We’ve all been there. Things are hectic and you lose your cool at your child or you are unnecessarily harsh or you are selfish or sinful around your child. What we do after that is a huge moment in that child’s life. Sadly I know of far to many homes where parents just keep on going like nothing happened. Some parents think that if they say “I’m sorry will you forgive me” that it undermines their authority. Some have just grown up in a household where their parents never asked for forgiveness so they also never ask for forgiveness. Whatever the case may be if we aren’t apologizing and asking our children for forgiveness in these situations we are missing out on a big opportunity to show them God’s grace.
Our children are smart though. They know we aren’t perfect. They know when we have messed up and when we have sinned. When we fail to seek their forgiveness and when we fail to let them see us confessing our sins to God we create a wall between us and them and we fail to show them God’s working in our sanctification. Either they will think that adults are supposed to act like they are perfect (which creates a false expectation in their own lives as they grow into adulthood) or we will create in them a resentment of us. They will see us as fake and hypocrites who act like we have no sin. Colossians 3:21 tells us not to provoke our children lest they become discouraged. I believe that when we fail to go to our children for forgiveness we are provoking them. The Christian life is one of continued repenting and believing. That is the life we are to model to our children.
However when we sin against our children and we apologize and ask for forgiveness we restore the relationship that we have broken down with our sin. They see in us a child of God who is working through sanctification. They see an example of us growing to be more like Christ. If we want our children to be open to us and if we want them to grow in Christ we must show them that yes we do mess up because of our remaining sin nature, but that God is working on us and that He will continue that work until completion. So let us set aside our pride and go to them and confess our sins against them and ask them for forgiveness for the glory of God!
“I love you”. This seems like a given yet I know many people who have never heard this from their parents especially from their dad. There was a time when it was seen as unmanly or not macho to say I love you. I have heard dads say “they know I love them because of the things I do for them”. As much as our actions may say “I love you” our children need to hear it from us. The Bible is full of God expressing His love for us His children. If God makes His love for us known so clearly surely we ought to make our love for our children known. We should be telling them that we love them multiple times a day so there is no doubt in their minds.
“God loves you”. I firmly believe that as parents who have been brought into the Covenant of God’s Grace we can with confidence tell our children that God loves them. Luke 18:16 says “But Jesus called them to him, saying, “Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God.” The Bible is full of God’s love for children and specifically for children of those who are in His covenant. So tell them of God’s great love for them.
“I am proud of you”. Some will say that this is part of the modern philosophy that says you must build a child’s self esteem. I say hogwash to that. Part of our children knowing that they are loved is knowing that we are proud of the things they do that glorify God. They need to know that we approve of them. They need to know that they are special and loved. They need to know that we are for them and for them succeeding in life. This doesn’t end when they become adults. We all want to know our parents approve of us and are proud of us no matter what age we are. This goes for all of the points in this article as well. No matter what age we should be asking for forgiveness for when we wrong them, we should be telling them we love them and telling them that we are proud of them.
“That is sin and you need to repent”. Sometimes when our kids disobey it is easy to make it about us. We get frustrated because they aren’t doing what we want them to do. However at the heart of all disobedience is sin against God. We need to remind them of that. We need to tell them that it is not just us that they sinned against but that they are sinning against the Almighty God who is holy and who died and rose again for that sin. Every act of discipline is an opportunity to remind them of the Gospel.
Finally the last one is not something we need to say but rather something we should be doing. We should be hugging our children. This again is something that is often viewed as unmanly. I know of many men who say their dad never hugged them and that even as adults they still wish he would hug them and say “I love you”. If your children are still at home, hug them daily and often. For those whose children have grown up and moved out it is not too late. Go to your child and ask for forgiveness for not hugging them and for not telling them “I love you and I’m proud of you”. Go to them and hug them and tell them right then and there how much you love them.
I was blessed to have parents who did all of these things and did them well. So for that, I say thank you Dad and Mom. Thank you for loving me. Thank you for telling me you love me. Thank you for hugging me. Thank you for showing me God’s love for me.
Soli deo Gloria,