Grace Parenting: Back to Basics

1) Our understanding of four words help guide the counseling we offer, including for parenting support. They are Pain, Problem, Provisions, and Plan. 
  • The Pain is not the problem, but the symptom.
  • The Problem is unmet needs. It is not the presence of elements in the world (people and circumstances) that are adverse, but the absence of God’s provisions which support us.
  • The Provisions are biological, psychological, and spiritual supports which flow into our lives through Resources in Creation, Community, and especially Christ.
  • The Plan identifies the choices we make to connect to God’s Resources.
2) Broken behavior is not the Problem but the result of the problem (unmet needs), so we do not focus first on the behavior, to pound on it, but minister to the brokenness (unmet needs) that produced it.

3) Mothers meet the affection needs of their sons and the information needs of their daughters. Fathers meet the affection needs of their daughters and the information needs of their sons. The essential needs we meet in our children must first be met in us, and the essential needs they meet as parents in their children must be met in them.

4) Our Spiritual need is essentially to experience God through intimacy with Christ. The Seed/Logos of “Who Christ is” was sown into us at our New Birth (regeneration) and increases (through sanctification) to produce Christ in us in fuller measure (Ephesians 4:13). This is not a charismatic experience.

5) Experiencing God begins with
  • Reading the Scripture in order to hear God communicate Truth to us by the Holy Spirit (this is not the same as Bible Study – important as that is),
  • Confession of our brokenness and need for healing, also of God's love and care for us,
  • Prayer, and
  • Quiet-time worship.
6) Our experience of Christ manifests in us as the Nine Fruits of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23), Wisdom and Holiness (1 Corinthians 1:30) and Ministry Gifts of the Spirit (Romans 12:6-7; 1 Corinthians 7:1-7) which enable grace parenting.

7) The essential fruit is Love (1 Corinthians 13) – that is, God’s Love (Agape, meaning to “unconditionally value”) which is not the same as their need (valid as it is) to be “valuable” which is “conditional” love.

8) Our deep desire and strong commitment to be good parents are not the most enduring supports for living out our role in service to our children; rather, it is God’s love birthed and renewed in us daily by our experience of Christ.

9) Three words to identify the essential needs of children (also of parents in their relationship to God):
  • Confidence (Conviction) that I am unconditionally valued, demonstrated to me through the intense, personal
  • Care of my parents to attend to my health needs every day – and that with
  • Consistency
10) Relationships are either Codependent (with a goal of superficial pain relief that serves self-interests) or Redemptive (with a goal of met needs for healing that supports redemptive service to others).

DonLoy Whisnant/The Grace Perspective 11K29

Support for Grace Parenting: Teaching Compliance to Small Children

1. The high energy of small children (12/18 months to 3/4 years) to play loud is very normal and expected.

2. The amount of time they can be isolated in a room to play quietly is very limited. But it is a good opportunity to practice compliance.

3. Schedule a time as daily as possible for them to practice entertaining themselves in a playroom, beginning maybe for ten minutes, and increasing the time each several days or so by a minute. Inform them clearly each time what your expectations are (for them not to leave the room and to play quietly). The only reason you need to give is because you say so. Monitor their safety and immediate needs. If they leave the room, gently return them, in the same way you would continue to pitch a ball until they learn to catch it. After each practice session, support them with time together with you (even if they are not responsive to it at first), for at least the same amount of time, to play, read a story, take a walk (maybe to look at the moon and stars), or just to talk. Although you should not represent this time together with them as a reward, they will come to expect and want it. Of course, I don’t recommend treats (cookies, etc.) for a reward.

4. Teaching and practicing compliance at home with small children should start when children begin to crawl and with the expectation that it may be a long, slow process.

DonLoy Whisnant/ The Grace Perspective 11K28 

Support for Grace Parenting: Basics 101

1) Children have inborn essential needs which must be met in order for them to be established in health and happiness.

2) When these needs are not met, they suffer. They don’t “just get over them.” Worse, when they are older, they will begin to make choices for superficial pain relief which will result in addictions.

3) These needs are highly individualized - specific to each child.

