Giving Grace to Your Child

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Episode Synopsis

Jani and Heidi share biblical principles on developing an atmosphere of grace in your home. How can you use grace even as you discipline your child?

Audio Transcript

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The "9 Biblical Principles We Used to Raise Our Children" that we discuss in Episode 26 "Giving Grace to Your Child" has been prepared in PDF format for you to download and print at home.

Heidi: I know I say this every episode, Jani, but I am so excited about today’s episode! As you guys know, we’ve been talking about motherhood and children and our interactions with children. Whether we’re Sunday school teachers or nannies or aunts or cousins, we all interact with children somewhere in our lives. And today we want to continue to focus on extending God’s grace to our children. And what I’m so excited to talk about in this episode is that, Jani, you shared that there were nine biblical principles that you and Ray used as you were raising your children, and I just can’t wait to hear them.

Jani: Well we’ll see how the Lord uses them, won’t we? We pray over these podcasts. We want them to be helpful. So we’ll see. Lord, take this and use it as you want.

Our topic for today: Giving Grace to our Children & the power of a mother’s love

Jani: So as Heidi told you, we’re going to talk about giving grace to our children. That grace that we talked in previous podcasts about experiencing from the Lord—his grace to us as mothers, grandmothers and women who relate to children—how do we give that grace to the children in our lives?

Jani: Let me talk specifically right now to mothers. I believe that it is the power of a mother’s love that develops the truest and best side of a child’s nature. As a mother, you want to develop an atmosphere of grace in your home. You want to create a climate of trust and intimacy that builds emotional stability and physical comfort. Well, this takes a lot of time and constant exposure, day after day. Laugh, play, read, nap, walk, cry, and explore life together with your child with lots of eye-to-eye contact.

Jani: Enjoy your child. This wonderful little creation from God Almighty. I believe enjoyment is the most convincing form of love. When someone enjoys spending time with me, it feels like they’re loving me. So let’s not resist our child’s intrusion into our schedule. These are requests for connection. Let’s welcome those intrusions as gateways to his heart.

Jani: Engage your child, show interest, offer kindness and sympathy. Remain available and approachable. Be as gracious and merciful as you would want your husband or friend to be with you. This will help your child to grow up feeling validated and understood.

Grace does not exclude discipline

Jani: Now, I want to be very clear about something. When we talk about giving grace to our children, I want us to remember that grace does not exclude discipline. There’s much to counter as we bring out the good in our children.

Jani: Think of it with me. Children are naturally rude and crude. Good manners are foreign to children. You moms know that. I remember when our kids were little and we’d all be sitting down for dinner together and we were trying to teach them to put their napkins on their lap. Eventually, I was just getting tired of reminding them of that rule, and we decided that whoever forgot had to go out into the kitchen and count to 20 before they could come back and have dinner. Well, in about a week everybody started remembering, but children are naturally rude. They’re naturally crude and they need you to counter that as you bring out the good in them.

Jani: Children have much contempt for material things. They possess a lot, but they really don’t understand how much things cost. They care about very little.

Jani: Children are naturally self-indulgent and they’re hungry for immediate gratification. We all know that as young moms.

Jani: They are naturally impatient. All children lack the stamina to see things through, and if that is left unchecked, that impatience can develop into a pattern of incompleteness, making it easier to give up when they encounter a challenge as a teen or as an adult.

Jani: So our role as mothers, grandmothers and teachers is to train up the children in our lives. The Bible says that careful parental discipline is truly loving our children. Proverbs 13:24 says,

“Whoever spares the rod hates his son.”

Proverbs 13:24

That’s a strong word, “…but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him.” Parental discipline is truly loving our kids from God’s point of view.

Jani: As a mother, you will give your young child resources for success as his responsibilities expand from cleaning his room to caring for his own home, from being a kind sibling, to being sympathetic and understanding with his spouse. From obeying you to obeying her teachers and then the civil authorities. You see, discipline is both preventative and corrective. It is both management and training; instructions and chastening. What is the alternative? Proverbs 29:15 says,

“…a child left to himself disgraces his mother.”

Proverbs 29:15

Don’t leave your child to himself.

