How do I teach my child forgiveness?

What guidance does the Bible provide?

The Bible often speaks on the topic of forgiveness; God knew this would be a problem for us throughout life. For those who seek to follow Christ, forgiveness isn't an option, but an act of obedience. Ephesians 4:32 says "Be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you." God set the example in His forgiveness to us and gives us the tools as His chosen people to forgive others: "Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you." (Colossians 3:13)

Things to Think About:

Forgiveness is one of the hardest concepts to understand. It requires us to let go of wrongs against us in a situation where we have a right to be angry. At these times it is important to remember the forgiveness that we have received, not because of anything we did to make things right, but because of the love and compassion of the one who created us and called us as his own.Teaching children forgiveness begins with us. If we choose to reject forgiving others or seeking out forgiveness from others, then we model an attitude of self-sufficiency and self-preservation. We need to show through our humility and faith that forgiveness is the cornerstone of what it means to be called a child of God. The following points will be helpful in teaching forgiveness to your children:

  • We must forgive and ask for forgiveness from our children when needed. Being forgiven has happened to us freely through Jesus Christ. The best way for us to live in "forgiveness" and modeling it is to humble ourselves and seek it from our kids when we mess up.
  • We don't forgive or seek forgiveness because we feel like it. We forgive because God forgave us. It's a choice we make.
  • Model forgiveness with your spouse in front of your kids. Not only does it teach them, but it prepares them for healthy marriages.

These are excellent opportunities for explaining God's forgiveness to us. The Gospel shows us God's model of forgiveness through Jesus' payment for our sin through His death on the cross. God has forgiven us so much; we have the best example of forgiving others.

What do I do now?

Forgiveness doesn't mean that you have to be okay with what happened to you. By modeling forgiveness in our lives and teaching our children Biblical forgiveness, we can be a part of demonstrating to the world the hope we have in the Savior who has forgiven us.

In her article "Forgiveness 101," Lori Erickson www.parenting.com/article/forgiveness-101 gives four practical tips for helping your child learn the process of forgiveness. You can encourage this growth by teaching these steps when they are wronged:

  • Help him blow off steam: being angry for a short time is acceptable, and learning to release the anger by punching a pillow, stomping their feet, or drawing their feelings can be helpful
  • Start a conversation: help your child role play speaking, not shouting, to the offender a kind response that helps them see the offense without escalating the issue.
  • Encourage empathy: help your child see that sometimes people hurt others when they are themselves feeling hurt. Helping them find ways to respond with kindness will often calm the situation.
  • Be ready to step in when necessary: helping your child work through the issue on their own helps them grow. However, if a child is hurting another or the issue cannot be resolved at your child's maturity level, don't hesitate to intervene and help solve the problem at an adult level with the offending child's parents.

Want to go deeper?

This article is referenced above with practical steps to help your child learn forgiveness:

Parenting.com - Forgiveness

An excellent article on the biblical foundations of forgiveness:

Lifeway.com - Modeling Forgiveness

Learn how to incorporate forgiveness into your daily lifestyle:

4 Ways to Teach Your Child Forgiveness Daily