In today’s Firmly Rooted Friday post, Claudia reinforces the importance of teaching children repentance. It may be hard, but it is worth it in the long run.
Teaching Children Repentance
by Claudia Duff
I have always had a special fondness for the middle child, maybe because I am in the middle of three sisters. Trust me, being in the middle is not always the best. You cannot be too bossy because there is always someone older. You are often overlooked because you are not the baby. Let us face it, the baby gets all of the attention. I have three Dufflings, and I have a middle. It was a struggle y’all. He was not a big fan of the baby. He often took her toys just because he could. His teasing at times was relentless.
Parenting was challenging. I didn’t want to be too harsh with my middle because he was learning to cope with an added member of the family, and my husband and I had just become completely outnumbered by tiny humans.
And being a military wife, it was often just me against all three.
One day, I had a little chat with my middle that went something like this, “you know, soon she is going to be bigger, and she isn’t going to let you take her toys. That baby is going to start fighting back.” I am quite sure that little talk fell on deaf ears. Not long after the baby started to walk and developed a little sassiness, she started fighting back. This led to many squabbles followed by time-outs and some more significant discipline. I wish I could tell you it got better fast, but it did not.
Isn’t that the way with us? We know the parameters, yet we choose our own way more often than the righteous way. Thankfully, we have a God who sits on the mercy seat and is anxious to forgive. e need only to ask. I believe the biggest gift we can give our children is to teach them how to repent, ask for forgiveness, offer forgiveness, and receive forgiveness. There are lessons to be learned from both sides, chiefly grace and mercy. Both must be present for this transaction to be made in the heavenlies. Grace is receiving what we do not deserve. Mercy is not receiving what we absolutely deserve. So, each time an offense occurred I guided both my children to do their part in mending the offense. It was arduous work, not an easy 4 step plan, but we did it. We had a chart of typical offenses, repentance sentences, consequences, and Scripture. We went through it so often I think my Dufflings may still remember some of the verses.
Of course, every plan has a flaw, and the flaw is the people in the plan.
When people are a part of the plan, trust me, it will fail as often as it brings success. In the moments where I thought we might be losing more than we were gaining, I allowed the natural consequences of their sinful behavior to take the lead. Remember earlier when I said the baby started to fight back? Well, this is a perfect picture of natural consequences.
It was a typical day; I was in the kitchen, and the Dufflings were playing together in another room. Suddenly, I heard a very loud outcry, more like a heart stopping scream. As I looked up, I saw my middle running. Right behind him was the baby running, screaming, and wielding a large toy as her weapon of choice. When the middle cried out for help, “Momma, help! The baby is trying to kill me!” I smiled and chuckled a bit with this reply, “I told you one day the baby would fight back.” Sometimes natural consequences are the better teacher. It is good to fail when you can apply biblical truth and come out stronger on the other side.
Teaching children repentance often takes more time than we want to spare, but it is worth it in the long run.
Today, I see my adult children thriving when it comes to forgiveness, offering mercy, and receiving grace when needed. It is a powerful discipline in every believer’s life.
As you tenderly shepherd your children’s hearts, be mindful that this is the heart that you will send out into a big world. In leading your children in the area of forgiveness, remember to ask yourself this question, “how much of this behavior is 4-year-old boy/girl and how much is disobedience?” There is a difference. Boys are very loud; they cannot help it. Girls are very sassy; they cannot help it. Don’t get it twisted, I’m not saying give them a pass. I am saying know and understand the offense. Why? Because it will guide you when deciding on discipline as well as a more thorough act of repentance.
I always tried to be careful with their tiny hearts so they could grow into people who will love well. I am mindful that I am not the perfect parent. But I am the perfect parent for Jonathan and his wife Gretchen, Josiah and his wife Megan, and Bethany. Why? Because God chose me to parent them. He saw the end from the beginning, and he still chose me. Not perfect, just chosen. As you parent, take care to grow your soul in grace as well.
“but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”
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