By Sabrina Schlesinger
No one wants their kids to fail. And no one plans on their child making mistakes that result in major life-altering consequences. Even with the best parenting, our kids get to make their own decisions. So what do we do when they make sinful choices? How do we respond when our child gets caught looking at pornography, when they cheat on a test, when they lie, when they are involved in promiscuous activity, or come home drunk?
Because our response matters.
I think as parents we can swing the pendulum to either extreme. One side would be to act like it is no big deal. We take on the role of the cool parent, sweeping it under the carpet, excusing it as “kids being kids” and have the mentality that they are going to do it anyway. So we have the “your urges are natural, don’t drink and drive, use a condom” kind of talk. After all, we are preparing them for real life, right?
The other side of this coin is we respond in utter shock and horror, grounding them for life, removing all of their privileges, and sending them to the church pastor to pray the demons out!
One response leaves our kids thinking their sin is no big deal, while the other leaves our kids feeling shame and condemnation. Both of these are detrimental and are not how God responds to us in our sin.
Let’s take a look at four biblical ways we should respond when our kids sin:
1. Keep our emotions out of it
Proverbs 14:1 (NLT) A wise woman builds her home, but a foolish woman tears it down with her own hands.
Proverbs 14:29 (NLT) People with understanding control their anger; a hot temper shows great foolishness.
When our kids sin, many times we can take it personally and get offended. Yes, we have taught them to know better and do better, but they aren’t perfect and sometimes they stray from our instructions and guidance. Our emotional overreactions and body language communicates to our kids whether they can approach us with the ugly and embarrassing parts of them.
I don’t want my kids to sin, but I also want them to feel safety in confessing their sins to me, because keeping sin a secret is far more destructive in the long run.
Psalm 32:3 says, “When I refused to confess my sin, my body wasted away, and I groaned all day long.” (NLT)
1 John 1:9 says, “But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness.”
Our kids NEED to confess when they have sinned. They need to confess to us AND to God so they can be cleansed and forgiven. Let’s not create unnecessary roadblocks for our children because we aren’t controlling our emotional outbursts.
So when your little one disobeys, remember your reaction NOW will leave an imprint upon their heart as to whether you will be a safe place in the future to confess the biggies.
2. Correct them and lead them to repentance
We are doing them no good if we don’t teach them that sin equals death. And we are certainly setting them up for failure if we don’t teach them that they can be forgiven.
2 Corinthians 7:8-10 (NLT) I am not sorry that I sent that severe letter to you, though I was sorry at first, for I know it was painful to you for a little while. Now I am glad I sent it, not because it hurt you, but because the pain caused you to repent and change your ways. It was the kind of sorrow God wants his people to have, so you were not harmed by us in any way. For the kind of sorrow God wants us to experience leads us away from sin and results in salvation. There’s no regret for that kind of sorrow. But worldly sorrow, which lacks repentance, results in spiritual death.
Our instructions and words of correction need to be honest, even if it hurts a bit. But if our words are unguarded and fueled by our own hurt or disappointment, they can be like taking a saw and cutting off an entire limb when only a small area needed to be removed. With thought and skill, our words can be like a seasoned surgeon who makes precise cuts with minimal pain in order to bring healing.
3. Teach them to make amends
Today there is a dangerous mindset that says, “My actions only impact me.” This way of thinking is dangerous as it minimizes the reality of sin. And if the enemy can convince us that our sin only leaves a small ripple, then he can certainly trick us into making more sinful choices that further enslave us.
We must teach our kids that sin and sinful choices affects more than us.
Tell Adam and Eve their sin had no effect on others.
Tell that to the family of innocent kids who were shot and killed by a young man who took the assault rifle.
Tell that to the parents of the child who was killed by the drunk driver.
I know those are extreme cases, but our sin, even those that have yet to be confessed, affect others.
So teach your kids to make it right with others and to take ownership for their choices. This is why it is so important to start when they are young, when the consequences of their sinful choices are small.
Romans 2:4 (NLT) Don’t you see how wonderfully kind, tolerant, and patient God is with you? Does this mean nothing to you? Can’t you see that his kindness is intended to turn you from your sin?
4. Teach them to get back up
Proverbs 24:16a (NLT) The godly may trip seven times, but they will get up again…
Condemnation is when the enemy points out our sin and failures to shame us, knock us down, and keep us down. Conviction is when God addresses our sin and failures to restore us and set us free. God will correct us to steer us in the right direction.
Our kids need to be taught the difference. And they must be taught that only Jesus can restore them.
Titus 3:4-5 (NLT) But—When God our Savior revealed his kindness and love, he saved us, not because of the righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He washed away our sins, giving us a new birth and new life through the Holy Spirit.
One of the greatest tools the enemy uses to keep us disconnected from God is condemnation. Many of us feel we are only allowed to get as close to God as we feel we are worthy. But it is ONLY by the grace of God that we are forgiven, set free, cleansed, and made holy. It is Jesus who has done this. He came to make unworthy people, worthy!
Be a safe place, don’t minimize the sin, and lead them into full repentance so they can get back into right standing with God. Remind them it is not by our works that we are made righteous, but by the sacrifice Jesus made on the cross. We need only to ask for it and then receive it.
Sabrina is a mother to three biological girls and one adopted boy. She is also a pastor’s wife, freelance graphic designer, founder of Mom Mentor and the brand new Parenting on the Go Podcast (releasing April 2nd)! She resides in beautiful San Diego where the sun shines every day. She prefers chai lattes over coffee, mac-n-cheese over vegetables, and staying in over going out. Check her out on Instagram and Facebook!