isn’t always going to be a sufficient explanation for our wise and observant children.
Since it is HIGHLY unlikely that “Everybody” is really doing and having, my husband and I have found in most cases that we are clued in enough to know who else is in the “Not Everybody” category. So, we’ve started using the following response on these occasions. It adds a little humor to the mix, while not minimizing their feelings entirely.
We happen to know for a fact that Suzie, Bobby and Jack are not able to do X or have Y. At the point that this changes for Suzie, Bobby and Jack, you let us know and we will be happy to reconsider. This does not mean we will or won’t change our minds, but until it really is “Everybody” we know you aren’t suffering alone.
Children all grow and mature at different rates. We feel that you are not ready to handle this responsibility at this time, but we will continue to evaluate the situation. Why don’t we plan to discuss it again (insert whatever time frame is reasonable.)
We trust you, but the activity you are asking to be a part of/ or xyz device you want also relies on other people to show the same good choices as you do. We think that those around you may still need to mature a little bit more for it to be a positive experience for you.
Persistence vs. Real Passion – Giving Your Child Grace:
Now, if you are one of those lucky parents that have a truly persistent child (and I’ve got two), then you may find that they will pursue other ways to raise exactly the same issue over and over again. In these instances, sometimes it isn’t people outside our family who need to be shown grace instead of judgement, but our own children. In those cases, try this:
The fact that you are continuing to bring this to our attention shows us that you really care about this issue. If you care that deeply, why don’t you research the topic (yes, this often means you have to help guide their searching on the computer or help them get a book from the library) and come up with three points on the subject that you think will help us better understand the subject and your point of view.
I’ll be honest, most of the time that is enough to put an end to it once and for all, because in the end they weigh the effort against their sense of injustice and they just aren’t equal. This can help parents determine how serious the child really is about this issue.
However, if they actually go to all the trouble to research something, then be willing to have an open mind. Perhaps you will be surprised to see their side of things, which could lead to a worthwhile lesson in negotiation. If the answer is still no, at least the child will feel like you took them seriously and they will learn that they have a better shot at being heard and even changing someone’s mind when they come prepared and can back up their argument. Not bad life skills to teach them early!
We may never know what is going on behind the scenes with other families or why they make the choices they do. However, I think we can all agree that the world would be a better place for all children if there was a little less judgement and A LOT more Grace!
If you liked this post, here are some others you might also want to read:
How does your family show grace to others?