In the fall of first grade, my daughter fell into my arms crying, “This is the worst day of my life!” I mistakenly thought this line was reserved for high-school girls.
Let me rewind a few days. My children had an argument that morning and I shared words that would soon be echoed back to me, “The Lord wants us to forgive each another. Your relationship is so much better when you work things out.”
My goal is for each of my kids to say, “I felt ______ when you _____.” If all goes well, the other person says, “Please forgive me for _____. Then they hug and say, “I love you.” Sweet and easy, right? Not so much.
That morning my husband and I also had a small tiff. What a week! As I was wallowing in my frustration over the spat with my husband, I heard little footsteps pit-patter behind me. My daughter said, “Mommy, you know, if you forgive and work things out, you’ll just be so much happier.” My six-year-old sharing the advice I gave her–humbling.
It’s much easier to say the words than to do them. But for my kids to learn the importance of forgiveness and keeping connection, I have to be an example and let go of pride. The Lord humbled my heart, and she was right–humility and connection are so much better.
Several days later, when Brooklyn came home from school in tears, she explained that her friend, Sarah, wouldn’t let her be the leader of the Unicorns. Hence, the “worst day of her life.” I hid my grin.
Brooklyn continued, “I don’t ever want to play with Sarah again.” I reminded her of the words that I try to heed: That there will always be conflict in friendships and it’s far better to face it than run from it, something many of us adults are still learning. I also shared that Sarah wouldn’t know why she was upset unless she told her.
Simply discussing the issue with me allowed the drama to lessen, but anxiety still covered Brooklyn’s little face as she anticipated the talk with her friend. We prayed about it and then rehearsed the forgiveness conversation several times. Brooklyn planned to say that she felt sad when Sarah didn’t share being the leader of the Unicorns with anyone, and that Brooklyn wants to be friends with people who share. This conversation would be a huge milestone for Brooklyn.
The next day, the girls had the reconciling talk and forgiveness won. After school, Brooklyn ran up to me, proudly proclaiming that she was the leader of the Unicorns that day and, of course, that Sarah and her are now best friends.
When we teach our kids to have reconciling talks in our home, they will go out into the world and be prepared to do the same and have healthier, deeper, and more peaceful relationships.
This is all a process and we will fail and succeed at different times, but the more we can demonstrate humility and forgiveness conversations in our homes, the more likely our children will do the same in their own relationships. And then Jesus’ life-giving words will take root in our lives: “…forgive your brother or sister from your heart.” MT 6:15
Lord, help us to model reconciliation and forgiveness conversations to our kids. Help us to speak life life, joy, and kindness to them. Forgive us when we fail at this – change us and help us to be parents whose words are full of the Spirit and life, just like you. In Jesus’ Name, amen.
“The Spirit gives life…The words I have spoken to you—they are full of the Spirit and life. Jesus (John 6:63 )