Grace-filled Parenting: Authoritative Parenting vs. Grace-filled Parenting vs. Worldly Parenting

I’ve noticed that there are three basic parenting styles.

We tend toward one style or another. Sometimes don’t even know that we are subscribe to one specific style.

Your parenting style is a reflection of your world view.

Grace-filled parenting style requires that you walk in faith and give unconditional love and unearned grace to those around you.

It is not easy.

As I was writing this out, I noticed that sometimes I fall back into authoritative style –which was my preferred method when my children were young.

It was my mother who suggested that I needed to incorporate more grace into my parenting.

If you see yourself in either the authoritative approach or the worldly approach perhaps you should pray about what is written here and how God would have you parent.

Authoritative parenting says “I’m the parent: you will obey me!”

Grace filled parenting says, “I want you to obey me and expect you to obey me, just as I obey those who are in authority over me.”

Worldly parenting says, “Children cannot be expected to obey.”

Authoritative parenting says, “Obey now, or you’ll be punished!”

Grace-filled parenting says,  “I know it’s sometimes hard to obey. Sometimes, I struggle to obey and follow the authority over me.  Let me help you practice obedience by training you.”

Worldly parenting says,  “Immediate obedience isn’t important. It’s not even worth the effort to try.”

Authoritative parenting says,  “If this child’s doesn’t obey,  it makes me look bad!”

Grace-filled parenting says,  “I’m here to disciple this child so that Christ can be glorified in his life not so that this child can make me look better.”

Worldly parenting says, “I know my children don’t obey me and it looks bad, so sometimes I yell at them until they do obey.”

Authoritative parenting says,  “I’m going to do whatever is necessary to make my children obey!”

Grace-filled parenting says, “I’m going to obey the clear commands in scripture to train and to be kind not harsh and to not embitter and then trust the results to God.”

Worldly parenting says,  “I have no real authority over this child, so I just manipulate, coerce, whine, threaten, and bribe to get compliance.”

Authoritative parenting says “I’m going to do whatever it takes because I’m not going to be one of those parents who have one of those disobedient kids. I can’t believe he would do this to me!”

Grace-filled parenting says, “I’m going to pray for the things that are out of my control –like the hearts of my children– knowing that sometimes God’s plan and the struggles He allows in my life and my kid’s lives don’t line up with what I think is ideal. I choose to trust His plan.”

Worldly parenting says,  “Of course children are going to be disobedient and rebellious.  I was. All my friends were. This is normal and expected. There’s not much you can do about it.”

Authoritative parenting says,  “My children will obey me even if I have to take verses out of context —like turning proverbs into commands or trying to obey the Old Testament law when scripture is clear that we’re not under the law— because my children obeying me is paramount.”

Grace-filled parenting says “This child is either my Christian sibling (if he’s saved) or my greatest witness opportunity (if he’s not saved), and I’m going to obey the commands in scripture about how to interact with saved and unsaved people. Just because this is my child, it does not make the New Testament commands void.”  

Worldly parenting says,  “Obedience isn’t really that important. Independence, individual freedom, and tolerance are most important.”

Authoritative parenting says,  “I’m the parent, and I’m always right.”

Grace-filled parenting says,  “I’m a sinner just like you are.  When I’m wrong, I’ll apologize and demonstrate a life of humility and forgiveness in front of you.”

Worldly parenting says,  “There is no right or wrong. It’s all relative.  Who am I to impose my opinions and beliefs on my children? There’s no way I am apologizing for anything.”

Authoritative parenting says,  “This child is here to help me in my goals and make me look good.”

Grace-filled parenting says, “I have a huge responsibility to disciple this child and raise him in the way of Jesus. This is such a daunting responsibility that my goals and desires take a back burner while I invest my life in this eternal soul.”

Worldly parenting says,  “My children are a distraction from my goals. My goals are more important. I’ll just have someone else do the parenting or have them parent themselves so that I can pursue my goals.”

Authoritative parenting says,  “If this child rebels, I’m going to be angry, treat them harshly, and maybe even disown them –depending on the severity of their offense.

Grace-filled parenting says,  “I’m going to love this child’s unconditionally –without him having to be good enough.  Just like the father of the Prodigal Son, this child is always welcome back home.  If the child rebels, I’ll be sad but not angry, knowing how many times I have rebelled against God and how much I’m undeserving of His unconditional love and acceptance.  No matter what this child does, I’ll continue to be Jesus to him and love him back to Christ.”

Worldly parenting says,  “Every child rebels. This is normal. It’s ridiculous to expect anything else.”

Authoritative parenting says,  “I can’t believe you disobeyed me. I’m so angry.  Bring me the switch!”

Grace-filled parenting says,  “I love you enough to correct you and even use corporal punishment when you’re being defiant if it’s necessary, because I know that God disciplines His children (me) too. I’m hoping to save you from harder lessons in the future.”

Worldly parenting says,  “I don’t believing in discipline or correcting children. They have to find their own path.”

Authoritative parenting says, “They’re never too big to beat into submission!”

Grace-filled parenting says,  “When my child is old enough to make choices, I want him to choose to do right.  I’m going to train him when he’s young to obey and when he gets older he has free will to obey or not obey (but he isn’t free of the consequences of his choices). I’m going to use logic and scripture to try to persuade him, but at some point a child is too big to spank. When that time comes, my best training tools are natural consequences, my witness, and fervent prayer. I will not shun them or mistreat him.”

Worldly parenting says,  “I want them to follow their heart and be happy no matter what that is. I will not impose my sense of morality on them.”

Authoritative parenting says, “It is us, the parents, against them, the children.”

Grace-filled parenting says, “We are in this together. I am on your side trying to help you be the best you can be for Jesus. Let us struggle together.”

Worldly parenting says, “I am helpless against the children, so there really isn’t any point striving against them. I feel like it us versus them because it is nothing but a struggle, however, I have no power to do anything about it.”

Authoritative parenting says,  “Parenting is about me making my child conform to my will.”

Grace-filled parenting says,  “Parenting is about showing my children God and about preparing them for adulthood and eternity. It’s about self sacrifice so that hopefully they see Jesus in me lived before them as an example pointing them to Christ.”

Worldly parenting says,  “Parenting is an annoyance. Parts of it make me happy, but mostly it’s a lot of thankfulness, frustrating, and unrewarding work. I resent the parts that don’t make me happy. I deserve to be happy.”

There’s a fine balance between too relaxed and too forceful in parenting, but I find that, although scripture doesn’t have a lot to say about parenting specially, it has a lot to say about interaction between people —saved and unsaved. These verses apply to our interaction with our children as well.  

We need to be careful to remember that we live in the Age of Grace and to allow our conversations to be seasoned with grace and determine that our actions will be for God’s glory alone.


Sarah Forbes


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