4) These needs are body, soul, and spirit – that is,
  • biological (for food, water, oxygen, etc.),
  • psychological (the mind for information, the emotions for affection, especially to feel unconditionally valued – which is not the same as to feel valuable, and the will for decision-making), and
  • spiritual (for holiness and eternal life).
5) God has made provisions to meet these needs through Resources to which children connect.

6) These Resources are
  • Creation (the soil and atmosphere) to meet our biological needs to which we connect through eating, drinking, breathing, exercise, etc.,
  • Community (support/leadership relationships in the home and church) to meet our psychological needs to which we connect through covenant (to come and receive), and especially
  • Christ (his Blood and Resurrected Life) to meet our spiritual/eternal need for redemption/forgiveness – that is, the removal of the penalty of sin (justification), the power of sin (sanctification and holiness), and, one day in Heaven, the presence of sin (glorification) – to which we connect through faith (to trust/receive).
7) Community, of course, is the Resource through which parents serve their children to support their psychological (soul) need for information, affection, and decision-making.

8) God’s parenting relationship to us (to meet our needs) models his plan for our relationship to our children (to meet their needs).
  • He is in a support (nurturing) relationship beneath us, more than in a power (demanding) relationship over us.
  • His love (agape) is a giving love, not a receiving love or a "give and take" love (phileo).
  • This means, his relationship to us is based upon, not what we can do for him, but what we will give him opportunity to do for us.
  • He invests in us in order to set us free.
9) The home is essentially a NT organism (for nurturing), BUT it also has an OT organizational component to it (structure, schedule, rules). Both are critical / indispensable in the home to support the health and happiness needs of children.

For example, young children (both strong-willed and compliant) have a critical need for order/structure (supported by a schedule to which they must comply). When the need is met, they feel valued and supported (in large part because of the experience they have in this way to be attended to for extended amounts of time each day by their loving/patient parents). When it is not, they feel tension and insecurity which will manifest in broken/reactive behavior.

10) God enables us for effectual parenting through our experience of Christ. It is impossible otherwise (Colossians 1:27; 2 Corinthians 3:5; John 15:1-8).

These concepts need discussion and clarification. I welcome the opportunity to help.

DonLoy Whisnant/The Grace Perspective 11K20

Grace Parenting: Building Children To Be Their Best

Grace Parenting guides a process for parents that begins in vital relationship to Jesus Christ, is sustained daily by the Holy Spirit through his Word, and results in a nurturing home environment for children.

The concept recognizes that healthy children are the product of a healthy home. For this reason, counseling for children always begins with an evaluation of the family system (the home) and includes individual counseling for parents.

Twelve words will provide an overview of grace parenting: portrait, pathetic, priority, pastoral, parameter, peremptory, positive, patient, parallel, persistent, protective, and planned. (I tend to use words that start with the same letter - even if they don't make good sense. Someone told me [corny joke!] that everyone in his family drove a car that began with the letter P. He said his granddad had driven a Packard, that his dad drove a Pontiac, his uncle drove a Plymouth, and he drove "one of them there Puicks.")

Portrait Parenting

The view parents have of God's relationship to them as their Heavenly Father, either that he is cold and judgmental or loving and attentive, will manifest in their parenting.

Pathetic Parenting

Pathos, the ability to understand or feel a child's fears or pain, may be the most important missing element in parenting. "I know" and "I understand" and "I'm sorry" are among the most important words parents can express to their children.

Priority Parenting

The goal of grace parenting is the child's well-being. It recognizes that children are not in the home to serve adult needs, but to have their needs met.

Pastoral Parenting

Children have multi-dimensional needs, including for affection, acceptance, affirmation, approval, attention, answers, and authority. They will gravitate to their parents when these needs are met, but will drift away if they are not.

Parameter Parenting

Grace parenting teaches children impulse control and about boundaries. It is a kindness to teach children how the world works - to drive on the right side of the road - before giving them the keys to the car.

