7 Words of Grace Your Kids Need to Hear You Say

“Hurry up!”  “Slow down!” “Get your homework done” “Get your backpack loaded.” “Why didn’t you do this?” “Why in the world did you do that?!”

If I stop to think about the everyday phrases that fly out of my mouth, these are just a few that come to mind.  In the hustle and bustle of everyday life, my language frequently drifts toward drill sergeant territory.

Sometimes kids need a drill sergeant.  (A certain occasion when my daughter decided to steal her brother’s play slime and secret it away in her backpack—in a broken baggie—comes to mind.) Sometimes they need a little motivation to get in gear and get ‘er done!

But deep down, I don’t just want to help my kids get things done all the time. I want to help them become. To become brave. Confident. Kind. Forgiving. All that God has created them to be. This goal requires a different kind of language. Words that are less consumed with getting through the everyday hustle, and more willing to slow down for the teachable moments.

Our kids face a world that can be so harsh and demanding. So within the walls of our homes, we want to remind them of God’s unconditional love.  I’m not a parenting expert—I’m just a mom who’s learning through trial and error like everyone else.  But as I reflect on the words I use with my kids, here are a few of the phrases I’m trying to use more intentionally in my home.  I hope they might bless you and your kids too.

7 Words of Grace Your Kids Need to Hear You Say

1. “Let’s pray about that.”  

Amidst lunchboxes, carpool, and homework questions, I often forget that one of the most important parenting lessons I can teach my kids is the power of prayer. All too often, I try to “fix” things for them, forgetting that we can bring these struggles to a better Fixer.

If my daughter has a difficult math test coming up, I will certainly help her review math facts—but I can also pray with her about it.  If my son gets frustrated about a small group project in class, I can suggest we ask God for the patience to handle it.

Through such simple, everyday opportunities, we can teach our kids to seek God’s help with their challenges.  Pay attention to the little dramas unfolding in your kids’ lives.  And instead of brushing them off, or trying to fix it for them, teach them a practice that will serve them well for years to come: Pray with them.

2 . “It’s not a big deal.”

You know the moments.  A glass drops on the floor and shatters.  A book gets forgotten at school. A toy gets left outside in the rain. Little mishaps happen so often with kids, you’d think I would learn to expect them!

Somehow, though, these moments can catch me off guard. And I can turn simple accidents into a bigger deal than they really are.  Instead of remaining calm, frustration spills into my voice. I find myself giving a five-minute lecture about a one-second mistake. 

Sure, there are times when these “accidents” are part of a bigger pattern of irresponsibility—and we need to confront our kids about their carelessness.  But sometimes . . . it’s just an accident.

Next time a little mishap comes to your home, stop and ask yourself the question:  “Is this part of a pattern?  Or is this a moment of human forgetfulness or clumsiness that happens to us all?”  If it’s the latter, help your kids find grace for simple mistakes by telling them “It’s no big deal” and calmly moving on.

3. “I’m proud of you.”

In our culture, kids constantly receive feedback based on performance: School grades tell them how they perform academically.  Praise or criticism gets heard based on their performances in sports or the arts. Even at church, we often hand out stars based on attendance or doing service work.

None of these things are bad, of course.  We should be proud of the things are kids do. But do we also take pride in them, simply for who God created them to be? 

What our kids need even more than our approval for how they perform is our approval for who they are.  If we only focus on affirming their skills (and the execution of them), we teach our kids that their value comes from their accomplishments. Too many kids grow up carrying a staggering weight of expectations, feeling pressured to perform by well-meaning parents, teachers, coaches, and pastors.

Underneath all that activity, their hearts wonder: “Does anybody love me?”  

Maybe the daughter who’s on the soccer team needs to know that you prize her encouraging attitude more than her next score.  Or your straight-A son needs to hear that you appreciate his intelligence and curiosity even more than his test scores.

What are your kids’ unique personality strengths?  What character traits do you admire in them? Notice these things and speak them to your kids. You can cheer them on for their accomplishments, sure. But don’t let them doubt for a second that you are proud of who they are.

4. “Let’s Do Something Together!”

With so much busyness and pressure to keep up with all the other “fun family activities” we see others engaging in, it’s easy to lose sight of simple things–like simply inviting our kids to do something spontaneous. Some of the most enjoyable and hilarious times I’ve shared with my kids have been moments that I didn’t try to pre-plan.

(And the reverse is true too: Some of those “special family memories” I tried to create through hours of planning and activity? Yeah, some of those have failed spectacularly!)

As my kids have gotten older, it’s grown harder to interest them in “family” time (ie. They get sucked into the vortex of screentime.) It’s tempting to just let them do their thing so I can hustle and get through my to-do list. But my kids need me to pull them out from time to time:  They need the anchor of family love and time spent in simple community.

So these days, I’m looking for ways to enjoy simple, spontaneous moments together.  That might mean inviting them into my everyday chores or errands, even if it means the task will take a bit longer.  But it also means just setting aside my own agenda at times and taking time to do something fun that I know my kids enjoy.

Yes, in the midst end of busy workdays or after an evening of school and church activities, I long for space to simply be alone.  But the time I have as a parent is fleeting.  I don’t want to let the days slip by without taking time to enjoy my kids. So I challenge myself with this question:  Can you give it 15 minutes?

Amy Tol
Amy Tolhttp://morelikegrace.com
Amy Tol writes at morelikegrace.com, a blog offering encouragement and resources for women who want to cultivate grace-based hearts and homes. She lives in Zeeland, Michigan with her husband, Brian, and two very talkative kids. (She can’t imagine where they get it from. . . ) When she’s not writing, Amy enjoys connecting with friends over coffee and chocolate, reading books while curled up under a blanket, and all manor of crafty endeavors—especially when they involve needle and thread. You can connect with Amy on Instagram and Facebook.

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