|Asking Your Kids for Forgiveness
by Jen Price
Forgive ~ to stop feeling angry or resentful towards someone for an offense, flaw, or mistake.
My husband and I have worked hard to teach our kids the difference between saying, “I’m sorry” and “Will you forgive me?”. They are usually quick to say they are sorry for a wrong action, but to ask for forgiveness, well, those words don’t just roll off the tongue. Why is that?
Because it takes humility.
It takes admitting that the action you just did was out of the boundaries that God has for you. Asking forgiveness means you are asking another person to cancel the feelings of anger or hurt that your action just created in them. Learning to ask for forgiveness is a powerful life lesson that will help our kids far into adulthood.
Several years ago, my humble-yourself-and-ask-for-forgiveness thing was tested to the max.
On a particularly not-so-good day, my peace-and-calming-speak-in-love radar was way off. In a moment of breaking up sibling fights and diffusing arguments for what must have been the gazillionth time, I lost it. I raised my voice. I spoke in anger. I stepped outside of the boundary.
I was faced with a decision to make, one that I’d asked my kids to make many times before. Would I humble myself and ask my kids to forgive me, or would I let my pride take over and hope they forgot the whole thing?
The first option felt like the single most humbling thing I’d ever done in my life, but the second option would mean I would be missing out on a very important opportunity to model this forgiveness thing.
Did you know that walking in humility and asking for forgiveness tears down walls and builds bridges?
In one moment, anger and tears can be the emotions overwhelming the room, but once forgiveness enters in, that anger and those tears are replaced with joy and love (well, maybe there’s still a few tears). I explained to my kids that responding in anger and raising my voice was wrong and as I asked, “Will you forgive me?”, it was so clearly visible how the room softened.
I want my kids to learn to ask for forgiveness and to forgive others. Merely telling them to do it won’t cut it. I have to model it for them. My imperfect self seems to get this opportunity to do this regularly. I hate it, but I love it.
I’ve never seen the words, “I’m sorry” in the Bible, but I’ve read plenty of passages talking about forgiveness.
It’s so powerful that Jesus says it’s only when we forgive others that He will forgive us. I’m pretty sure that indicates the importance of the daily practice of this powerful act.
For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins. – Matthew 6:14-15
Along this parenting journey, I’m always looking for resources to help teach my kids these life lessons I want them to learn. Besides the Bible, another great resource for teaching kids to walk in forgiveness is Mercer Mayer’s We All Need Forgiveness. The timeless classic tales of Little Critter draw kids in, and this particular book shows how forgiveness is a two-sided action. We must ask, and we must receive.
* * *
How do you teach your kids forgiveness? Is there a time when you had to ask forgiveness from your children?
Luke 4:18 tells us that he was sent to proclaim good news to the poor, the prisoner, the blind, and the oppressed. Jesus came to turn spiritual outsiders into insiders. All of us—you and me—were outsiders until his grace found us and made us his sons and daughters. One response of embracing this good news is humble gratitude.
When gratitude takes root in stepfamily members it can result in insiders (biological family members) making the powerful choice to embrace outsiders (stepfamily members). For example, when stepparents and stepchildren emulate Christ and invite one another in, something powerful happens. The uncomfortable outsider finds belonging, jealous and hardened hearts soften, selfishness dissipates in the face of sacrifice and love, and God is made central in that home. This is a profound reward every blended family would relish. But there’s more.
Healthy stepfamilies can experience many rewards including some of the following:
- High quality marriages. Couples can create mutually satisfying, intimate, God-honoring marriages within stepfamilies.
- A new marital heritage to celebrate. For children of divorce a healthy marital relationship can counteract the negative and destructive patterns of marriage they witnessed in their parent’s divorce.
- Healthier kids. A loving, well-functioning stepfamily over time can negate many of the detrimental psychological impacts of divorce on children.
- Shared respect and care between stepparents and stepchildren. Children, once empty due to the abandonment of a parent, can bloom under the loving care of a stepparent.
- Experienced love, extended grace. When stepfamily members extend love and grace to one another and “bring the outsider in” they are emulating God’s grace to them. In so doing, children are blessed, hurts are healed, and the family is redeemed to God’s glory.
