For many parents, the concept of asking your child for forgiveness just sounds wrong. Why would you apologize to your child? Wouldn’t that give your child the upper hand? Or did I really mean the sarcastic “I’m sorry you don’t like it, but that’s the way it is”, faux apology?
One of the biggest building blocks of the Christian faith is forgiveness. Remember the parable of the servants who owed debts? One owed an unbelievable amount of money to his “boss”. He couldn’t repay it and his master was ready to throw him in prison. After much begging, the master not only relented, but forgave the man’s entire debt. So what did the servant do? He turned right around and threatened someone who owed him a very small amount of money with jail. In spite of the guy’s pleas, the servant was unrelenting. When the master discovered what had happened, he was furious.
This parable is an obvious metaphor for God forgiving our sins and how we are to forgive others who sin against us. God is very clear that our ability to forgive others is a very important part of our own forgiveness. If forgiveness is that important, what better way for our children to learn about forgiveness than for us to model it for them. Hopefully, they have seen us forgive their mistakes over the years even as we have corrected them.
I challenge you to take their education on forgiveness a step farther. Recently, I was talking with a mother who was recounting a parenting story. She had not been there for her daughter when she needed her, for less than noble reasons. The mother was kicking herself for her mistake. The best thing she can do to repair whatever damage the incident may have done to their relationship is for her to be honest about what happened and apologize to her daughter.
I know some of you are shaking your heads in horror at what this may do to undermine the respect your child has for you. Remember though, I am not asking you to apologize for correcting your child or for having rules. I am talking about the inevitable mistakes you will make as a parent. Perhaps you punished one child and then later found out the other one was guilty instead. Or, you were having a bad day and overreacted with a punishment that was tougher than the “crime” needed. Maybe you were tired and snapped at your child instead of listening when he really needed to get your opinion on something important. As soon as possible, take the opportunity to model humility to your child. Go and explain what your mistake was and ask for your child’s forgiveness. You may begin healing wounds you didn’t even know your relationship had.
Have you ever asked your child for forgiveness? What happened? Do you think it undermined your authority later in any way? Feel free to share with others in a comment below.