I made a classic parenting mistake with my six-year-old daughter, Gracie. She has been very into clip-on-earrings, but has repeatedly lost them. In frustration, I huffed, “Gracie, you’re not responsible with them. I’m not getting you any more earrings.”
Then my husband ever so accurately reminded me: “Linsey, you have lost your keys three times in the last two weeks. You lose more than Gracie, and she’s only six!” Thankfully, my husband found my keys in the front door the first time and our UPS friend discovered them in the door the second time. The third time, I spent twenty minutes looking for that house key and my husband found it buried in my purse!
And my daughter isn’t being responsible? I felt so wrong, right there in my husband’s words. Why do I selfishly extend more grace to myself than my six-year-old daughter?
I asked Author Ted Tripp a question at a conference about raising children: “When I constantly correct them, I feel like I am communicating the message that I have it all together and that they are the only ones in need of correction. How can I avoid this?”
I loved Ted Tripp’s response: “When you are correcting your children, get on their level, and let them know that you also are working on the very same things–that you are in this together. ” The simple idea that we are a team resonated with me. This approach has allowed for far more connection with my children.
I asked Gracie to forgive me for my impatience. I shared with her that I lose many things myself, and that we can work on being more responsible together.
Relief covered her face. Yes, great expectations are needed for our children; however, I was reminded to gently correct and share that I am working on areas also. It can be easy to lose our cool in the moment, but Proverbs 16:32 encourages us to take a deep breath instead of uttering harshness: “Better a patient person than a warrior, one with self-control than one who takes a city.”
Ten years from now, I prefer my children to know that I’m not perfect, that we work on issues as a family, and that I love and accept them, and myself, through all our imperfections. After all, that’s what unconditional love is–loving through the mess and offering grace along the way. Not keeping a record of wrongs. That’s exactly what the Lord does for us. And that’s the kind of love I want to extend to Gracie. Records erased and forgiveness given.
1 Corinthians inspires me to love my children as the Lord loves us:
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.”
The next time Gracie loses her earrings and I lose my keys (and hopefully find them), I will remind my Gracie that we are working on this together, but that I’m thankful we have the most important thing down: we sure do love each other.