As a mother, I sometimes wonder if I am parenting correctly. I know that children learn from what they see, rather than what we tell them to do.

To be authentic to my daughter, I had a conversation with her as part of setting my new year’s resolutions – one of my goals for this year is to be more gracious, be it in my speech or my behavior.

Other than wanting to be a better person, I also hope that I can provide that model of grace for her. It has been a difficult journey and mostly it comes down to my heart, which is not perfect.

What Does Grace Means To Me

How To Teach Kids To Be Gracious

As a start, the grace that I try to model is being courteous, respectful and thoughtful towards others. I think of it as how I interact with my spouse, with my child, with my family and friends, with service staff, and with people we come across.

I am also careful of the message that I bring across about how I feel towards different people, such as, not to be privately critical of others notwithstanding being outwardly polite.

There are so many ways that I have failed in modeling grace since the start of the year, and mostly it comes down to how willing I am to give up my rights, my comfort and sometimes, my ego.

For instance, if I am traveling on the MRT with my daughter, my priority would always be to get that seat for her, and for myself. While it is natural to want to be sitting rather than standing in a crowded train, I do wonder whether I have crossed a ‘gracious line’ by being so eager to get that seat.

Or when someone cuts our queue, my daughter and I will be furious. While we may not confront the person, neither do we step back and consider the possibility of that person being in a rush and adopting a more forbearing attitude.

A closer interaction will be with the food service staff. I make it a point to say ‘Thank you’ when they serve our food. But sometimes, I know that I am not really thankful, because on some level, I feel entitled to it since I am paying for their service.

Once, I had an encounter with a cashier at a new bistro who was very slow in taking orders. This resulted in a long queue. While I did not show my impatience to the cashier, I later remarked to my daughter his incompetence, which she quickly caught on and added more criticisms.

See also: Teaching Our Children The Value of Giving Thanks

Being Gracious in Society

Teaching Kids To Be Gracious

To me, showing grace means not just being outwardly courteous, but also respecting the other person and being forbearing, regardless of whether I have paid for a service or that the other person is carrying out his job.

One Christmas, our family made a pack of three coasters, packed in an artsy paper bag. We gave them to the elderly food service staff at food outlets that we often frequent. The idea was to show our appreciation to the elderly staff who had to work for long hours at these food chains.

My daughter and I talked about how this handmade gift would just be the beginning – because having made that closer interaction, it would mean that we have to be even more aware of how gracious we are to them. We remind each other that even after a tired day, we would try to be polite and engage in conversations with them.

Being Gracious at Home

Closer to home, parents would know that their marriage has a huge impact on the children. If you are angry with your spouse, it is so much more likely that your interactions with your child will suffer.

You may lose your temper more easily or get into the mindset of blaming one another for inconveniences that happen. If the child sees that the parents cannot even show grace to each other, the idea that you have to be gracious to strangers seems ludicrous.

Much of these struggles do come down to my own comfort, convenience and asserting my rights and getting a fair share of the deal. Deep down, I know that in these situations I can do better but many times, I fall back to my own less gracious ways which may even be a social norm.

Even when we do the right thing on the outside, our speech and body language may show that we have done gracious acts grudgingly. And all these are apparent to our children.

For me, I continue to remind myself and my daughter to hold me accountable. We discuss in our informal family meetings over Saturday dinner at home what we are trying to do, how we are falling behind or making progress, and share insights from trying to be better version of ourselves.

That’s my imperfect model of grace.

How do you model grace for your child? Write to us in the comments below.

By Marcie Mei

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