Spring is settling into our valley, sweeping out the grey and washing with light the beautiful blue that we had almost forgotten existed in Idaho skies.

With sunshine and dry sidewalks came a daily question from my two little boys:

“Can we ride our bikes out front???”

My response was always:

“First tell me all the rules for riding your bike out front, and then I will let you.”

At first the boys would quickly recite my guidelines, eager to go outside. They were heading out of my direct line of sight, and this was a big deal. But before long I noticed a change in their demeanor. They grew defensive at my response.

“But Mooooom! We know the rules!”

“Great! If you know them, tell them to me.”

They started to squirm.



Strain under the weight I was hanging over their heads.

They would begrudgingly spit out the laws of bike riding land. I would confirm their knowledge, and send them on their merry way. Only it wasn’t so merry anymore. They would head out to the garage with their heads hanging, feet dragging, mouths drooping.

What’s their problem? I’m just trying to make sure that they are safe.

But the reality was that I wasn’t just communicating my concern for their safety. I was telling my boys that I didn’t trust them.

Were they prone to breaking rules while riding their bikes? No.

Were they contentedly staying within my guidelines while riding their bikes? Yes.

So why was I treating by boys like constant offenders who must continually prove worthiness?


Another parenting fail.


Praise God that His grace is ready and waiting to redeem all parenting fails!

Grace! Grace! God’s grace! Grace that will pardon and cleanse within!
Grace! Grace! God’s grace! Grace that is greater than all my Copperness!

I was prepared for the next time I heard:

“Can we ride our bikes out front???”

I had a new response:

“Absolutely! You boys have been doing a super job following the rules when you ride your bikes! I am so proud of you both for being responsible when Mommy is not watching you. You probably don’t know this, but yesterday I looked out the window and saw that the neighbor boy was riding on other people’s property. I also saw that you boys stayed on the sidewalk! It makes Mommy so happy when you choose to do the right thing!”

The looks on their faces were a beautiful mix of wonder and pride and appreciation. My little speech of affirmation elicited spontaneous hugs from both boys. They headed towards the garage with their heads held high, their love tanks full. My four year old paused at the door, “Don’t worry Mommy! We’re going to be safe and make you proud! We love you!”

Since this recent parenting fail, I’ve been trying to really listen to the words that come out of my own mouth. Am I validating and encouraging the good character that is in my children, or am I tromping over their hearts, searching for hidden rebellion?

I’m intentionally trying to praise my children more. Lots more. You know why? Because I’ve got pretty great kids.

And so do you.