Jani: Child training will not change your child’s heart. Only God can do that, but it will change how he expresses what is in his heart. If a child learns to submit, to affirm “No!” early on in life, he will be better able to cope with disappointments later on in life. He won’t panic when things don’t go his way. When your child hears that firm “No!” and survives the frustration that inevitably follows, he is strengthened. He has learned self-control and endurance and will be better able to tell himself no when he is on his own.

Spiritual Intentionality

Jani: Heidi, would you please read Psalm 127:4 for us?

“Like arrows in the hand of a warrior
    are the children of one’s youth.”

Psalm 127:4

Jani: This verse is teaching us that we are to launch our children into their future with spiritual intentionality. Don’t drift. What is the message your children will bring to their world? Why do we do this? Why do we discipline them? We discipline our kids because discipline means to create a disciple and you want them to be disciples of Jesus.

9 Biblical Principles we used to raise our children

Jani: How do you do it? Well, as Heidi said, I want to share nine ways that Ray and I launched our kids into the future, nine biblical principles that we used as we were raising our children. Now these have no guarantee, but we often fell back on these when we were wondering, “How do we treat this child in this situation? What do we do, Lord?” We’d come back to these.

1: Love their Dad (your husband)

Jani: The first way that I can create a disciple of Jesus in my home with my little kids is to love that child’s daddy. Now, of course I’m talking to those of you who are married. If you’re a single mom, you just pray for their daddy someday and speak well of whoever their father is. But if you are living with their daddy, display for your kids what a Christian marriage can be.

Jani: I remember Ray in the early years when we had these four little kids and I was tired and frustrated, and Ray would come home—and I’d been working with the kids all day long—and Ray came in and kind of redirected something and I would counter him. I remember him saying, one evening, “Honey, sometimes it feels like you’re trying to protect the kids from me.” And you know, Heidi, he was right. I was glad he told me. I needed to love him enough and let the kids see that. I needed to trust God, that he chose Ray to be my children’s daddy, and I needed to help my children respect biblical manhood.

Jani: What does biblical manhood and womanhood look like? What does my marriage display to my children and to my grandchildren? Does it display the grace of a sacrificial, loving man and the flexible submission of a woman in love together? That symbolizes Christ’s love for his bride and her joyful surrender to him. Grace-filled mothering flourishes in a grace-filled marriage. So the first principle I had to keep coming back to in raising my kids for Jesus was: “Love Ray.”

2: Define Your own (personal) priorities. Make your life an example.

Jani: Another priority, a second priority we came back to, was to define our priorities. One of them was to make my life an example. One of my priorities as I raised my kids was not just, “Do what I say,” but it was also, “Become who I am.” That’s kind of scary, but discipline is for parents first. Disciplined mothers raise disciplined children. Help your kids develop a living and vibrant delight in Christ. How? Well, who’s your chief delight in life? Do your kids have to go outside your family circle to find a Christianity worthy of emulation? Model a living and vibrant life in Christ. Philippians 3:17 puts it this way. “Brothers, join in imitating me,and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us.” Or 1 Corinthians 11:1 says, “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.” Dear mom, can you say that to your children? Define your priorities. Make your life an example. Not just, “Do what I say,” but “Become what you see in me.”

3: Help them believe the Bible absolutely and love the church wholeheartedly.

Jani: A third principle we used was to help them believe the Bible absolutely and love the church wholeheartedly. How did we do that? Well, we had to teach it to our kids. We had to teach them the Bible. We had to love the Word ourselves. We had to treasure it and let them sense that. I had to learn to go to the Word over and over again for my own hope and guidance. Then I could also help my children develop a deep, personal respect and attachment to the church. How? Well, I had to speak well of the church and her leaders. Ray wasn’t always a pastor. For nearly a decade he served as a professor, and I was the one bringing the kids to church as Ray traveled on Sundays and preached elsewhere, so I had to decide how to make Sunday “fun-day” and I worked at it. We’ve mentioned this in other episodes, but you, dear mom, you can do that. You can make Sunday “fun-day.” Figure out what works for your family. Help your children believe the Bible absolutely and love the church wholeheartedly. You’ll be glad you worked at that.

4: Be careful not to crush your child through physical or verbal intimidation while still embracing the wisdom of scripture

Jani: Or a fourth principle, be careful not to crush your child to physical or verbal intimidation while still embracing the wisdom of scripture. You cannot train a child by brute force alone. He will feel abused. A very wise older woman, when I was worried about our five-year-old son’s sucking his thumb in front of her, told me, “Oh, Jani, that’s nothing. Don’t worry about anything that he won’t be doing when he’s 16.”

