Even more so than, “I love you,” there are three words that your child desperately needs to hear from you.

I Forgive You.

“Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry”
Ephesians 4:26.

Our children can tell when we are holding on to their sins of yesterday. And it weighs on them. Maybe they disrespected us and we simply can’t let it go. Maybe they broke a promise, broke our hearts or flat out lied. Whatever the sin, hurt or offense, holding onto it will only drive a wedge deeper and deeper into our relationship with that child. When a child says, “I am sorry,” get into the practice of responding with, “I forgive you,” and mean it. “I love you,” is important and precious in our relationship but without true forgiveness, it loses it’s meaning.

“Even if they sin against you seven times in a day and seven times come back to you saying ‘I repent,’ you must forgive them”
Luke 17:4.

Sometimes I wonder if I am ever getting through to my kids. There are certain issues that seems like we are go in circles and circles around. We just can’t seem to resolve them. Or maybe I’m just being impatient.

  • The children of Israel wandered in the desert, for forty years, before entering the promised land.
  • Israel seemed to go through a never-ending cycle during the times of the Judges. They would do what was right in their own eyes then cry out to God. God would raise up a judge and bring peace to the land for a time and they would again do what was right in their own eyes and the cycle continued, and continued.
  • Jonah was stubborn and didn’t surrender until he faced a hardship.

Maybe God is working on our children in ways we can’t see because we are looking at what is going on externally and not looking at what is happening internally. God might be doing a mighty work in their little hearts and all they need is a loving hand to guide them. Yes, we must punish for wrongdoing but what I’m talking about is after the punishment is over. Do we hold a grudge? Do we rat on our kids as soon as our husband walks in the door? This can confuse a child. If they already received their punishment, then it should be over. Bringing up past sin only brings guilt, shame and pain into their hearts.

What If My Child Won’t Say Sorry?

Tell them you forgive them anyway. Living with the fear of disappointing a parent or the dread that they are angry with you is too much for a child to bear. If you can tell that what they’ve done wrong is weighing them down, assure them that you forgive them and drop it. Be sure to say it, mean it and live it. You might be surprised how quickly true repentance will come after that.

There truly is freedom in forgiveness. Kids are usually quick to forgive. I often see my boys in a dramatic spat over one thing and two minutes later they are happily playing outside together. We need to be the same way, and with a childlike innocence we can! When we realize they are just kids, growing and maturing as we still are, then it is easier to give grace when it is needed and forgiveness as it is needed. So if your child seems to be in a slump, remind them that you not only love them, but that you forgive them too!

“Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you”
Ephesians 4:32.