As a mom to two children under the age of five, I am constantly in the throes of laying groundwork for what I expect and teaching boundaries in a world that doesn’t seem to expect boundaries at all. However, as I have conversations with moms who are in the later stages of parenting, I am starting to understand that conversations about boundaries and expectations aren’t going anywhere anytime soon!
In our house, we are navigating these conversations about boundaries and expectations using the fruit of the Spirit from Galatians 5 to shape our framework. As we work through difficulties with sharing toys or taking turns, the fruit of the Spirit gives us a great framework and simple language to use to help our littles understand how to treat one another. Inevitably, we face many moments when our actions (both on the part of the children or the parents—or both—in our house) not only need an apology but, more important, these moments need forgiveness.
Forgiveness Points Us Back to the Cross
What does this actually look like with small children, you might wonder? Why should we talk about forgiveness with kids, especially when we aren’t always the best at navigating this topic as adults? Mostly, it involves a lot of repetition and constant practice. But it also requires taking opportunities to grow their understanding of why we are repeating and practicing forgiveness so relentlessly.
“We forgive because we are forgiven” is a short phrase or saying that we work on repeating when we need to resolve conflict in our family. No matter the age, it is not an easy thing to admit fault and repent to another person.
When we take time to repent and forgive, we are reflecting the hard work that was done on the cross through Jesus Christ. It was not an easy task for Christ to die on the cross, and yet it was still important, despite the difficulty. Jesus died with forgiveness on His lips: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34).
Forgiveness Shows Us a Need for Our Savior
Cultivating the habit of giving and receiving for forgiveness rather than just saying “I’m sorry” takes time. You can encourage your children to say, “I am sorry, please forgive me,” and respond with, “I love you and I forgive you.” This usually does not happen without parents being alongside them, providing coaching and guidance. When we take time to recognize that sin damages our relationships with God and other people, it opens our eyes to see the need to be repair relationships.
I have found that helping our children practice this skill is a refreshing rhythm. There is something significant to the kindness that is extended through the words “I forgive you,” instead of, “It’s okay” or a similar short response to an apology. Saying “I forgive you,” in fact, acknowledges that what you just did was most certainly not okay, but it also acknowledges that I won’t hold this action against you. “I forgive you” reflects the work of the Holy Spirit through each person as they take a reverent posture toward one another.
Forgiveness Acknowledges Value in Others
As we seek to give meaning and practical purpose to this daily need to ask for and extend forgiveness, we have an opportunity to weave an important piece of theology into the narrative. When we forgive, we are acknowledging that the other person is valuable. He is made in the image of God and loved by Him. She is someone who Jesus died for. Our willingness to forgive lets others tangibly know that we love and value who they are in spite of how their actions might have affected us.
With my parenting lens constantly looking for opportunities to help my children understand and practice forgiveness, I find myself more aware of how much our world could use a little more forgiveness, instead of just stopping short at mere apologizing. My husband and I are aiming to raise our children to be able to discern this as well. We are hoping to raise our children to readily ask for and receive forgiveness when it is needed. We are hoping to raise our children to see and acknowledge the work of their Baptism in everyday life. Is this something that is near and dear to your heart as well? I encourage you to take this month to focus on forgiveness in Scripture.
Use the Everyday Faith Calendar as a starting point for conversation and be encouraged in your work to intentionally help cultivate a culture of forgiveness in your household.