Heidi: What a sweet piece of wisdom.

Jani: It really helped me, Heidi.

Heidi: I can see how it would help you focus on what to focus on with your kids.

Jani: Yes. It helped me learn to distinguish between childishness and character traits. I had to ask myself, “Is sucking his thumb a character trait or is he just being five years old?” What will this child leave behind as he grows and what will he carry into adulthood with him? Grace overlooks a lot. Grace absorbs a lot. Feed his soul so that he’s ready to choose in favor of the right even when mom isn’t around.

What about spanking?

Jani: Now, please hear me. I want you to know this. Ray and I do and did believe in spanking because we believe it is not physical abuse if administered biblically. Would the God who values children so much encourage us to abuse them? Never! But he does give us godly parameters. Ephesians 6:4 tells us to avoid all unnecessary severity and anger in your discipline. Proverbs 13:24 tells us to administer discipline promptly and early before patterns are set. And Proverbs 23:13-14, oh I like how these are put. Heidi, would you read these verses for us in Proverbs 23:13-14? They talk about how administering proper discipline will deliver our kids from eternal punishment.

“Do not withhold discipline from a child; if you strike him with a rod, he will not die. If you strike him with the rod, you will save his soul from Sheol.”

Proverbs 23:13-14

Jani: Oh my goodness.

5: Teach respect for other people and property as well as teaching self-control

Jani: A fifth principle that Ray and I tried to follow was to teach respect for other people and property as well as teaching self-control. When the Bible says that kids are to “honor” their mom and dad, what does that mean? Well, honor begins in our homes. That’s what the Lord is saying. Honor comes, my husband tells me (I don’t know Hebrew, but he does) from a Hebrew word meaning to be heavy or to give weight. Honoring someone means giving them weight. It involves taking someone seriously into account, offering profound respect and a place of importance.

Jani: The opposite of honoring someone is trivializing him, treating him as if he didn’t matter. Moms, you are the key to this. Respect starts in the home. The home is the key to all relationships. Does your child respect his mother? Well, then that means he can respect others in authority over him—teachers, neighbors, policemen—and then all of society benefits. He learns to bend and flex to authority without crying, without whining, without stamping his foot and saying, “No, I won’t obey you!”

Jani: Well, what about respecting property, things, possessions? Do you have a child that’s bent on destruction? Some kids are like that. I remember our neighbor in Scotland coming when one of our children—who will remain unnamed in this podcast, but you know who you are—one of our neighbors came and said, “Um, did you see what your child’s been doing in the back of the neighbor’s yard with that hammer destroying the fence?” Oh my goodness. Well, that will take another whole podcast to explain, but let me say this: if your child destroys a toy, maybe you’re thinking, “Well, it’s enough punishment that he just won’t have it. I won’t get him another. He’s just going to have to learn to live without it and that will be enough punishment.” I don’t agree with that because it is the rare child who destroys something that he really treasures.

Jani: You see, destructiveness is selfishness. It’s saying, “I just want to do what I want to do with this thing,” and it needs to be redirected. Respect means boundaries are set for expressions of anger and frustration. Children must see that people and things should not be targets for their wrath. Don’t be afraid, dear mom, to say no and mean it. Hearing a firm “No.” and surviving the frustration that automatically comes with it gives kids strength. It builds endurance and patience. It helps them control their impulses and learn to defy gratification.

Jani: Heidi, could you read Proverbs 29:11 for us?

Heidi: “A fool gives full vent to his spirit, but a wise man quietly holds it back.”

Jani: What do you want to raise: a fool or a wise man? Teach respect to your children for other people and property as well as self-control.

6: Require obedience.

Jani: A sixth principle that Ray and I agreed upon with our kids is that we would require and insist upon obedience. That meant that we said, “Yes!” whenever we possibly could. We tried to think of every way we could say yes, but when we said, “No,” we meant it.

Jani: John Rosemond, one of my favorite authors who wrote Parenting By the Book (we referenced that in our previous podcast) says this:

“The core of all misbehavior is a child’s self-authority.”