This is good news!
The Lord’s Spirit
has come to me,
because he has chosen me
to tell the good news
to the poor.
The Lord has sent me
to announce freedom
to give sight to the blind,
to free everyone
|Reflections on Dad
by Erin Mohring
Meet Erin Mohring
I’m going to be honest: it’s not easy to get my boys to “reflect” on something. Reflecting requires quiet, stillness, uninterrupted thought… yeah, three boys under the age of eight don’t do much of those things!
With Father’s Day approaching, though, I knew it was important to help them spend some time thinking about the man they call Daddy and just why they love him so much.
We say I love you and go about our days, but the people we love are worth more reflection than just a few simple words. And this is even more significant to me as we raise boys.
They have an amazing, godly father who they love to the moon and back, but I want them to know just exactly what is so special about him, what they can admire and what can inspire them to be men of godly character, and the things that make him the the dad God had in mind for them from the beginning.
If you have boys, you probably know the answers that come first when a boy talks about what he loves about his dad…
“He is the best wrestler!” – Big J, age 8
“I love my daddy because he plays video games with me and I love him.” – Caleb, age 4
“He brings home candy from the hospital for me!” – Little J, age 5
“I love that my dad takes me to the park.” – Joshua, age 10
Sure, these things don’t necessarily require a lot of thought, but you know what they do show me? Boys that know their dads love them because they take the time to do fun things with them and think of them when they aren’t at home.
When my boys gave answers like these, I used to get frustrated because they weren’t really appreciating my husband for his best qualities. But to them, these are the important things. The things that make them feel loved and cherished by their fathers, just as the father does in the sweet book, I Love You All the Same.
As siblings can do, the little ones in this book want to be the best at the same things, but the sweet dad takes the time to share the unique things about each child that makes him love them all the same.
Good dads notice, appreciate, and help foster and connect over the special qualities and interests each child possesses, whether it be music, sports, games, or food!
Some of the deeper things I see my boys appreciate in their daddy aren’t mentioned when I ask them what they love most about him, but are noticed in the way they interact on a daily basis. After my husband had been running for about a year, our oldest asked if he could start running on the treadmill. He always wanted to know how many miles Daddy ran that day and would keep track of his own miles in a notebook. My son might not ever answer that he admires the way his father made his health a priority, but it has definitely been reflected in the way he lives!
Our five-year-old wasn’t sure what I meant when I asked what he admired about Daddy, so I gave him a few examples. After a little while, he came back to me and said, “I want to be smart and hard-working like Daddy when I grow up.” As he is just finishing up his kindergarten year and aiming for his dream to be a veterinarian some day, I love that he sees the value in education and diligence in the example my husband has set for our boys. And I’m hoping some of his diligence wears off on me, too!
And the very best? Seeing my boys pray with and for their dad.
The strongest man is one who knows his strength lies in God, and I love knowing my boys see this relationship with Jesus in my husband. Because of him, they know what a godly man looks like and they have a model of faith to build upon of their own faith.
In a culture that often belittles and ridicules the role of dad, I want my boys to think often of the characteristics that make their dad a godly man, an inspiration in their life, the one they love and are blessed to call Daddy. Let’s help them reflect on these things this Father’s Day and throughout the year!
What are some of your kids’ favorite reflections on dad? We’d love to hear what has come out of your little one’s mouth!
To understand the behavior of children in stepfamilies (including adult stepchildren), you must understand loyalty and the natural tug-of-war it creates.
Cameron’s mom has been asking him for a month whether he wants to spend the majority of his summer vacation at his dad’s house or with his mom and stepdad, but she can’t seem to get a definite answer out of him. He talks in circles about where he’d like to be but won’t give her an answer. She’s growing impatient with him.
Loyalty refers to our devotion and attachment to the people we love. It refers to where we choose to put our allegiances. In stepfamilies, people generally place their first loyalty with their biological family members. Cameron feels caught between his biological parents and wants to spend his summer vacation with both of them. But to choose one means he can’t be with the other; it also it means jeopardizing the feelings of one parent should he choose to be with the other. For Cameron, choosing is a no-win tug-of-war.
