(Whether a parent yourself, or a grandparent, an aunt, an uncle, a neighbor, a teacher, a scout leader, or whatever your role in the lives of the children around you, this important series will give you valuable tips on how to influence those kids for the Lord! To access the entire “Bringing up Kids God’s Way” mini-series, please click here.)
“Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.” (James 5:15)
I had just broken up a major argument between my two boys, but though the verbal warfare was temporarily halted, the argument was far from over. “Okay,” I said, addressing one: “Go to your room and think about what YOU’ve done to cause this fight!” Then turning to the other, I said: “You sit down right here and tell me what YOU did!”
They look at me, their mouths hanging open, and they both had the same words on their lips: “What I did??? But he . . .”
“Every argument has two sides. I want to know what YOU did wrong!” Then I turned to the one at my side.
“But mom, he . . .”
“No! He’ll tell me what he did. Besides, it’s none of your business. What did YOU do?”
It took a few minutes, but finally he said, “Well, maybe I shouldn’t have hit him . . . But mom! He . . .”
“No,” I said. “What he did may have been very wrong, but that’s his responsibility. Nothing he did could ever merit you hitting him!”
A few minutes later, my other son confessed his part: “Maybe I should have let him open the drawer . . .” Then he looked at his brother: “I’m sorry! I shouldn’t have been so selfish about the drawer!”
“And I shouldn’t have hit you! I’m sorry!”
Peace and harmony restored.
Later that same evening, my husband and I got into a petty argument. Right in the middle of the heat, about the time I ran off slamming the door, my oldest son came to me.
“It’s just your papa!” I growled through my tears of anger. “He refuses to see things the way the rest of the world sees them!”
“Remember what you said this afternoon, mom? Remember you said that every argument has two sides?”
I opened my mouth to disagree, but something twisted in my gut and my anger melted. “You’re right,” I said, rather sheepishly. “I am focusing on him instead of me, aren’t I?”
My son grinned.
“Okay. Hum. Well, I did chose a time when he was focused on putting together that chair. And I was pretty condescending. I mean, I started off by accusing him. Not only did it make him mad, but it wasn’t even true!” By now, my anger had turned to shame. “I was wrong to get so angry at your dad. I was wrong to criticize him.”
“It’s just like you said, mom!” Responded my son. “You have to focus on what you did to cause the argument!”
I smiled and ruffled his hair, wondering just how far he would take this. “But it was also wrong for papa to yell at me,” I said, testing the waters.
“But two wrongs don’t make a right?”
I hugged him. “You’re so right. No matter what your papa may or may not have done, my reaction was wrong, and as a result, this thing blew out of proportion! If I hadn’t done wrong on my side, maybe papa wouldn’t have done wrong, either! I think I need to tell your papa I’m sorry!”
And then I went out to find my husband, and when I did, I started off by admitting I was wrong. Forgiveness flowed, peace was restored, end of story.
Admitting you are wrong.
It’s one of the hardest things you’ll ever do in life; yet not only is it one of the most important lessons you’ll ever learn, but it’s also one of the most important lessons you’ll ever teach the children in your life. The only problem is, you can’t teach them to admit they are wrong unless you are also willing to model the behavior!
“But,” you say, “if I admit to my kids that I’m wrong, then I’ll lose credibility with them!”
Yes, that’s how we all think. But remember this: Though you may not ADMIT that you’re wrong, your kids will SEE that you’re wrong, and they will label it for what it is: hypocrisy. The message that they get is this: “It’s okay to tell others to correct their behavior, but you don’t have to do it yourself!”
“But,” you argue, “my kids won’t know the difference!”
And you may be right. But they will remember. And the next time you try to shape their behavior about a similar issue, they will see the discrepancy. The message you give them is that “This rule is only for kids. When you’re old enough to enforce the rules, you don’t have to follow them!”
Admitting you are wrong teaches your kids that we all make mistakes, but when we do, the outcome will be better if we own up to them. The message they receive is that you understand mistake-making, and they can come to you for advice with their own mistakes. They also learn that it isn’t the mistake that determines future outcomes; it’s what they do about them!
Friends, the point is this: One of the most responsible things we can teach the children in our lives is to admit they are wrong. This little strategy goes a long ways towards diffusing an argument, no matter how long it’s been going on, no matter how fierce it has become. But they will never learn to do so unless you model the behavior. The children won’t think less of you. In fact, they will see you as a human being, just like they are. They will realize that it’s human to err, but with God’s help, those errors can be turned into victories. And because they see you as human, too, they will be much more apt to come to you for advice when they, themselves, have made mistakes. So the next time you make a mistake, bite the bullet. Own up to it, and then set about making it right!
Join us next week for Bringing up Kids God’s Way, Part 11: Showing Affection
God bless each of you abundantly as you seek to guide the kids in your life in the ways of the Lord!
In His love,
Lyn Chaffart, Mother of two teens, Author and Moderator for The Nugget, a tri-weekly internet newsletter, and Scriptural Nuggets, www.scripturalnuggets.org , a website devoted to Christian devotionals and inspirational poems, with Answers2Prayer Ministries, www.Answers2Prayer.org
(To access the entire “Bringing up Kids God’s Way” mini-series, please click here.)