My four year old little princess has been known to tell a fib or two in her day. Okay, actually she lies quite a bit; usually to manipulate a situation in order to ensure she gets what she really wants. It actually has become quite an issue. I’ve recently found myself having a hard time believing anything she says to me. Then, she came with this the other day during a conversation we were having about sin (and as straight faced as ever): “Hey dad, I’m not a sinner.” Of course I was not confused about whether this was true. I even asked her if she was sure and with an unwavering decisiveness she nodded her head and said “Yep!”
She had lied to me and two things were confirmed in that moment: 1. I am living with a compulsive liar; and 2. My daughter is a sinner (as proven by the lie). Now, being lied to by my children is pretty deflating. So I was discouraged at this moment, especially after I gave my daughter an opportunity to course correct and she didn’t take the bait.
I had two options at that point in the conversation: 1. Everything in me wanted to reprimand her by backing her into a corner to verbally let her know how bad of a mistake she made and there would be severe consequences; or 2. Casually work through this with her to hopefully help her realize that maybe she was seeing this the wrong way. By the grace of God, I chose option number two.
So we dove in. I said, “Can I ask you something, baby girl?” She replied with “Yes.” I then went through a series of questions using situations in which I remember she was in the wrong: “Adee, have you ever been mean to your best friend?” or “Have you ever not listened to your mom?” or “Have you ever hit your brother?” or “Have you ever disobeyed daddy?” She replied hesitantly but truthfully to all of the questions with “Yes.”
I proceeded to tell her that the way she acted in all of those situations was wrong. That in fact, she had sinned - and ultimately when we sin we go against what God desires for us and what He desires for us is more important than anything else. Then I said, “So Adee, did you sin?” She said, “Yes.” And then I said sadly, “Well, then that makes you a sinner. Are you a sinner Adee?” She replied with “Yes.”
Thankfully, the conversation wasn’t over there. As Adee came to the realization that she was a great sinner, it gave me the lead in to talk to her about a greater Savior that loves her more than she could ever understand; so much so, that He gave His life for her and instead of her. I told her there was nothing she could ever do to make God stop loving her and that Jesus went to the greatest lengths to prove His love for her. That made her smile. This was a win-win situation. Rather than the conversation ending in tears, it ended in truth and grace...and a smile!
So what is your typical response when you catch your child doing wrong? Do you respond with angry and irrational statements such as “How could you do this?” or “What were you thinking?” Do you resort to immediate disciplinary action? Do you verbally belittle your children? Do you yell and scream to get your point across. Do you use fear-mongering as your main strategy?
Consider these steps the next time your kid does something wrong:
Take a deep breath and maybe think about walking into another room (typically your first reaction is your worst reaction).
Instead of yelling and telling your kids what they did wrong, sit down with your kid (so as to not talk down to them) and ask them in a gentle voice what they think happened. Give them time to respond. Most of the time your kid will admit their mistake.
Instead of immediate disciplinary action, have a conversation with your kid about what they did and why it was wrong. Swift discipline is lazy parenting. I’ve realized that the grace-filled conversations surrounding my children’s wrongdoing does so much more in their little hearts than discipline.
If consequences are necessary (which at times they are), talk through "the why" with your kid. Tell them why they are having to sit in their room for a while, or why their favorite toy is being taken for a little while, or why they have to go to bed early.