Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Modeling Forgiveness to Our Children: My Struggle to Say "I'm Sorry"

After writing my most recent post on teaching young children to apologize, I had a moment of clarity in which I realized how difficult it is even for adults--namely myself--to say "I'm sorry."  I have always been a proud person, not wanting to accept help offered and unwilling to admit my inadequacy or shortcomings.  So, when I wonder why it's a challenge for my three-year-old daughter to apologize, then I should look no farther than myself for an answer. I have to ask myself if part of my problem might be that I am not modeling forgiveness as I should.

Saying "I'm sorry" requires humility on our parts.  When I hurt or offend my children or husband, it is very difficult for me to apologize. Pride gets in the way and I try to evade the issue or justify it instead of saying "I'm sorry" like I should.  Just the other day my oldest daughter talked back to me, following her "No, I'm not going to do that!" statement with a smirk the size of Texas.  My immediate response was anger, and I lashed out, popping her little cheek with my hand.  Now I didn't haul back and slap her but I might as well have because she was outraged.  In tears, she said: "Mommy, why did you do that?  That hurt me."

I knew I was wrong, but my position as a parent allowed me to justify my behavior instead of apologizing as I should. My pride got in the way. A few days later when my daughter hit me in the face in a heated moment, I knew we had a problem, and it was my fault.  I needed to act like a parent and apologize.

"Kate," I said, tears running down both our cheeks, "Mommy should never have hit you in the face, and I am sorry. I was upset with you, but I should not have done that.  Mommies aren't perfect; we make mistakes too. Will you forgive me?"

Between heavy sobs--this child clearly knew she was in the wrong for hitting Mommy--Kate whispered, "Yes," followed by, "I'm sorry, Mommy."

How can I, as a parent, teach my child to seek forgiveness when she has wronged someone if I myself cannot say "I'm sorry"?  As a Christian, I am assured of salvation because of my faith.  Yet, I am not perfect.  Sanctification is, I am convinced, a lifelong process.  I am continually striving to be more like Christ and less like Keri every day.  Learning to humble myself and seek forgiveness, especially of my loved ones, is one area in which I desperately need to improve, especially if I want my children to do the same. 

Dear Lord, You are a God of mercy and forgiveness, neither of which I deserve.  Forgive me for my pride, and help me, Lord, to be a better example of humility and meekness to my children. Teach me to seek forgiveness when I wrong others, and help me to teach my children to say "I'm sorry" when they hurt or offend others.  Thank You for forgiving my trespasses.  In Jesus' name, Amen.

In what area do you struggle in teaching your children?  Does it happen to be an area in which you personally struggle?  Doesn't that make it ten times harder?!

I pray God's richest blessings on you as you grow in His glory!


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  1. A good reminder, Keri. How can we expect our children to be repentant unless we model it in front of them?
    Thanks for this post!

  2. This is so true. What a sweet moment between you and your daughter! It seems like I have to go through this humbling process daily, but it's important for my kids and I.

    I've learned recently never to follow up an apology with "but you..." Instead, I try to do whatever correction is needed up front but end with my sincere apology and ask for forgiveness. Something like "You know you need to obey me the first time. It's my job to help you do that. But, honey, there is no excuse for me to yell and I am so, so sorry. Will you forgive me?" Having my kids pray with me to ask Jesus for forgiveness as well has been an amazing experience. That's humble pie, right there. :)