forgiveness | parenting

Teaching Children About Forgiveness

January 18, 2021

As parents, we were automatically handed the responsibility to teach our children. I’ve seen this picture play out many times in the media. Mommy or daddy relates the life lesson to little one while they listen and obey. Perfect as it may paint, it doesn’t translate to real life.

The teaching moment usually happens when misconduct arises. (At least in our situation.)

What good parent tolerates their child for rude behavior? Our 3-year-old hits mommy to vent all his anger and frustration. Daddy wouldn’t have it. He orders the little boy to say sorry, which by the way, is met by a wail of willfulness. 

But what if the role reverses? Instead of your kid thumping and shrieking and flooding the floor with tears of rebellion, it was you having a meltdown moment?

It happened to me a few days back.

Pressure loomed over. I was due to present my work to my bosses in a few days’ time. Unfortunately, the software project I worked on flared with failures. (That is, the software program I’ve written reported issues when I executed them.)

One night, our son — face soaked with tears — prods me to carry him to bed. No, he wasn’t asking me for a simple bedtime routine. Rather, he’s requiring me to accompany him all the way, until he falls asleep, which takes about an hour or so. I told him daddy is willing. But he wouldn’t accept reason (well, he’s a kid) and bawls at my side.

Heart boiling with anger, I raised my voice and ushered his little self to go. With disappointment and rejection written on his face, he hurried downstairs to where daddy was calling him. The sight of him leaving broke my heart. The time and focus I stubbornly guarded was stolen by my parenting screw up.

I crawled to bed two-three hours later, having made no progress with my project. The little boy was awakened by the rustling of the sheets. (His bed frame is placed next to ours, specifically on my side.) He acknowledges my presence, that I finally came.

He stirred, so he could be next to me. I wrapped my arms around him and told him I was very sorry. No explanations. I made a mistake so I’m asking for his forgiveness. He responded with something inaudible accompanied by a smile and went back to sleep. A sign he pardons my imperfections.

Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

~ Ephesians 4:32

No parent will ever have a clean record. We will fall short. And we’re most vulnerable to do the unthinkable when tired, pressured and overcome with emotions.

The good news is. Our parenting mishaps can result in teaching opportunities about forgiveness. This can only be possible through the wisdom of God. Sure, we’d much prefer to give instructions using stories in children’s books or the Bible. But children imitate what they see and experience best

I’m not suggesting we go looking to fail so we can teach our children. Not at all. Fallible as we are, meltdown moments do happen — try as we might to avoid it —  in our role as parents.

So the next time it happens, we tell our children mommy and daddy blows it too. And this won’t be the last time. But when it happens, we sincerely ask for forgiveness because we offended someone. At the same token, we also extend forgiveness to others, even to those who don’t deserve it.

Because 2,000 years ago, God demonstrated His own love for us by going to the cross. He gave His life not for Himself but because of our sins. Yes, He died for us all, to those who don’t deserve it. (See Romans 5:8 here.)

And by a simple act of asking for forgiveness and believing the Lord Jesus is the Christ, who died to take away our sins, we can receive His pardon and enjoy everlasting life with Him in paradise.

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