Teaching Kids About Sins and Mistakes

Teaching Kids About Sins and Mistakes - Parenting Like Hannah

If you have ever broken something that was precious to you, you know how horrible a mistake can make you feel. On the other hand, Satan can make sins feel fun and delay consequences until we are in so deep it feels impossible to get out of the mess our sins have created. If our children are going to be faithful Christians, it is so vitally important they understand the difference between sins and mistakes.

So what do our kids need to understand about sin and mistakes?

  • Mistakes are accidental and may involve poor judgement, ignorance or naiveté. Sins are a direct disobedience to one of God’s commands and principles.
  • You cannot always tell the difference between the two by how you feel. Often mistakes make us feel we have done something from which we will never recover. Sins can feel fun – at least until the consequences start.
  • Some of the steps we need to take are the same for both. If necessary, your child will need to apologize whether it was a mistake or a sin. He may need to attempt to make some sort of restitution to repair the relationship as much as possible.
  • The key difference is that God is not upset about our mistakes. Our sins however can separate us from God. Our children need to understand the vital role of becoming a Christian and prayer in the process of forgiveness.
  • Your children are going to make mistakes and sin. We all do. What they need to understand is that God does not keep a book listing all of our mistakes and use it to judge whether or not we get to go to Heaven. If your child is a faithful Christian and asks God to forgive his sins, he needs to believe with all of his heart God has forgiven him and wiped him clean as if the sin never happened. This is a key point. Sometimes our mistakes and sins can make us feel so badly about ourselves, we can’t forgive ourselves. We are tempted to act like Adam and Eve and hide from God by removing ourselves from God, church and Christianity. Don’t allow Satan the victory. Once your child has done what God requires for forgiveness, he needs to push the past out of his mind.
  • Teach your child to be very aware of sins and work harder at eliminating them from their lives than they do mistakes. Because mistakes usually have immediate painful consequences, we often correct any errors we made in an attempt to avoid the same mistake in the future. Sins can often feel good, especially if any consequences are delayed. As a result, we tend to repeat sins over and over. The sin can become an idol in our lives, requiring more and more from us and pulling us farther and farther away from God.
  • Impress God’s commands and principles on your child’s heart. Repetition and knowledge of God’s Words are important in order for your child to recognize sin in her life. If she doesn’t know half-truths are lies and lying is a sin, she will tell half-truths without even realizing she is damaging her relationship with God.
  • Your child needs to learn to be gracious and forgiving of the sins and mistakes of others. It always amazes me how many verses are in the New Testament which focus on our forgiveness of other people. Yet often people jump to the worst possible conclusions about motives and hold grudges for minor violations.

As a parent, try to discipline by separating mistakes from sins. If your child accidentally breaks something, try to contain your anger. It is fine to require her to help clean up the mess and even help repair or replace the item. It is important that your attitude reflects the understanding that accidents happen, but we learn from our mistakes and are more careful the next time. If the breakage was caused because your child disobeyed you about running in the house, then the sin of disobeying a parent is what should be the focus of your punishment. Once again, you may also require clean up and replacement, but the focus of any training should be the rebellion against God and you.

Your child will need lots of practice to become comfortable understanding the difference between intakes and sins. We played a game with the kids at church last week. The older children often did okay with simple scenarios, but more complex ones confused almost all of them. Life is complex, so have lots of discussions with your kids about sin, mistakes and how God wants us to handle them.

Published by

Thereasa Winnett

Thereasa Winnett is the founder of Teach One Reach One and blogger at Parenting Like Hannah. She holds a BA in education from the College of William and Mary. She has served in all areas of ministry to children and teens for more than thirty years and regularly leads workshops for ministries and churches. She has conducted numerous workshops, including sessions at Points of Light’s National Conference on Volunteering and Service, the National Urban Ministry Conference, Pepperdine Bible Lectures, and Lipscomb’s Summer Celebration. Thereasa lives in Atlanta, GA with her husband Greg, where she enjoys reading, knitting, traveling and cooking.

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