Just because we brought children into the world doesn’t mean we get to have an open, loving relationship with them.
As in any relationship of depth and value, trust must be established with our children and continually cultivated as they mature through their teen and early adult years. But, we don’t always do that, do we? Sometimes we sin against our kids. Sometimes we break fellowship with them through harsh words or actions.
Have you ever found yourself in these circumstances? I certainly have. Some memories I’d like to erase, like the times (yes, plural) I’ve raised my voice in anger (was it the financial pressure, relational challenges, business trials, etc., etc.?) In the moment, we can always come up with “logical reasons” for our sin but the reasons are really excuses that have long-term destructive consequences.
“Now what are you going to do? You’ve closed your daughter’s heart . . . You’ve angered your son so much he won’t talk to you . . . you’ve lost the respect and trust of your kids . . .”
We parents make many mistakes. What’s done is done. How we would like to turn back the clock but, we’ve sinned against our kids and now we are haunted with a powerful sense that we’ve diminished our relationship to such a degree that our kids have no interest in relationship with us and in what we have to say. What do we do if we’ve blown it, Big Time?
How do you restore relationship with your children?
Unleash the power of humility in your home. It’s always easy to pass over sin and move on (especially with young kids) but don’t let this happen. Whatever you plant grows and there will be a harvest. We must humble ourselves before our kids. Humility is a choice and it precedes true, sincere repentance. Pride keeps us from restoring fellowship. The Bible says, God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble. 1 Peter 5:5. Don’t make God oppose you through pride. We need His grace to win back our child’s heart.
Remember that your heart is the heart of the matter. Seeking forgiveness and restoring relationship isn’t about words, it’s about the sincerity of your heart, which only matters if you communicate that sincerity in a believable way to your wounded child. Until your heart is truly engaged in the attempt to reestablish a proper relationship with your child, no amount of words or other efforts will genuinely restore that relationship.
When we’ve blown it, we haven’t sinned only against our kids. We’ve sinned against God. When we’ve sinned against God, we must believe what God has said and then do what the Scriptures say.
1 John 1:9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
When we humble ourselves and truly “confess”, we are conceding the point that we have done wrong and are placing ourselves in the condition to receive the grace offered by God to the repentant. This is how we get clean and we need to have come clean from a real encounter with God before we try to do so with our children.
After we’ve received from God, we have something authentic, something real to offer our children: a humble heart.
So, what does a sincere apology look like? It involves one important context and two basic steps.
Context: Bring nothing to the encounter but your culpability. Too often we want to qualify what we say by referencing the sin of the other person. I want to confess that I got angry but when you said . . . .
Can’t do it. Just leave your child’s wrong words/actions out of the moment. The context for forgiveness is one of complete acceptance of your guilt without reference to the other person – in this case, your child’s.
Two Steps: Many of us are quick to say the words, “I’m sorry for . . .” which is a necessary first step, but in and of itself, just isn’t enough. If all we do is express remorse, we’re little different than Judas. He was sorry too. True repentance before the party we wounded requires one more step.
After sincerely communicating our sorrow for the wounds we’ve inflicted, we need to take the second step. We need to become vulnerable by placing our child above us by asking, “Will you please forgive me for (restate clearly what you’ve done).
God the Father will forgive us every time we truly repent but when it comes to our children, the outcome is far less certain. They might not be ready to forgive. The answer might be an outright “NO!” Humbling ourselves to the place of being rejected is hard on the flesh. But we’ve got to go there for the possibility of a truly restored relationship with children we’ve sinned against.
If the sin has been a repeated offense, one sincere, humble apology likely won’t be enough. To change your reputation with your child whose heart is closed fast by repeated offenses over the long-term, there is only one way: consistency over time. The wounded child has become hard to protect him/herself. The only way to know you’ve truly changed is consistency over time. As trust is restored, openness will follow.
When children see us humbly seeking true forgiveness after we’ve sinned against them, we’re not only showing them how to walk we’re also providing a safe place to do so.
If your child has a heart of stone toward you and you’ve truly humbled yourself before God and your child, take heart – you serve a God who moves not only stones but entire mountains.
Not by might, not by power, but by my Spirit, saith the Lord of Hosts, this mountain shall be removed. Zech. 4:6 mljv
And, one last thought . . . Are you an adult “child” still feeling the pain of old wounds from sinful parents? What is God’s best for you, now? Of course, that’s between you and Him but, I have a question for you: Have you compiled The List?
God bless you as you seek to restore fellowship with your children (or parents). Keeping short accounts is always best but even if many years have passed, God can still move powerfully.
A broken and a contrite heart, oh Lord, you will not despise. Ps 51:17
Matt Jacobson is a biblical marriage coach and founder of FaithfulMan.com a biblical marriage, parenting, and discipleship ministry providing written and audio teaching, as well as couples marriage coaching. He is the co-host (with his wife, Lisa) of Faithful Life Podcast and is author of the bestseller, 100 Ways to Love Your Wife. Matt is pastor of Tumalo Bible Fellowship and is married to Lisa, founder of Club31Women.com (they have 8 kids!).