One of the greatest moments as a father is walking into the house and seeing your smiling children jump in joy at your mere appearance. My youngest son, at 19 months, will blare out “Daaaaad!” at the top of his lungs, often winning the “loudest” and “biggest smile” contest. His brown-eyed twin sister, just as excited, will run to me, ponytail swaying back and forth, wanting me to pick her up and kiss her. And my eldest son will squeeze me tight, excitedly telling me about the frog he caught that day or the unidentified bug he trapped.
Those are the moments when you want to stop time and treasure, forever.
Then there are those not-so-great moments when you mess up as a father. Once, I sent my eldest son to his room when I misunderstood the situation and he in fact had done nothing wrong. Another time, I failed to follow through on a promise I had made to him. Still another time, I raised my voice when it wasn’t warranted.
As parents, we have several biblical roles. One is to rear our children in a loving home and to teach them to obey, thereby preparing them for a life of obeying a holy God who loves them even more. Another role, though, is to model for them the life of a Christian. That is, they should see in us not only their authority figure, but also a fellow sinner, and hopefully a fellow brother or sister in Christ. They should observe us praying to God and reading His Word, and they should see us serving others and living a life of obedience to our Creator.
By watching us, they should see how the Christian life is to be lived, in every aspect. That includes asking forgiveness of our children when we do something wrong. Here are four reasons why I ask forgiveness of my children as much as is warranted:
1. It demonstrates to them that dad is a sinner, too. Our children, particularly when they’re young, look up to us and want to emulate nearly everything we do. Added to this is the fact that we often are correcting them, pointing out their flaws. But we don’t want our children to view us as something we’re not. We’re not perfect, and we, too, need correction. My wife and I want our children to see us as sinful creatures in need of a Savior. On more than one occasion, my oldest has acted surprised when I told him that I, like him, had in the past committed the very same sin he had committed.
2. It shows them how to apologize and helps them learn to forgive. Apologizing isn’t always easy, and requires humility and the swallowing of one’s pride. Sometimes, forgiveness isn’t any easier. As believers, we should not wait for someone’s prodding in order to apologize. We should take the initiative on our own. I want my children to learn humility and grow up wanting to correct their own faults, to reconcile with others when they have done wrong. And I want them to forgive others. When I go to my son, on my own, I am demonstrating for him the model I want him to follow. I also am helping him learn to forgive.
3. Biblically, it is required. James, the half-brother of our Lord, tells us we should confess our sins to one another (James 5:16). There is no asterisk, and there is no exception to this.
4. It opens up an opportunity to discuss the Gospel. At the heart of the Good News is God’s forgiveness of our sins. Every time we talk about sin and forgiveness, we can launch into a Gospel discussion with our children about repentance. There are a number of ways this can take place: “Daddy needs a Savior just like you do.” “Everyone in the world is a sinner.” “When we repent before God, He wants to see us change our actions.” “We should forgive others because God has forgiven us.”
What would you add to this list?
Michael Foust is an editor and writer who blogs about parenting and fatherhood. He loves his family and also really likes popcorn. Interested in re-posting this in your publication or on your blog for free? Send me a message in the comments section below (the message won’t go public).
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