What I Need to Learn from Disciplining My Own Children

In my journey to become the best father I can be, I have found a method of disciplining my kids which I think (hope) is very effective. I use this method because, while it does punish the little devils when they do something wrong, it also teaches them a bigger life lesson. When they do something wrong, I first send them to the naughty spot for a few minutes. After their time is up, we have a quick discussion involving four topics: (1) They need to tell me why they were in the naughty spot. (2) They need to apologize. (3) They need to ask for forgiveness. (4) They need to strive to never do it again.
The fourth part seems to be the most difficult for children. The toughest one for adults, however, is the third part. I thought about this after hearing a sermon at Adventure Christian Church this past Sunday about forgiveness, especially with the Easter season being in full swing. When I teach my kids to ask for forgiveness from their mother, their siblings, or myself, it’s fairly easy. (Well, okay, it may not always be easy.)
So, what about those of us who left first grade a while ago? It seems the older we get, the more difficult it is to ask for and/or offer forgiveness. Instead of being upset for getting the smaller scoop of ice cream when we were young, now people say things that make us feel even smaller than that scoop. Instead of not sharing a toy with us, someone might be sharing awful rumors about us. Instead of being excluded from a sibling’s activity, maybe we’re excluded from entire family gatherings. Instead of our sibling physically hitting us in the face, maybe we are physically hit in the face by a significant other.
These things can and should legitimately hurt. So, when these awful things do actually happen, how do we offer forgiveness? And when we do the wrong thing ourselves, how do we ask for forgiveness? I believe the forgiveness I have received from my God and from others are ultimately the root of all things good in my life, and it’s the reason the world can be a better place. Many might find this ironic since they think forgiveness just allows the bad stuff to continue on, and that certainly doesn’t make the world better. This fallacy is one reason we tend to not forgive. We want people to live peacefully in society, so we decide to stay angry at them to learn their lesson. Unfortunately, this fallacy prevents us from experiencing the very key to making our own worlds better places.
Forgiveness is like carrying a glass of fine wine filled to the brim. When you handle it wisely and carefully, your glass is filled more than the typical glass. When you’re not careful, valuable goods are wasted, you walk away with stains, and your glass will be less than full. I would like to end by suggesting a few answers to the following question: How should we understand forgiveness in its proper way so that we don’t believe its fallacies? If we really believe the answers to this question, we would have so much potential to make the world better!
  1. Forgiveness is a process, not a one-time event.
  2. Forgiveness does not excuse the crime.
  3. Forgiveness should be designed in a way that leads those at fault to change themselves.
  4. Forgiveness is not just meant for the offender, but for the offended. It helps them release unproductive anger.
  5. You may offer forgiveness without it being accepted.
  6. Forgiveness and anger CAN coincide. Anger without forgiveness leads you to lifelong resentment. Anger with forgiveness fuels you to change the world! (e.g. M.A.D.D.)
  7. Forgiveness does not mean to be unwise with relational boundaries. (See Boundaries by Dr. Henry Cloud.)
  8. Forgiveness often requires help from an outside source.
  9. Forgiveness DOES say, “I promise to let go of my grudge.”
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