I little while ago I wrote a post about a brilliant book called Grace-Based Parenting that has helped Shawn and I in our parenting approach like no other resource. Please take a read if you haven’t already!
One of the four things that the author offers for maintaining a grace-based environment is to allow your children the freedom to be candid**.
The freedom to be candid means, they know they can come to you and express their hearts openly without fear of shocking you, or of wearing your judgement. They need to be able to express what they are going through and where they have failed. They also need to be able to express where you have hurt or annoyed them. You’ll need to learn to eat humble pie and ask for forgiveness regularly.
At a practical level, the author and his wife implemented ‘what’s your beef’ each week where their children could share candidly. During these times, the children were not to bring up positions that their parents had taken in terms of moral standards that they potentially disagreed with, or consequences that might have been taken because of things they’d done wrong. And for the parents, they were not permitted to defend themselves, despite the temptation to justify words and actions from their perspective. The point was, regardless of how the facts were perceived, if their children were hurt they were able to share this.
For us, we have called it ‘heart-to-heart night’ where our young children can share their hearts with us, and if we have hurt or upset them in any way then they have the freedom to tell us. This means that we humbly receive their words, and apologise for how our actions have affected them.
It does NOT mean we justify, make excuses, attribute blame, or anything of the sort, even if at times we feel they are making a mountain out of a molehill or we ourselves feel misunderstood. The main point is that they feel the freedom to express how we have affected them, and to build trust and respect in our relationships.
Because our children are still very young, we have made the adjustment to what the author suggested in that we can at times give clarification for our actions. It is the exception to the rule and we only do it if it’s absolutely necessary. In time, we will phase out doing that altogether as their awareness and understanding grows.
It’s our hope and prayer that it will lay a foundation in our relationships that will see us through their teenage years and beyond.
Freedom and unconditional love go hand-in-hand, and this is where we show our children the heart of the Father.
“Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom”.
** The 4 freedoms that create an atmosphere of grace: the freedom to be different; the freedom to be vulnerable; the freedom to be candid; the freedom to make mistakes. [Source: Family Matters].