Feelings associated with the loyalty tug-of-war often include feeling protective or defensive of one parent while spending time with the other, guilty for enjoying a stepparent knowing their biological parent feels left out, or sorrowful when embracing a new family means letting go of a deceased parent.
If a spirit of fear, that is, believing that loving one person will hurt another, places children in the tug-of-war, a spirit of love will take them out of many of their loyalty battles. Fear in adults dishonors the attachments of children, love honors them. Fear strives to keep children emotionally near for personal benefit (often an act of aggression toward an ex-spouse); love confidently gives them permission to love others knowing that they have enough love to go around. Fear pulls harder on the tug-of-war rope while love releases it. This is how you help your children find relief from the tug-of-war.
- Give your children permission to like, respect, and love the many different members of their stepfamily. A mom might say, “I’m so glad you enjoyed your time with your dad and stepmom this weekend. I think that’s great.”
- Ex-spouses should act civil toward one another. Criticism of the other parent, court battles, sarcasm, and an uncooperative spirit implicitly asks children to choose which parent they prefer or agree with.
Stepparents & Grandparents:
- Don’t try to “replace” biological parents (living or deceased). The more you try to force your way in, the more resistant children tend to become.
- Grandparents: affirm the new couple and family. Showing partiality to the original family signals to grandchildren that they should remain loyal to the previous family and not open themselves to the stepfamily.
Don’t mistreat someone who has mistreated you. But try to earn the respect of others, and do your best to live at peace with everyone.
Dear friends, don’t try to get even. Let God take revenge. In the Scriptures the Lord says,
“I am the one to take revenge
and pay them back.”
The Scriptures also say,
“If your enemies are hungry,
give them something to eat.
And if they are thirsty,
give them something
This will be the same
as piling burning coals
on their heads.”
Don’t let evil defeat you, but defeat evil with good.
Stepparenting can be tough. Stepparents frequently report feeling confused about their role, displaced from their spouse when the stepchild is around, helpless to change the situation, and guilty because they know that God is expecting them to love their stepchildren, even though they sometimes don’t.
Finding an effective stepparent role is a challenge—you must persevere to find success. Here are some practical tips for the journey.
Relationship Building Tips for Stepparents
- Play! Having fun is a great way to connect.
- Track with them. Know what activities a child is engaged in and enter that world. Take them to practice, ask about an activity, and take interest in their interests.
- Share your talents, skills, and hobbies.
- Communicate your commitment. Let the child know you value and want a relationship with them.
- Share the Lord and your walk. Shared spirituality can facilitate connection and a sense of family identity, but don’t be preachy. Instead share with humility your faith journey so they will experience you as a safe person.
- The cardinal rule for stepparent-stepchild relationships is this: Let the children set the pace for their relationship with you. For example, if your stepchildren are open to physical affection from you, don’t leave them disappointed. If they remain aloof and cautious, respect their boundaries. As time brings you together, slowly increase your personal involvement and affections.
- It’s important that stepparents not consider themselves failures if they do not form deep emotional bonds with every child. The length of time required to move into this role depends on multiple factors, most of which are beyond the stepparent’s control. Enjoy the relationship you have now and trust that investments made over time will increase affection and respect.
Do’s and Don’s for Stepparents
- Early on biological parents must pass power to stepparents so that children understand that stepparents are not acting on their own authority
- Parents and stepparents negotiate rulestogether behind closed doors and seek unity in leading the family. The biological parent then communicates the rules to the children with the stepparent’s support.
- Stepfamilies, where both parents bring children to the stepfamily, still negotiate rules together, but each takes the lead role with their own children.
- Over time as emotional bonds with stepchildren deepen, stepparents can become more authoritative and shows of affection can become more common.
- Don&’t be harsh or punish in a way inconsistent with the biological parent. This tends to polarize parents and create marital discord.
- Do focus on relationship building with each child. This is your long-term strength as a parent-figure.
Such a large crowd of witnesses is all around us! So we must get rid of everything that slows us down, especially the sin that just won’t let go. And we must be determined to run the race that is ahead of us.
