When children are small, we call their misdeeds “naughty.” As they get older, we may say they’ve broken the rules or are acting disobediently. Few parents use the word “sin” when describing something their child has done wrong, but when children turn away of God’s grace and instead hurt someone, they have sinned, and one of the privileges (although a difficult one) of parenting is to help our children turn back to the always-present love of God.
Acknowledge what the child has done wrong. Some parents struggle to see the good in their children and find fault too easily, while other parents only see the good their children do and are uncomfortable admitting their children make poor choices. The healthiest parents see their children as God does—as essentially good people who occasionally sin and need to be redirected into God’s love.
Bart, father of four boys, has this to say: “My wife and I have tried to respond as we think Jesus would have. To let the child know that God has already forgiven them, to assure them that we all make bad choices and that ultimately what matters is how we respond to the bad choice we’ve made. What can they do to repair any damage that has been done? How can they use the situation to help them make a better choice the next time? How can they grow in compassion for others who may have sinned against them in a similar way? In other words, we’re all on a journey of becoming who we’re meant to be and, through Christ, we can allow even our sins to become blessings to help us become those people.”
Good can come even out of serious sin. When Judy’s son Andy was arrested for drunk driving, he didn’t want his mother to come near him, he was so ashamed. But Judy prayed that she could continue to love her son as God did. “As parents we need to teach and discipline our children, but it must always be wrapped in love. We still have to face the consequences of our choices, but God’s love for us never changes,” Judy says. “It took a while for all of us to work through all the emotion.” After her son’s arrest, Judy gave her son the book Don’t Waste Your Life by John Piper (Crossway). “Andy has told me that reading that book right after being arrested changed his life for the good.”
By Annemarie Scobey, from the pages of At Home with Our Faith, Claretian Publications’ print newsletter for parents on nurturing spirituality in the home. Winner of the Best in Class award in 2014 from the Associated Church Press, as well as a First Place General Excellence award from the Catholic Press Association for four years running. Here’s a sample issue.
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