Teaching children to ask for forgiveness can take a much longer time, then teaching them to forgive. No one likes to admit they are wrong, so apologizing can be a hard a thing, regardless of the age. It is especially true if asking for forgiveness hasn't been something that you have grown up doing.
Teaching Children to Ask for Forgiveness
If you listen to people who aren't comfortable about admitting their wrong, whether it was intentional or by accident, they will tell you ‘I'm not good at apologizing'.
This response is one that I have heard time and time again. My own husband has said it to me many times when we were first married. The good thing about it is the more a person does it, the easier it becomes.
All this proves to me that ‘asking for forgiveness' is something that must be taught to be part of a person character. The longer a person ages without this ability, the more they struggle with the simple acknowledgment of being wrong, regardless of the motive or lack of one.
Teaching children to forgive is the best time to start, and is easier than you can imagine!
- Identify what they have done wrong. Many times children are not aware of what they have done wrong, until they have learned what is offensive to others. Each of us are created with selfish inclinations and it is only through focused learning that these traits can be identified. I would say something like, “Taking that toy away from your friend is being selfish. When you are selfish, you are not a good friend, because that has hurt their feelings.” This empowered my children to understand why not sharing could hurt their friend.
- Ask them how it would feel if it was done to them. Young children live with their whole hearts involved in all they do. Being aware of this, I have used this in asking my children what they would feel like if the same action was done to them. They are often quick to seeing why it hurt the other one and are more likely to work on being more kind because they have been able to associate with the feelings.
- Start with God's forgiveness. My children have learned at an early age that God's forgiveness is so important to making our actions better. When my children have hurt another, we have them ask God to forgive and help them to do better next time. When they have prayed and are forgiven they feel so much better.
- Require a genuine apology. Once they have prayed for forgiveness, an apology is so easy for them to ‘ask for forgiveness'. Our children have grown using, “Will you forgive me for __________?” verses the normal “I'm sorry” that is part of our culture. I may be silly in doing this with them, but in my experience a call for forgiveness is so much easier to walk through than a generic ‘I'm sorry'. The harmony it brings between them proves it to me.
- Examine Their Own Actions. As parents, we are quick to tell our children what they have done wrong. As my children grow past the formative years, I start letting them stretch their wings by having them identify what actions need to be apologized for and with whom they need to seek it. We call this ‘confessing your sins'. It is always easier when someone points out to you where they offended you, but it is very important for people to learn to discern their relationships and how they interact with each other.
The best way to teach children to ask for forgiveness is to be an example. I can't tell you how often I have had to apologize to my children for my lack of self-control when raising my voice, or not giving them my full attention. When they see me apologizing, it makes it clear in their mind what it looks like, and how it makes the other feel for being cared for in this way.
I have even had my children overhear me apologizing to friends for my short comings, so they can see how it is done with people outside of our own house.
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