The One Thing Your Child Really Needs When They Screw Up

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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 that 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 your pull them off the floor? Which do you do first?

Extend Grace to Your Child - Forgive them and move on

I try really hard to be a great mom, but I really suck 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.

We should dole out our child’s punishment or consequence, and then move on. We shouldn’t keep punishing, keep reminding them about their previous error. We shouldn’t rub it in, or tell them “I told you so.”

Because, just as you ask your child to say sorry when they screw up, you also need to forgive your child at the same time, and part of forgiving is forgetting and moving on.

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 others’ 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.

Was what happened worth getting that worked up about?

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 four years old my daughters are getting in trouble mostly for being four, 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 four 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.

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.

But, 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. Forget the incident and move on, positively, with the rest of your day. And be sure to tell them that you forgive them.

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’s atonement. We can all do better thanks to His grace, His mercy, and His love.

Give your child grace, mercy, and love, just like Jesus does to you. Every single day.

Do you have a problem with staying mad at your children for longer than is really necessaryThis was such a powerful reminder to me about needing to be forgiving and giving of grace to my children!

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  1. says

    Beautifully written and something that I keep reminding myself to be a living example of the fruits of the spirit to my kids. “gentlesness, kindness, self control…” sometimes I fail miserably.

    I’ll love to include this on my weekend links post.

    • says

      Thank you Yetunde! It’s hard to be the living example we need to be. But, I think remembering and reminding yourself can help. That’s why I write posts like this! To help myself do better!

  2. says

    Oh, Katelyn, this couldn’t have come at a better time for me.

    Today, my daughter spent her entire “nap time” emptying every dresser and nightstand drawer into her bed. Her little, tiny, toddler bed was covered with a pile nearly 2 feet high of well, just about everything in her room: books, toys, clothes – if it was in her room, it made it into her bed.

    I just looked at her – for about a minute – and turned around and walked out. I knew that if I started, I wouldn’t stop for a bit and it wouldn’t be helpful to her at all. I tried later to enforce a time out, but as you might guess, it wasn’t effective. At. All.

    But, I didn’t forgive – I stewed on it for hours… Actually, I was still stewing on it as I started to read your article.

    Thank you for writing this and I’m sincerely glad I read this tonight.

    • says

      Thank you for your comment Sarah! I’m so glad you read it tonight! I wrote it manly so I could read it myself! I need the advice because, obviously, I struggle with this. I would be mad in your situation too. Good luck!!

  3. says

    Empathy and forgiveness are so important, and as a parent, I too need to work on this all the time. One thing that I always try to remind myself is what is a developmentally appropriate expectation for my son at a given age. When I think about that I am better able to empathize and move forward with our day or I just put him to bed for a nap, lol.

  4. says

    Great post, Katelyn. My problem is that the same problem keeps happening over and over. It’s really starting to wear me out! Who knew seven could be so hard. (A seven-year-old–not seven kids!)

  5. says

    This is such a great post. Parenting is a lot harder for many of us because we do stay angry at our kids or we do get upset over the little things they do. I know I’m learning to overcome that issue. Your post is a great reminder of just how important it is show grace for our kids and others for that matter.

  6. says

    Such a lovely and important challenge to each of us as moms, Katelyn. And I can add to your words here due to my “old age” and having seen how my boys were wounded by those earlier actions on my part and probably gave me more “lip” and rebellion in their teen years because of it! So not only is it the right thing to do as a mom, it’s the best thing to do for all involved. Great wisdom, my friend!

    • says

      Thanks Beth! I do think that my kids have taken far too many (bad) ques from me on how to deal with things, and I don’t want them to be like me in this regard! I just need to hold my tongue sometimes and put a smile on face and brush things aside. So not the end of the world! Good luck with your boys!


  1. […] Forgive Your Child; Extend Them Grace – Love this reminder: “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?” […]

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