7 Words of Grace Your Kids Need to Hear You Say

In fifteen minutes, I can paint my daughter’s fingernails or play a game with my son. Taking a short bike ride, baking a batch of cookies, helping out with a craft project—these are just a few of the many things you can do with 15 minutes in your day.  And it’s especially meaningful when we’re willing to engage our kids with an activity they enjoy.

So what are some of the things your kids enjoy the most? Or maybe it’s an everyday chore that you can start teaching them and work at together. Look for those spontaneous moments of grace when you can invite your kids to spend time together.

5. “I’m Sorry”

Losing your temper. Shouting. Cutting words. Overreacting. Kids have a way of picking away at our defenses until our ugliest sides become exposed.

When we have these reactions, we often feel justified.  After all, we’re usually reacting to something our kids did, right? They disobeyed or gave us attitude. They pushed us to the edge with complaining or ear-piercing shrieks.  Isn’t our angry reaction really their fault?

But unkind words and angry outbursts don’t come out of nowhere—that nastiness was somewhere in our hearts before it erupted with our kids. These inner weaknesses are not our kids’ fault. And sometimes our reactions come from simple exhaustion, or the stress of other burdens we carry—and this is not their fault, either, is it?

When kids misbehave, they deserve discipline, not out-of-control wrath. Truth spoken in love. Controlled correction that’s firm and clear.  Our kids never deserve uncontrolled anger or unkind words, no matter what they’ve done.

When our words or actions become barbed—when we wound our kids instead of protecting them from our anger—we owe them an apology.  This isn’t a sign of weakness on our part. Rather, it shows our integrity: It tells them we’re strong enough to admit our poor behavior and try to make things right.

If we let the moment pass without admitting our wrong, our harsh words will fester in our kids’ hearts instead of being healed by grace. Don’t let that happen. Next time your words or actions go too far, apologize to your kids. They will learn an invaluable lesson about grace: That we all need it, and we all have opportunities to extend it to others.

6. “I Don’t Know.”

As my kids have grown older, I’ve noticed that I seem to be getting less intelligent.  At least I’m certainly feeling less intelligent, because sometimes their questions leave me stumped! Thank goodness for Google—I can still satisfy most of their curiosity.

But sometimes their questions go deep, delving into issues I’m not completely educated about or mysteries of God that can’t be easily explained.  There’s a temptation in times like this to offer “safe” answers.  Quick, black and white ideas about a social issue. Or the thirty-second Sunday school answer to a question about God.

But quick answers can miss the deeper issues our kids are struggling with. And when we give pat answers, especially to our older kids, it can leave them with the impression that there’s something wrong with their doubts or questions.

As parents, we should share the knowledge we have.  But there’s also a beautiful grace in admitting to our kids that “I don’t know.” We can invite them into a lifestyle of seeking better answers, instead of settling for half-truths and sound bites about issues we don’t fully understand.

And when it comes to questions of faith, even the best theological arguments can’t fully embody the mysteries of God. Doubting and questions are part of the faith journey. (It wouldn’t really be faith if we could perfectly explain it all, would it?)

There are times when we have to live with the tension—trusting in God, even when we can’t fully understand or explain His ways.  So next time you feel threatened by your kids’ questions because you don’t have all the answers, admit that you don’t know. Show them that a life of faith has room for questions, and invite them to seek the truth together. .

7. Embrace the Silence.

In preparing this post, I decided to ask my son for his insight.  He offered a few thoughts, and there—in the listening—I got an amazing gem:

“Mom, sometimes kids just want you to listen.”

So straight-forward and so profoundly true, his words convicted me immediately. I’m a fixer. A planner.  A talker.  So this listening thing is hard for me. All too often, I try to solve things with a barrage of questions and comments. But they usually don’t get us any closer to a solution.  My efforts to talk through a situation often end up making everything worse!

I think of my marriage, and how many times I’ve said to my husband: “I don’t want you to fix it!”  I just want him to hear my heart. Knowing that he cares enough to listen is what fixes the hurt in that moment. What if I employed this philosophy in my parenting?

These days, I’m trying to embrace the silence. To fight my urge to fix things, and just be present in the moments when my kids need to share. To offer nods of understanding and hugs of encouragement. To sit on my questions and give them space when they’re not quite ready to talk.

There are so many beautiful words we can offer to our kids.  And we must pray for wisdom to use them well. But there are also times to be silent. To simply be present. Listen. Offer a sympathetic smile and hold their hand.  The next time your child comes to you with a care, the most grace-filled things you say to your kid might be spoken without a word.


A version of this post originally appeared at www.morelikegrace.com, published with permission.

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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