The other night I was tucking my kids into bed. I noticed my oldest had a glowing silly band on his wrist. Knowing that he would play with the bands and not fall asleep, I asked him for them. This is a normal nightly ritual for us. Once I asked for it, though, he saw his opportunity. You see, only one of his silly bands was glowing, and the others weren't. In that moment he took the chance and told me the glowing one was the only one he had on.
I lowered my voice, looked him square in the eyes and asked him if he was lying to me. Through tears, he admitted he was. All too often as men, we can react in the moment, and wound our boys with our frustration. I remember seeing a frustrated parent years ago at a Wal-Mart throw a child in the backseat, pull out a fly swatter, and went to town on the young boy's legs. We yell, we look mean, we stomp and spit and crush our boys in the process.
Lying is not something that needs to be taught to our kids; truthfulness is. Because of that, when my kids are caught in their sin, there is a short process I walk them through to bring peace between us again.
1) Confront the mistake -- I try my best to separate myself from the frustration and instead to see it as a teachable moment. I lower my voice, keep eye contact, and address the mistake. "Son, did you just lie to me?"
2) Make him admit he is wrong -- We all do this by saying, "I'm sorry." This just means that we admit we are wrong. In the same way, I want my kids to come to the point of admitting it as well. My boys now know that I say, "What do you need to say?" They then respond, "I'm sorry, Daddy."
3) Ask him why he is sorry -- I started this step about a year ago. I realized my boys began to fly over just saying they were sorry. Stopping to understand what they are admitting what they are wrong for is necessary. It seems as though it sinks in deeper when they repeat back what they did wrong.
4) Teach him to ask forgiveness -- I love this step. It brings humility. Their countenance changes. I have them look me in the eyes and ask my forgiveness. It takes the control out of their hands and puts it back in mine. "Will you forgive me, Daddy?" Most of the time, their lip quivers as they try to say it.
5) Restore peace -- Oh yeah, I grant the forgiveness. Then I hug them, remind them I love them and am proud of them, and that they are my son. I wrote a post about that. They wrap their arms around my neck and hug tightly. These moments are priceless.
So after I went through this process with my son the other night, I noticed he kept crying in bed. He told me he felt so bad he had lied to me. I reminded him I had forgiven him. He said he didn't know what that meant. How do you explain forgiveness?
I told him to remember how when he is practicing writing his letters he sometimes makes mistakes. When he does, he turns his pencil over and erases the letter and tries again. I let him know I had just erased his lie to me, and that we were starting over.
I walked away different that night, pondering the metaphor. The significance of forgiveness and how freeing it is.
Do you find these to be tough conversations? How do you engage your sons to teach them without crushing them?
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About Kevin East
Kevin East is the Executive Director of Family Matters. He and his wife Stephanie have five unbelievable kids, two of which they most recently adopted. If Kevin isn't busy with work or family, you'll probably find him in the woods near his house with a power tool. He writes at his blog, "Following to Lead". Connect with him on Twitter at @kevinteast.
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