God’s design for the family begins with marriage laying the foundation for the home. But stepfamilies are at a disadvantage when they begin because the couple isn’t the foundation. Because parent-child relationships predate the new marriage and are bonded by blood, history, and family identity, the marital relationship is often a secondary relationship in the home instead of the foundational one. Unless your marriage becomes primary, you will continue to experience distress and instability in your home.
The process of establishing the couple as the foundation relationship of the home can feel like a win-lose situation for biological parents and children. It’s not. It’s a matter of significance. Not that a spouse matters more than children, but rather that the marriage matters more to the stability of the home, than do children.
Children will never suffer neglect because their biological parent makes a strong commitment to their spouse, the stepparent. Couples in biological families where the marriage preceded children naturally sit “in the front seat” with one another yet still make plenty of sacrifices on behalf of their children. Even still the couple maintains their first-love commitment to one another.
A similar balance is healthy in stepfamilies.
- Set a regular date night and keep it. Prioritizing time for one another helps children see the importance you place on your relationship.
- Support your spouse’s parental role with your children. Back them up and insist that your children treat them with respect.
- Biological parents: spend regular one-on-one time with your kids and remain involved in their activities. This reinforces that they haven”t “lost” you and paradoxically makes acceptance of your marriage easier. This is the both/and balance.
- Stepparents should insist out loud that the biological parent spend time with their children. This communicates that you are not in competition with the kids.
- When children show signs of stress or anxiety as you “move your spouse into the front seat of your heart”, be sympathetic, but don’t let guilt put distance in your marriage.
- When children challenge the role of the stepparent, respond firmly and with compassion. “You’re just changing the rule because she wants you to,” is a common complaint. Acknowledge the child’s confusion and move forward. “You’re right. Things are different now that Linda and I parent together. And if I were you, I’d be upset about this, too. But this is the new rule and I’m in agreement with it, so please abide by it. Let’s go.”
One day, Sarah noticed Hagar’s son Ishmael playing,and she said to Abraham, “Get rid of that Egyptian slave woman and her son! I don’t want him to inherit anything. It should all go to my son.”
Abraham was worried about Ishmael.
Whether you realize it or not, you have a set of assumptions about how to cook your stepfamily. By that, I mean your approach to how your stepfamily “ought” to come together. Brenda was cooking her family with a blender.
“It happened again the other night,” she began. “My 14 year-old son, Braden, walked in the living room and started asking me to help him with his math homework when his stepfather, Tim, who is much better at math than me, was sitting right there. Braden never asks Tim for help with anything. It makes me so frustrated. I told him he had to ask Tim for help.”
Obviously Brenda’s goal is to help her son connect with his stepfather. Her method of cooking is to force them together, much like what a blender does to the various ingredients, by pushing Braden to ask Tim for help. There is nothing wrong with Brenda’s goal, but there is something misguided about using a blender to force the ingredients together.
This “blender” cooking method attempts to force people to love each other, rather than allowing them responsibility to apply Christ’s command to love one another—in a gradual manner that is tolerable for them.
That’s the problem with many common cooking styles used by adults in stepfamilies: they tend to create pressure which inadvertently builds walls between the various “ingredients.” Food processor parents chop up one another’s history when they demand that stepchildren call their stepparent “daddy” or “mommy.”Microwave parents avoid labels like “stepfamily’ because they don’t want to be any different than biological families while pressure cooker parents insist that family members celebrate the holiday in the exact same manner.
Smart stepfamilies understand that relationships take time and that the forcing action of “blending” creates resistance, not connection. As the video suggests, they cook with a crock-pot. For example, if we could rewind Brenda’s run-in with her son, a crock-pot mentality might have calmed her anxiety and reminded her that since right now her son feels most safe with her, she should respond to his dilemma. Over time, that might change as Braden shares more of himself with Tim and their relationship matures. Asking his stepfather for help at that time will more comfortably flow from their bond. Until then, Brenda should be patient with her son, not push too hard, and keep reminding herself that they aren’t finished cooking yet.
But I am giving you a new command. You must love each other, just as I have loved you.