An Early Lesson In Grace

Over our Christmas/New Years holiday we put a few things down in our calendar that we wanted to do with the kids: watch some Disney movies, go to a local indoor playplace, and use a giftcard that we had for Coldstone. Disney movies are cute and all, and those indoor bouncy places are great for wearing down the munchkins, but the ice cream was what I was personally looking forward to. I mean, who doesn’t love French Vanilla ice cream, chocolate chips, cookie dough, fudge, and caramel all mixed together in heavenly goodness? Needless to say, I was looking forward to it.

Our plan was to head out after dinner, so we began our evening in the same fashion as we always did. Our kids eat everything, so we weren’t expecting anything out of the ordinary before heading out for our family-date. But something happened: our 3-yr old would not eat her food. We aren’t ones to force feed, or assist her with the fork, simply because we know that she can feed herself. And when she didn’t want to touch her food we knew that some discipline needed to be involved.

We tried being patient and affording her a little extra time to eat her dinner. We tried a couple discipline methods like moving her food away for a few minutes so she could refocus, but we were stuck in the same spot. In my head I’m saying, “Just eat your food, so we can go to Coldstone!” But there we were, much later than we hoped for, and she had only eaten a fraction of what we wanted her to eat (our 19 mo ate 3 helpings!). What do we do? Follow through with what we said (no ice cream) or “give in” and potentially encourage behavior like this (where we knew that she knew that she was being disobedient)? 

We opted for option 3. After dinner, I pulled her aside and explained the situation. Jen and I both realized that we could use this as a mini-grace lesson in her life. Even in a small example as this one, we were reminded of the grace that our Father gives to us each and every day. In that moment, we knew that our daughter realized her error, yet her heart was still hard (she did not want to obey/eat). But the bigger idea we wanted to communicate was that God extends grace to us everyday and we wanted to show grace to her in this situation. We believe that in the moments of discipline or hard-heartedness, our hearts can be softened by the revelation of the grace our Father. So, when I pulled her aside and talked through the situation, I did my best to communicate that.

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.” (Eph 2:8-9)

Is it too early to talk about this stuff when she may not fully grasp what we were trying to communicate? Maybe. But in the end, our hope that these seeds take root early in her life even though we may not see the fruit of them until later in her life. And, yes – we enjoyed the family ice cream date!

At and early age or not, how do you communicate lessons like this to your children?

Photo credit: Ultrateg

13 Comments

  • Kyle Reed

    January 7, 2011

    Well I do not have any children, but I use to be one (and sometimes still act like one) and I think the biggest thing I notice is that children notice. One thing I see is that kids watch everything, so being able to demonstrate grace is huge. Reminds me so much of Romans 5, while we were still sinners christ died for us.
    being able to see the perfect example set of grace.
    I think kids are very perceptive and if they see grace demonstrated they can pick up on it. I think you are wise for trying to do this with your kids.

    Reply
    • Dustin

      January 7, 2011

      Thanks for the thoughts, Kyle. You know-I never thought of it that way. Demonstrating that could be a huge example to even our youngest child as well… with her noticing and observing everything.

      Reply
  • Bob Willits (Tapper)

    January 7, 2011

    A few years ago, our 18 year old son was arrested with 2 other kids from the church youth group. I had to pick my son up at the local police station. They were driving around (my son was the driver) at 2am throwing eggs at the homes of other church members (they had a map & a list). While the infraction was kinda silly, it was embarrassing & (later) I could see that my son felt crushed for the way he had let me down. At the police station both other dads screamed at their sons. I never said a word or made eye contact w/ my son the entire time.

    The next day at church us 3 dads were in a circle talking. One dad said he grounded his son for 6 months. The other dad said he grounded his son for a month & was making him pay all the fines. They asked me what I did to Matt and I told them: “I told Matt please don’t ever do this again”.

    I could see Matt felt shame for embarrassing me & I felt that no additional punishment was necessary. Behavioral correction was already happening internally with my boy. This was a time to show grace & I’m glad God gave me the wisdom to handle it that way.

    That night, my son created a new email address for himself called “breakmexxxx” where the xxxx represent the date it happened. He wanted a permanent reminder that God had broken him & I believe that my grace was instrumental in helping him see the situation more clearly.

    Reply
    • Dustin

      January 7, 2011

      Bob, that is an amazing example. I especially love that he was able to use that situation as a milestone marker in his life as an example of change. Thanks for sharing that.

      Reply
  • Michael

    January 7, 2011

    The Word never returns void. I think you are doing an awesome job man. They may not understand now, but will.

    Reply
    • Dustin

      January 7, 2011

      Tough to remember sometimes… but you’re definitely right.

      Reply
  • Jim F

    January 7, 2011

    Great Story and I think you are doing well to begin these lessons early because she will get it.

    BTW – Thanks for stopping by my blog and commenting.

    Reply
    • Dustin

      January 7, 2011

      yep, absolutely. Thanks for stopping by as well!

      Reply
  • jenn

    January 28, 2011

    I agree with everyone else. I don’t think it’s ever too early to talk to children about this type of thing. I started talking to my daughter about Jesus as an infant. I knew she didn’t understand, but now she’s 4 and she understands more everyday.

    Like Bob’s example, I try to take into consideration how my daughter is feeling about the “crime” before I punish her. She is so sensitive that she usually comes to me crying before I realize she has done something wrong. If she already feels bad about it, I usually just talk to her calmly and that is more than enough. And I always remind her that Mommy loves her when she’s good and when she does something wrong. And then I remind her that God loves us when we’re good… and when we mess up. I don’t want her to ever feel like she has “earn” God’s love. I figure the younger she understands that, the better.

    Reply
    • Dustin

      January 28, 2011

      Thanks jenn for sharing! It’s encouraging to see you share that God has blessed your faithfulness.

      Reply
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  • Donald Borsch Jr

    February 3, 2011

    Fear, intimidation, and loathing have worked well for me so far in raising my daughters. They may not love me, but they will fear and respect my authori-tay.

    I’m just sayin’.

    Jokes, Dustin, just jokes!

    Reply

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