Amazing grace: A spirited girl knew what she wanted

We didn’t say grace at our house when I was growing up because my parents were atheists, explains author Anne Lamott.

amazing grace

I knew even as a little girl that everyone at every table needed blessing and encouragement, but my family didn’t ask for it. Instead, my parents raised glasses of wine to the chef: Cheers. Dig in.

But I had a terrible secret

which was that I believed in God, a divine presence who heard me when I prayed, who stayed close to me in the dark. So at 6 years of age I began to infiltrate religious families like a spy—Mata Hari in [pink] sneakers.

One of my best friends was a Catholic girl

Her boisterous family bowed its collective head and said, “Bless us, O Lord, and these thy gifts…” I was so hungry for these words; it was like a cool breeze, a polite thank-you note to God, the silky magnetic energy of gratitude. I still love that line.”

My two brothers and I all grew up to be middle-aged believers

I’ve been a member of the same Presbyterian church for 27 years. My older brother became a born-again Christian–but don’t ask him to give the blessing [at a holiday dinner], as it can last forever. I adore him, but your food will grow cold. My younger brother is an unconfirmed but freelance Catholic.

So now someone at our holiday tables always ends up saying grace

1441782_21171245 grace

We say thank you for the miracle that we have stuck together all these years, in spite of it all; that we have each other’s backs, and hilarious companionship.

We savor these moments out of time, when we are conscious of love’s presence, of Someone’s great abiding generosity to our dear and motley family, these holy moments of gratitude. And that is grace.

Anne Lamott

Excerpts are taken from a column, “Views by Anne Lamott,” November 11, 2012. View entire column here.

Tweetable: Will you say grace at your holiday feast? Find inspiration through the eyes of a 6-year-old girl. Click to Tweet


Scaffolding: It’s not about you

A child’s human spirit and conscience develop like a new building under construction with scaffolding around it. Parents and other adults provide a framework for support, but the child is the one under development. The point is the child—or the building.

Everybody looks past the scaffolding

They are trying to see around or through the scaffolding to get an idea of what the building is going to look like. So it doesn’t matter what scaffolding looks like, as long as it serves its purpose.

Instead of worrying about what others think of our efforts, what if we keep our focus on the best interests of the child?

What will help develop their human spirit?

635470_90063659 make mistakes

  • Letting them make mistakes. Not covering those mistakes up, but helping them process wrongdoing so they can learn from it.
  • Serving as a sounding board as they think, reflect, and make the kind of internal changes that will allow them to grow.

A friend of mine is struggling with oncoming empty nest syndrome

558852_72997224 empty nest

Two children who have left the nest are doing great, and one is still in high school and becoming very independent. When her second child left home recently, I sent her a note of encouragement saying,

You are now a masters-level parent. They can do much more on their own now, and that’s a sign of success.

When scaffolding is no longer needed, it goes away.

I’d argue that this removal of support doesn’t happen all of a sudden at age 18, but gradually throughout childhood and the teen years as kids take on more responsibility and make wise choices more consistently.

Paradoxically, the sign of good parenting is when they don’t need you anymore.

Tweetable: A child’s human spirit and conscience develop like a new building under construction with scaffolding around it. Click to Tweet

Ask children, “How does God think?”

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Talk to any 3- or 4-year-old and you will find a capacity to think about God. Researcher Justin Barrett says, “They already have something like an impulse to think about supernatural beings, to account for why things are the way they are and how things work in the world around them. They’re really inclined to make sense of it in terms of something like God.” 

Cultivate that natural capacity as they get older.

So how does that work? How can parents, or any adult who’s caring for a child’s spiritual well-being, encourage engaging with the mind of God? Dr. Barrett continues:

You can ask them to consider: How does God think?

How might that be different from how they think? What is God’s perspective on their life, on the lives of those around them?  This kind of engagement might be good for their personal development but it’s also great for their social, cognitive development.


674843_45581144 preschool classroomChildren’s social intelligence increases as they consider these kinds of questions.

There is evidence that thinking about others who have different perspectives is good for developing children’s social intelligence:

  • others who look at things a different way
  • others who feel something differently
  • others who know different things

It helps them develop the ability to navigate the world around them

It builds up those muscles for thinking about other people who have different perspectives, and maybe loosen up the erroneous idea that I am the center of the world. How think is the way everyone else thinks. What I think is right and wrong is what everybody else thinks is right and wrong.

boyGod is a really interesting test case for that possibility.

Thinking about God, engaging with God, and considering the difference between God and them can help stretch a child. It can bring the understanding that I could be wrong about certain things because God captures the truth better than I do.

It is healthy for children from a very young age to begin engaging with how God thinks. 

This post is composed of excerpts taken from a magazine interview given by Dr. Justin Barrett. 

Tweetable: Children are really inclined to make sense of the world in terms of something like God. Click to Tweet

Why is hiding wrongdoing harmful?


Hide and Seek can be fun for kids… but the thrill is in being found. No one wants to stay hidden forever. That means they’ve been forgotten and are not part of the group anymore.

An (admittedly imperfect) analogy can be drawn to hiding our wrongdoing



When adults do something wrong, our temptation can be to hide it. But we quickly learn that the hiding becomes a problem in and of itself.

It cuts us off from our community. It allows our detrimental behavior to continue to harm us. It brings unwanted feelings of shame.

We don’t want this for our children.

Why do children often begin to cover up their wrongdoings?

For one thing, it is usually easy to hide a hurtful wrong, while deciding to reveal it is hard.

For another thing, children are scared of the consequences, especially when that may include punishment in some form. So instead of acknowledging the wrongdoing and exposing themselves to the adult’s potentially negative reaction, their temptation is to hide it.

Also, children sense a breach of relationship when adults get angry or express disappointment in them, making their choice to hide seem like a safer alternative.

What can we as parents or caregivers do to help children navigate these difficult waters well?

The most important action we can take is also the most simple: Show them through modeling. When do children see you admit that you have done something wrong or handled something badly? When have they seen you apologize for your actions?



One dad sometimes gets mad at his kids and yells at them. (Admittedly, they’ve generally done something to provoke that response.) He knows he shouldn’t yell at them, so after he cools down he will come back and apologize to his children. Through this they learn that it’s okay– even good– to be honest about your shortcomings.


The more honest I can be, the less I have to hide…when I have nothing to hide, I have everything to give.

–American singer/songwriter Kenny Loggins

Tweetable: When do children see you admit that you have done something wrong or handled something badly? Click to Tweet