Editor's note: This article was originally published on Katelyn Fagan's blog, What's Up Fagans? It has been republished here with permission.
Imagine this: Your child sneaks upstairs to play with his toys in the sink, which he has promptly filled to max capacity with water, and dumped his entire, brand new, bottle of shampoo in it to make bubbles. And now the toilet paper roll is completely wet and utterly useless for any and all future uses, and that water is all over the counter, the child's clothes and the floor.
Now imagine that when your guilty child sees you coming, he tries to run away and then he slips on the wet floor and starts to cry?
What is your reaction?
Do you pick them up and comfort them? Or do you yell or lecture as you pull them off the floor? Which do you do first?
I try really hard to be a great mom, but I really stink at it sometimes. Sometimes I just can't forgive my child; I can't let it go (thank you Frozen for the perfect song for so many of life's situations), at least initially. I hold onto my child's misdeeds, sometimes because I'm cleaning up from said misdeed for several minutes or even hours. How can I forget what my lovely child did that caused me unnecessary and completely avoidable extra work? Didn't she know we were on a tight schedule?
No. Of course not. My child didn't know and it shouldn't even matter that much if she did. Children make messes. They destroy pretty much everything, even nice, expensive things that you bought especially for them. They leave a trail of toys everywhere and rarely clean up without being told to do so over and over again.
But, just as you ask your child to say sorry, you also need to forgive your child, and part of forgiving is forgetting and moving on.
So, dole out your child's punishment or consequence, and then move on. Don't keep punishing, don't keep reminding them about their previous error. Don't rub it in or tell them "I told you so."
Forgive your child and MOVE ON!
The truth is that we are all weak. We all make mistakes. We all say things we don't mean, do things we aren't supposed to do. We all waste time, break promises, forget and screw up. We don't meet everyone's expectations, including our own. We are human.
But, despite our frailties, we somehow still like ourselves. We somehow still think rather highly of our time, of our needs or of our wants and desires. Yet, we seem to be less forgiving of other's weaknesses. We seem to think that others need to meet our demands and our desires of them and in our time frame. But, that's completely unfair.
And it's completely unfair when we do so to our innocent, young children.
No one, no matter what age, likes to be reminded of how they screwed up. Of how they made a poor choice or mistake. And they especially don't want to be punished endlessly for it, humiliated in front of others for it or have it rubbed into their face.
I don't. My husband doesn't. And my children certainly don't either.
Of course, we still all need to face up to the consequences of our actions, whether we want to or not. And our children need to as well at a certain point and age.
But, are they really that bad?
Honestly, most of our child's day-to-day interactions and mistakes aren't the end of the world. Most of them can easily be swept up, brushed aside, laughed off, corrected and ultimately forgiven.
And I feel like garbage when I scream and yell at my child, especially when I take a moment and reflect back on what actually happened.
At this age, it's not like my daughters are in serious trouble with the law or bad friends or drugs or poor grades. At 4 years old my daughters are getting in trouble mostly for being 4, for being inherently curious. For wanting to break the rules a little in order to see and figure things out for themselves, in order to feel more like a grown-up. At 4 years old my kids get in trouble for making messes, having bad attitudes, not cleaning up after themselves or for being rude.
And you know what I do every day? Make messes, don't clean up after myself, have a bad attitude and am rude. Yet, I allow myself a large amount of grace and forgiveness. But my dear children? No way! I must correct them and train them and corral and mold them into perfect human beings! They can't be allowed to err! They must know of their mistake, clearly and loudly, from me, the bossy mom, from me, the one they look up to as a role model, as a nurturer, as a supporter, as someone who loves them ...
Afford your child the same grace, forgiveness and love that you show yourself, that God graciously offers you. Don't hammer home their minor misdeed. Don't shout and rage about their simple, honest mistake. Think about how you would feel in their shoes for a similar offense. I would probably not like myself very much some days.
So, how do you balance the discipline? How do you check your authority with your love?
Forgive your child and move on. Show them Grace.
If your child can't make a mistake at home without fear of derailment, then how are they going to handle bigger mistakes? How are they going to handle errors when someone else is doling out consequences, someone who doesn't love them like you do?
So forgive them! Laugh it off. Help them take care of their foible. Encourage them to try harder next time. Teach them appropriate responses to the situation in question. Guide them to the right choices.
Don't yell. Don't scream. Don't condemn. Don't name call. Don't belittle. Don't abase. Don't lessen. Don't hold it against them for hours or days or years.
Forgive them and then teach them, in a calm manner, that we all make mistakes. We all err. We all sin. And we can all be forgiven through repentance because of our Savior Jesus Christ. We can all do better thanks to His grace, His mercy and His love. And tell them that you forgive them. Help them learn appropriate choices and responses. And then forget the incident and move on, positively, the rest of the day.
Give your child grace, mercy and love, just like Jesus does to you. Every day.
Do you have a problem with staying mad at your children for longer than is really necessary?