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How do you teach your kids forgiveness?

May 5, 2011
 |  by Krista

How do you teach your kids forgiveness?

There’s a rule in our house that if anyone being tickled says, “Stop,” the tickler must quit immediately. (Grandpa has had to be completely re-trained in this matter!) We have labelled it an essential form of respect, and we abide by it unfailingly. Both our kids are very ticklish. But while Jessica delights in that kind of physical contact, Benjamin avoids it at all costs.

Well, the other day I heard howls of laughter coming from Ben’s room. Jessica’s voice was in intense teasing mode and her brother sounded very much like the laughing-so-hard-I-can’t-breathe victim. I heard him pant the word “stop,” but the little blond bulldog had him cornered, and she wasn’t about to release her prey. There was more out-of-control giggling and another gasped command to halt the assault. No go. The girl was on a power trip.

I called down the hall, sternly reminding Jess about our rule and informing her in no uncertain terms that she was on thin ice. The little bulldog knew that Mama’s “reminder” should not be ignored, but adrenaline greatly outweighed common sense. She changed her tactic slightly by acknowledging my warning, but went on the attack again. Within a minute I heard another yodelled, “Jess, stop! I really mean it!”

The end result was a five year old in the doghouse (major time-out downstairs) and an opportunity for the seven year old to show forgiveness. After the allotted time, Jess had already made amends with God and was ever so eager to return from exile. With a little coaching, she first apologized for disobeying me. Then she asked Ben’s forgiveness for her disrespectful actions. I love the way kids make up. He accepted her verbal peace offering without blinking and before I could preach the lesson, they trotted off to resume less ticklish play. The teachable moment evaporated before my eyes. I guess I should be glad they patched things up so fast.

Family feuds do not always end that smoothly at our house. There are times when bitterness takes root and someone is not ready to forgive. Rob and I take the position that while we could force a child to utter the words, there’s no point in it if the heart isn’t repentant. We usually just let the angry soul sit and think it over, although sometimes that feels too passive.

What do you do when your kids don’t want to apologize or are not ready to forgive? Does it really just take time or are there other techniques to help them along? I feel like that part of our parenting “toolbox” is a little too empty. It would be great to have options for dealing with stubborn hearts.

Truthfully, since stubborn is my specialty, it’s a subject I need to be in prayer over. Are there people I haven’t truly forgiven? Our church just finished a 12-week reconciliation series and one sermon was on apologies and restoring relationships. The “coincidence” makes me go hmmm.

Related Lesson: Forgiveness