Peremptory Parenting

Small children simply do not have the cognitive ability to understand parents' intellectualizing the rationale for expected behavior. Grace parenting 1) chooses for small children the behavior that supports their health needs and 2) expects them to comply because the parents who are the adults say so. The happiest children have the confidence that someone else is in control. Parents do not make their children happy by giving them their own way; instead they risk creating for them a miserable, insecure existence.

Positive Parenting

Grace parenting teaches children desirable behavior by clearly defining and practicing the process. It doesn't focus on failures and penalties, nor does it provoke, interrogate, intimidate, or threaten.

Patient Parenting

Grace parenting patiently endures. Parents may need to gently define and practice the same expected behavior "a hundred times" the same night.

Parallel Parenting

Mom and Dad must be in agreement. A united front will help support their agenda for the home.

Persistent Parenting (How do you spell "consistent" with a "P"?)

Consistent parenting will leave no room for confusion and will build confidence and cooperation for the behavior that is expected.

Protective Parenting

Children must feel safe from harm, but also to express their disappointments and fears and to make and learn from their mistakes.

Planned Parenting

Successful parenting is not accidental; parents must have a strategy. Good resources for parenting skills are available for research and thought. Sometimes the wisdom of older parents who may have parented by trial and error and failed is overlooked, but can be an invaluable resource to consider when developing a strategy for parenting.

Don Whisnant, DCC, LCPC/The Grace Perspective #507

An Open Letter to the Parents of a Hurting Daughter

Dear Parents,

I share your concern and alarm for your child's behavior. Maybe we can help a little.

The counseling we offer is faith-based and from a grace perspective. It begins with an understanding of the following:

1. Children are born with multi-dimensional (physical, psychological, and spiritual) needs essential to support their health and happiness.

2. God has provided resources in creation, in community (home and church relationships), and in relationship to Christ sufficient to meet those needs.

3. When children are connected to those resources, the outcome is renewed health and happiness. When they are not, or when the resources to which they are connected are dysfunctional (as in a broken home), the result is unmet needs (lost health and happiness). We do not get over our unmet needs. Either they are met or we suffer

4. It is in search of relief from the pain of their unmet needs that children make poor, unwise choices.

5. The outcome of these failed choices is compounded brokenness and pain (including addiction and lost self-esteem) which motivates additional inappropriate choices and behavior.

From this we conclude:

1. Inappropriate behavior is not the root problem but a symptom or result of the problem.

2. The root problem is always the unmet needs.

Your daughter's physical needs include exercise and nutrition. Unmet fitness and nutritional needs can significantly contribute to inappropriate behavior.

Her psychological needs include attention and recognition, information, supervision, and affection.

But your daughter's greatest need is spiritual: It is to be renewed daily in her experience and confidence that God loves (values) her unconditionally, that he is passionately and intensely interested in every detail of her life, and that his commitment to her happiness and well-being is unfailing.

This is where your assignment begins:

1. Begin to embrace your role in the home as a conduit for the flow of God's love and care into your daughter's life. You are not the Source of that love, but only a resource for its flow. This will establish your daughter in her confidence that she is not in your home to serve your needs, but to have her needs supported and cared for by you. This confidence, I believe, is her greatest health need.

2. Discuss all behavior issues with your daughter from a health perspective. Research with her relevant information.

3. Find appropriate opportunities to hold your daughter in your arms. Also to sit close to her and face her. Don't mention the problem of her behavior or your disappointment. Ask her: "What do you want to say to me?" or "What do you want me to know?" Give her opportunities to talk to you without interruption for as long as she needs, even if you don't agree or like what she says. When she pauses, do not break your silence. Make only comments like "I know" or "I understand (or hear) what you are saying" or just nod your head. Look at her with interest to affirm that you care and are listening. I call this parenting with pathos, or "Pathetic Parenting."

You will not be able to do this without God's enablement because it is not a human ability. You will need to begin taking extended time daily to sit quietly before God with an open Bible for Scripture reading (in the Psalms), confession of need, and prayer.

I welcome the opportunity to be included among those you trust to help support you during this critical time. We will revisit all of the above concepts as we have opportunity to talk with you.

