Last Updated on March 20, 2018

A few months ago my six-year-old went outside with some neighborhood friends. “You may sit with them in the yard across the street, but stay nearby,” I said. A few minutes later I went outside to check on them. She was nowhere in sight. Panic shoved my heart into a sprint. I yelled for her and ran to the corner, but my mother’s sense kept me anchored to the house—I cannot leave my younger child alone because of her developmental delays.

Not long after, my six-year-old came waltzing up the street.

Once my pulse returned to normal, I pulled her aside and talked to her about responsibility and following rules. I need to know where she is at all times for safety, both for hers and in case something happened to her sister. I then told her I’d give her grace for this time, since I felt maybe I hadn’t made myself clear about how far she could go. In retrospect, I’m not sure I made the best choice.

Last week, she went outside to play with another neighborhood friend. This time, I made sure she heard: “Stay in this yard. Do not go anywhere else.” A few minutes later, the other child’s mother and I checked on them. They were gone. I felt the same squeezing sensation in my gut as we ran outside. We called for the kids, but no one answered. My neighbor ran across the street because we suspected they’d gone into her house. Even though I knew that intellectually, my heart still hammered with fear. And in the mean time, my younger daughter had stripped naked and helped herself to the contents of my bathroom cabinets.

This time I did not offer grace. My daughter had to miss a mother-daughter meeting with her friends. As I walked out the door that night—my husband said I still needed to go—my daughter wailed, “Why can’t you just give me grace?”

“Because I gave you grace the first time, and you didn’t learn the lesson,” I said. That made me think. Suffering consequences is tough, but important. How can anyone understand grace until they feel the harsh reality of consequences? As I read through my Bible daily, I see this in God’s dealings with Israel. He often dealt out harsh consequences first then later offered grace.

So, both mother and daughter learned a valuable lesson.I think back to something my father told me when I was 16. He said, “We dealt with you firmly as a child so we wouldn’t have to when you were older.” I agree. I’d rather have her suffer from her poor choices now and learn valuable life lessons than to have her deal with these lessons later in life when the stakes are higher.

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One Comment

  1. Excellent lesson about grace. A lesson well worth learning. Even moms have to learn how to teach their children. We moms are too willing to just give grace without the consequences – I know I am.