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Positive Parenting: Justice or Mercy?

The Parenting Question

Justice or mercy? That is the question. When your child gets frustrated at his sister and hits her does he need justice or mercy? When your youth comes home from a date after curfew does she need justice or mercy? How do parents balance these two truths? Which principles are the parent secrets for raising children? Is justice or mercy the key for how to become a good parent?

It is true that a person can learn from the mercy of others and can even have a change of heart. But, it is also true that in order for most people to learn cause and effect there must be justice, or consequences, which show them how their choices affect their happiness.

Justice And Mercy

Since the beginning of time there has been an argument between these two principles brewing on every front. In government I don't think we will ever settle on what principle to use. The debate is endless.

The ironic element about the intellectual and emotional battle about mercy and justice is this, justice and mercy must both be satisfied in almost all situations. So, while one group or person argues for justice and another begs for mercy and it is tempting to take a side, no side should actually be taken in this dispute.

The same is true in families. Families need principles of justice tempered with elements of mercy to raise children who are able to govern themselves.

Justice is the structure of the home. It is the way we teach cause and effect so the children see there is a reason to choose the right. Justice is also a calm parent who looks into the eyes of her child. Only a calm parent can truly be just. Otherwise the justice is actually just revenge. A frustrated, power hungry parent gives consequences in haste and as an emotional release. A calm, just parent tells children what consequences they have earned after teaching has taken place and a bond has been established.

It is easy to be the kind of parent who counterfeits justice. It is difficult to be the parent who lives real calmness and executes justice as a means to happiness.

Mercy is the tone you have within your heart which reaches the heart of your child even when you are bound to execute justice. Mercy is teaching children the right way to do something so that they don't have a problem again. Mercy stems from loving someone. The love is apparent no matter the situation, and accepts mistakes as part of the learning which is needed for growth.

Mercy is also the structure you have in your home. When you have certain skills you teach, master, and expect as well as a predictable system of positive and negative consequences the child feels secure and understood.

Seeking to understand, which is the action of mercy, starts by looking into the eyes of the person and seeing them for who they are supposed to become, not what behavior they have just done.

Mercy and justice are required for raising children, and are not just for different situations. Both principles are true and need to be present in all situations. When parents feel mercy and teach justice, children soon take responsibility for their own behaviors and become self-governing for life.


Nicholeen Peck is a popular public speaker,  BBC television star and author of Parenting A House United, and Londyn LaRae Says Okay.  Her blog is Teaching Self Government. The BBC show of her family can be found there, as well as answers to frequently asked parenting questions. To buy her book click here.   You should totally check out her  Books and Audio Classes, New Children's Book or her
 Blog which is full of great parenting tips!

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