Don Whisnant, DCC, LCPC/The Grace Perspective

"Children turn out true to the investment made in them"

I have learned to sow seeds of the Gospel early, particularly in new relationships. If I do not, I have discovered that weeds have an opportunity to grow.

I was lazy recently to establish ground early with a new acquaintance. Instead, I just drifted along with whatever course of conversation he initiated. In short time, his subject matter and language took a dive in a direction it would not have if I had taken care earlier to establish myself with him as a minister.

Brokenness is the default setting of our fallen human nature. Nothing good lives within us, or at least that was the Apostle Paul's confession: "For I know that nothing good lives in me, that is in my sinful nature" (Romans 7:18).

Also, nothing gets better on its own, but, instead, is in a continual state of decline (The Second Law of Thermodynamics). That's why weeds grow without a lot of help.

The critical issue is: It is better to sow good seeds early than to dig up weeds later. Especially is this a critical concern for parenting.

Parents may care deeply to protect and provide for their children, but if they stop short of investing in their essential needs, not only their physical and material needs, but also their temperament (informational, emotional, and decision-making) needs, and especially their need to experience Christ, their children will suffer.

A well-known Christian psychologist, who I appreciate greatly, insists that excellent parents, having done their best, still have no certainty of good outcomes. But we believe, to the contrary, that children turn out exactly the way parents turn them out, true to the investment made in them.

Don Loy Whisnant/The Grace Perspective 9A31

To Be Unconditionally Valued: A Child’s Most Essential Need

Parenting fails when a child is brought into the home, by birth or by adoption, in order to meet the needs of the parents – especially their need to be loved (the same reason, I suspect, they would get a pet).

Typically this means any provisions given to the child, including gifts, attention, and expressions of care, are with expectations of a return. Sadly, because the child is being used to meet personal needs, the expectations of the parents for the child’s response are never really fully satisfied long term (which is true when we inappropriately use anything to satisfy carnal needs). The child, of course, increasingly begins to sense that the approval and acceptance of mom and dad are conditional, based upon his or her successful performance to please them, and also somehow feels the tension of rejection when they do not. Worse, when the child reacts (acts out) in pain, he or she gets scolded, threatened, pounded on, or in some way punished. But the very worst of this failing scenario is that the essential needs of the child remains unmet.

Unconditionally Valued

Indeed a child does have a need for approval and acceptance (the need to feel valuable). That’s why good parenting says “good job” when the child does good at home, school, or play. But this need to feel valuable, as important as it is, is not the child’s greatest need. Rather, the child’s most critical need, by far I think, is to be unconditionally valued.

To be unconditionally valued is not the same concept as “to be considered valuable.”  

1. The one is possible to give only as God enables it, the second is a human ability. Also,

2. the one is expressed to others, not conditioned upon anything that is true about them, but upon what is true about who God is within us. The second is expressed to others based or conditioned solely upon their successful performance to meet expectations (to earn it).

Lying in the balance is the child’s health. The growing experience and confidence of a child who is unconditionally valued is that he or she is not in the home to meet adult needs, but to have his or her needs met, and that his or her needs are what mom and dad’s world is all about.

Don Loy Whisnant/The Grace Perspective 10C31

Missed Opportunity for Lifelong Influence: The Tragedy of Failed Parenting

1) Parents, who fail to meet the temperament (psychological) needs of their young children, usually lose opportunity for influence later in life and have only the option left to them to try to buy their children back through efforts to relieve their pain (codependence).

2) Children who are failed usually move on to make choices for pain relief which result in addictions and further complicate their lives, and then angrily blame those who failed them (and understandably so).

3) This anger and addictions barricades parents who try to get back involved with their children for ministry that heals - although the door usually remains open to help provide for superficial pain relief.

4) When parents fail, it results in a lot of unhappiness for their children who, in their own parenting, usually go to the other extreme (over-parenting, I call it) by focusing mostly on the happy needs of their children more than on their health needs, which they don't really understand because they are not healthy themselves and cannot give what they don't have.

Don Loy Whisnant/The Grace Perspective 10J28 

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