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Grace, but not all the time. A Parenting Blog

Little Red Hen

A couple of weeks ago I was reminded of a book from my childhood called “The Little Red Hen.” In the story, the Hen invites his friends to help her bake a cake, but her friends are too lazy to help her. At the end of the book, the lazy friends wanted to share in the hard work of the Hen, but the Hen decided not to share and enjoyed the fruits of her labor while her friends stood there in shock.

We live in a world where everybody expects something for nothing. It didn’t become that way overnight. It’s the way many have been raised. You work hard at something and people are quick to expect you to share it with them when they didn’t do anything to deserve it. You can blame it on the way Baby Boomers raised their kids, but as an adult, I take responsibility for myself and what I expect from this world. I don’t want this post to turn political, but fewer people are trying to make something of themselves these days because they simply don’t have to.

We exercise a lot of grace with our children, probably too much at times. When demonstrated properly, Grace is an amazing thing. It shows the recipient that though they did nothing to deserve what they are receiving, they are given it because of love. We love our kids so it makes sense to pour out grace to them whenever possible. Grace is cool because it is not something that can be earned. If it was, it would be a reward.

What I love most about the book “The Little Red Hen,” is the unexpected ending. Reading through the book you realize that the cat, dog, and mouse are being lazy. What you don’t expect is that the Hen ends up eating the cake all to herself while her friends stand there with their jaws on the floor.

The Little Red Hen Book

The Little Red Hen doing work while her friends were being lazy.

Last night I had my wife and kids around me as I read the book. My wife remembered the book, but not how the story would end. When the Hen decided to withhold grace from her friends, my wife and kids had the same “jaw on the floor” expressions as the cat, dog, and mouse did. The Little Red Hen is an old story. It was adapted from an old folk tale most likely made up to teach kids about pitching in.

The Little Red Hen Book

The Little Red Hen eating her cake while her lazy friends watch.

The response my wife and kids had to the story was what I had expected. Most stories have a happy ending, and in this story, they expected that the Hen would have given her friends grace and allowed them to eat her cake. That just didn’t happen, and I love that it didn’t happen.

The story ends with the Hen’s friends being more than willing to help because they want to eat next time. It’s kind of a harsh story by today’s standards, but I think it’s just what the world needs. There is a time for grace and there is a time for a lesson.

The cool thing about grace is that it is not something you can earn. In life, when you do good, you usually get rewarded. When you do bad, you often get punished. At least that is the way we expect it. When you receive grace, you are receiving it out of the loving heart of the one offering it to you. This is why grace is so significant and why it shouldn’t be misused. Judgment and reward are something you earn, grace is something unearned.

I want my kids to be able to recognize grace when it is handed down to them. I do believe that grace is something that is handed down to you, and it can come in many forms. I only know this because I have received it, and recognize that the grace I received was unearned (insert spiritual undertones here). Grace is something that is unmerited. You get grace because someone wants you to have something you didn’t or couldn’t earn on your own. Kids need a lot of grace because they are learning their way in this world. However, I believe that there is a limit to the amount of grace we should pour out to our children and not allow ourselves to get too carried away. I don’t want to get into a discussion about what would be considered an act of grace and what doesn’t, but I do believe there are limits, and I think that we as parents have blurred the line between what giving grace is and what constitutes as enabling.

What do you think about this book? Have you read it? Was it read to you as a child? I think it’s a fantastic book and I love that my kids enjoyed it. They need to know that life is not a free ride. They need to understand that hard work pays off. I want to make sure that what they see in me is a person who works hard and that they are able to recognize when grace is given to them, whether it comes from my wife and me, or God.


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