John Rosemond, Parenting By The Book

Jani: Dear mom, your instructions are not the first bid in a negotiation process. Obedience is true obedience when you obey, no matter how you feel about it. Think of that in terms of your own relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. You see, obeying only when you feel like it is just coincidence. It’s convenient, so you do it. Your home is not a democracy. You have the God-given authority to lead. Heidi read Proverbs 19:18 for us.

Heidi: “Discipline your son, for there is hope. Do not set your heart on putting him to death.”

Jani: Whoa. Children must learn that respect and obedience is not a matter of preference, it’s a mandate from their heavenly King. Honoring your parents in the early years is largely manifested through obedience.

3 Reasons from Scripture

Jani: Why are children told to obey their parents? Well, I see at least three reasons in scripture. I’m sure there are more, but let’s just talk about this so we can be convinced that it’s okay to require obedience of our kids.

Jani: One reason is that parents stand in the place of God to their children. Performing godlike functions of loving, providing, caring, protecting. You do all of that as God’s special agents to your kids. When young children disobey their parents, they are ultimately rebelling against God. 2 Timothy 3 teaches us that disobedience to parents indicates a corrupt out-of-control, anti-God spirit. So the first reason that we’re to require our children to obey us is because we’re standing in the place of God to our kids when our kids are little.

Jani: Another reason is because it pleases the Lord that our kids obey us. Heidi read, Colossians 3:20 for us.

Heidi: Yes, we love this verse in our family.

“Children obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord.”

Colossians 3:20

Jani: Is there anything else we want more than to raise kids who please the Lord? Oh my. Requiring them to obey you pleases the Lord.

Jani: Well, a third reason is because it’s good for them! It’s for their best interest. Isn’t that kind of the Lord to give us a requirement that produces good in our life? Heidi, read how the the apostle Paul puts it in Ephesians 6:1-3.

“Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. ‘Honor your father and mother’ (this is the first commandment with a promise), ‘that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.'”

Ephesians 6:1-3

Jani: Wow (“…that it may go well with you.”).

Advice on discipline

Jani: Children disobey for two reasons: either we let them, or the pain they have experienced from disobedience in the past is not enough of a deterrent to keep them from disobeying again.

Jani: How can you best help your child to obey you? Let me advise you in this way. If you must discipline, make the pain of the discipline outweigh the pleasure of the disobedience or the discipline will be meaningless to your child. For your child to change his ways, it must be more unpleasant to follow his own impulse than to obey you when he doesn’t feel like it.

Jani: Let me illustrate it this way. When I was teaching school, I came upon a very difficult child one year. I’ll call him Tommy just for convenience. He was, I’m sorry to say, obnoxious, defiant, disruptive…but brilliant. I tried everything with him and some things worked. We did behavior charts. I checked in daily with his mom. She had to sign it every day and send it back. I was using exhaustive creative energy to get him to fit into class and not cause disruptions and he was beginning to come along. Why? Well, I didn’t see it until about January of that year. I remember one day I was correcting papers while my children, my class, was in PE and our big six foot four PE teacher brought Tommy back to my classroom and said, “Mrs. Ortlund, Tommy is refusing to take off his shoes and get on the scale to be weighed.” Well, I got up from my desk and I said, “Tommy, come with me.” I marched him right back down to that gym. I looked him straight in the face and I said, “Take off those shoes and stand on that scale right now.” Tommy did it. After he got weighed, I took him out of the gym and I said, “Tommy, why did you make me come all the way down here? Mr. Dan had to get a substitute for his classroom. He had to come down and get me. I had to come down and make you do this. Why? Why wouldn’t you do it for him?” And this is what he said, “I didn’t think he would make me but I knew you would.” Dear mom, follow through on making your children obey you.

7: Give many rewards.

Jani: Along with that, and this helped with Tommy, is our seventh principle: give many rewards.

Heidi: That’s one of the things I love about the Ortlund family! There’s always lots of Skittles and rewards abounding.

Jani: With Tommy, it was working. If he got all of his stickers for a week, he’d get a candy reward. By the end of the year he was working for a big Lego spaceship his mom and I were going to go half in on. It was great. But children should learn early on that good and pleasure go together just as surely as sin and pain do. So let’s be moms and grandmas and teachers and friends who reward cheerful obedience, who reward good manners, kindness, respect, hard work, all those qualities that you long to see developed in your child.

