What do you do when you child messes up? Do you jump into a rant of, “I knew you were going to do something like that. How could you be so stupid”?
Or do you look at your child’s infraction as a way to teach them how to recover from their mistakes?
When your kids come to you contrite over their bad decisions, be careful to learn from God’s pattern of balancing judgment with mercy. As you encourage your child for having the courage to come to you and confess, it is a perfect opportunity to walk them through the process of repentance to the Lord.
What is that process? Here are three steps moms should follow when kids disobey:
1. Does your child agree with God that his action was wrong? Help him move past the, “I’m sorry I did this because the consequences stink” response.
2. Encourage your kid to confess to the Lord that he has sinned against Him. Help your child understand that the greatest problem with his action was that it was committed against the Lord. (And if your child has not yet become a Christian help him understand what sin is, and how his–and your–sin is the reason Jesus came to die. When your child recognizes his own sin, it is a perfect time to help him understand his need for a Savior. And then you can teach your child about the hope of forgiveness, and cleansing from shame that comes through Salvation.)
If by example you are careful to admit to your kids when you have sinned, and assure them you have asked the Lord’s forgiveness, you will teach them that repentance is a normal part of the Christian life. And that repentance is God’s way of restoring His children to right fellowship with Him.
3. Teach your child repentance means to turn from sin. To assure your kids will truly change, help them see the need to remove themselves from anything and anyone that will lead them to commit the same sin again. (Of course, if their sibling is their accomplice you will need to teach them to hold one another accountable, and encourage each other to make right choices.)
This is how the Christian life is lived out. You and I do not achieve perfection after we accept Christ, and either do our kids. We must teach them how God provides a way for His children to restore right fellowship with Him whenever they sin.
Then, just as God promises not to remember the transgressions of a repentant soul, once the appropriate consequence has been imposed, determine not to bring up past failures each time your child makes a wrong choice.
What if your child does not willingly come to you to confess an infraction?
Follow the LORD’s example in the Garden of Eden. God knew of Adam and Eve’s sin. They hid themselves, but He sought them out, asked them questions to make them see their wicked ways, then imposed the consequences for their sin, and promised a way of redemption.
God will mercifully forgive and forget the sins of a repentant person, but He will not remove their repercussions. Follow the Lord’s example by gracefully and consistently imposing consequences, to help your children learn there are always ramifications for their actions.
Ask the Lord to give you compassion for your child’s frailty, coupled with a steady discipline that does not overlook infractions.
So the next time your child messes up remind yourself some of the best teachable moments come in times of disobedience.
And remember – your job as a parent is not to raise perfect children, but to prepare your kids to know how to recover when they fall.