It’s been one of those days. You know, the kind of day where it seems like everyone wakes up on the proverbial wrong side of the bed—including you. The kind of day where you wake up exhausted. Perhaps one of those days when the kids are extra clingy or irritable or filled with more energy than seems humanly possible. Or maybe you had a horrible, terrible, no good, very bad day at work and return home, only to find it’s been the same there as well. Or maybe the kids are in the middle of a particularly difficult developmental season and your patience is stretched thin.
Whatever the circumstance, you find yourself irritated and impatient, responding to your children with increased anger in your tone. Before you know it, you’ve lashed out and said something unkind, wounding them with your words. Or you were harsh in your discipline. Whatever the response, it was sinful.
And you know it.
As parents, we are all going to have such days. We are all sinners and as such, there will be days when we respond in sarcasm, raise our voices, overreact, or mete out discipline disproportionate to the offense (ground anyone for life yet?). When we realize our sin, it’s important that we apologize to our children and that we repent.
When Parents Need to Apologize
We’ve all been hurt by someone in our life and know what it means when someone apologizes to us. Sin creates a barrier between people and when we acknowledge our wrongdoing, it goes far in breaking down that barrier. Our relationship with our children is no different.
When we’ve done wrong, we need to go to our children and tell them we are sorry. As we do so, we don’t place blame on anything or anyone else. We own our sin and simply apologize for what we’ve done wrong. We name the sin we committed and ask our child for his or her forgiveness. We say something like: “I am sorry for yelling at you. It was wrong. Please forgive me.”
Apologizing to our children provides an opportunity to live out the truths of the gospel. We can remind ourselves and our children that we are all sinners in need of a Savior—even mom and dad. We can use our sin as an example of how to turn to God and receive his grace through Christ’s sacrifice for us. As we apologize, we can say things like, “I am a sinner and just like my sin against you made you sad, my sin also makes God sad. All sin is sin against God. But Jesus came to pay for my sins when he died on the cross and took my punishment for me. The Bible tells me that when I sin, I need to ask God for forgiveness and because of what Jesus did for me, he forgives me.”
We can also pray together with our children, praying through the truths of the gospel, and seeking God’s forgiveness. This models for our children how to pray when they have sinned.
More Than Just Asking Forgiveness
Repentance involves more than just asking for forgiveness. It’s more than just acknowledging that we have done something wrong. It also involves a turning away from our sin. It’s like turning our back on it and looking to something else—rather Someone else.
The Apostle Paul calls this putting off the old self and putting on the new self (Col. 3:1-17). We are to cast aside our sin and put on Christ’s righteousness. If responding in sarcasm is a sin we’ve committed against our children, when we repent of that sin, we need to turn away from it.
We need to look to Christ and remember his perfect life lived for us.
We need to seek his help and grace in changing us.
We need to ask the Spirit to produce in us the fruit of self-control.
We need to practice speaking encouraging and building up words to our children.
The reformer, Martin Luther, said that the Christian life is one of repentance. It’s something we do on a daily—sometimes moment by moment—basis. Though we’ve been set free from slavery to sin, the presence of sin still remains within us. As long as we live in this life, we will have to fight against it. And when we stumble in sin, we will have to repent of it —both to God and to the person we sinned against. Wash. Rinse. Repeat. But God’s mercy is limitless and new every morning (Lam. 3:23). What amazing grace!
Parents, let’s live out the gospel in our repentance. Let’s be quick to apologize to our children, showing them that we too need a Savior. Let’s also show them true repentance as we turn away from our sin and turn to the One who showers us with His abundant mercy and grace.
Do you need to apologize to your child today?