Jani: Our listeners might remember Jennifer Cortez from previous podcasts. Heidi, you would love this. You know Ray recently preached on the Psalms and one of the Psalms he preached on with Psalm 100. Well, Jennifer had Evelyn, who is five, memorize that Psalm, and she recorded it and sent it to Ray and me. We were delighted, but at the end of the recording she let us know that Evelyn is now receiving a great big ice cream cone as a reward. Well, that’s great. That made me smile. You know, that little girl worked hard to memorize that and now she’s enjoying a wonderful reward. The Lord rewards us. Why don’t we follow his example and give many rewards along the way? Don’t be a stingy mommy. Be a big-hearted rewarder.

Jani: Sin and pain go together. Punishment teaches us what not to do. Sorrow and pain teach us to fear and hate sin, but rewards teach us to love good. Make lots of rewards in your child’s love bank. Then when you need to make a withdrawal through discipline, your relationship won’t go bankrupt.

8: Teach them to embrace hard work.

Jani: Our eighth principle that Ray and I put into practice was we wanted our kids to embrace hard work. So we taught them to work hard. They had chores, just as your kids do, Heidi, around here. What are some of the chores that you’re teaching them to do?

Heidi: We teach them to clear their dishes after we eat a meal together, and to help mommy wash the table and wash the counter tops. I’m still working on making their beds. They do it some days, but I have to admit that I’m not as good as saying, “Okay, every day we need to make our beds together.” But those are some of the things we’re working on.

Jani: I may have told our listeners this before, but you helped me with a big Costco run recently, and those three little Howerton kids pushed the cart, lifted everything and you said, “You go help miss Jani now…”

Heidi: We want them to learn to take care of people!

Jani: Well, in that they were learning to work hard, weren’t they?

Teaching hard work is a three step process: do it for them, do it together, then have them do it alone.

Jani: You know, children learn their work ethic at home, most probably from their mom. They need to be a helping member of the family unit. Colossians 3:23 says,

“Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men.”

Colossians 3:23

Jani: I think it’s helpful for us to remember as moms that teaching hard work is a three step process, not a two step. Some of us think, “Oh, teaching our kids how to work hard, that means I teach them, and then they do it.” No, I start out doing it for them and show them how and then they do it. I like to insert a middle step. You start out “doing it for your child, teaching them how to do it,” but then do it together for a long time. Give them grace here. Do it together, encourage them and then maybe let them try it alone (the third step). But circle back to it. I wonder what your kids might think, Heidi, if some day you came and secretly made their beds for them while they were eating breakfast. Or one of them is just having a hard day—you had to get them up early for our podcasting and you’re kind of saying, “Come on now we’ve got to get moving.” Just stepping in to help James and Gideon and saying, “Oh, I know I told you to make your bed. Can I help you?”

Jani: Teaching hard work–part of that is showing them the joy and reward of hard work and how to do it together. So do it for them, do it together, then have them do it alone but circle back to doing it for them and doing it together many, many times.

9: Pray, pray, pray, pray and then pray some more.

Jani: And then our ninth and final principle for today is pray, pray, pray, pray and then pray some more. Adopt God’s standards for discipline and leave the results with him. He is the God of grace—grace for us and grace for our children. He will surely enter in.

What’s next?

Jani: We want to close today on that idea of prayer and tell you that in our next podcast we want to talk about praying for our children, how Heidi and I pray for our kids, different verses we use and we want to pray for your children in our next podcast, too.

Heidi: And we also want to take a moment to say that if you have any questions that you would love Jani to answer, if there’s anything on your heart—”How do I do this?” or, “What are your thoughts on this?”—we want to focus on those “Ask Jani” podcasts, too. So feel free to go to our website at and feel free to put in those questions and we’re going to continue to try to answer some of those.

Heidi: Thank you for joining us today. To discover more about Jani and Ray, visit their webpage at If you have a question for Jani or would like to learn more about this podcast, please visit our website at

Thank You

Thank you for joining us today. This podcast is generously funded through Renewal Ministries. If you would like to discover more about Jani and Ray’s ministry or make a donation, visit their website at If you have a question for Jani or would like to learn more about this podcast, please visit our website at

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He Restores My Soul with Jani Ortlund seeks to encourage women with God’s renewing power for their busy lives. Episodes include relevant biblical teaching, stimulating gospel conversations with other Christians, and “Ask Jani” sessions where we talk about what’s on our listeners’ hearts.

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