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Forgiveness & Mercy: Step 4 in Cultivating Your Child's Heart for Instruction


By Peggy Ployhar

This series on parenting anger has taken us through who is affected by parenting anger, when parenting anger occurs, why parenting anger is misused, how parents can switch modes from destructive anger to constructive anger, and what God’s greater purpose is for parenting anger. Then, we moved into a mini-series focusing on what parents can do to repair and rebuild broken relationships caused by parenting anger. This article on forgiveness and mercy is the 4th installation in this mini-series which has already touched on integrity, authority, and acceptance.


Everyone Needs Forgiveness

Forgiveness is much easier to conceptualize in theory than apply in real life. Emotions, past experiences, and desires to control our circumstances as well as others muddy the waters. When it comes to forgiving others, our natures cling to the hurts, harms, or unpleasant memories more than they desire to forgive someone.

The reality is, no one is perfect, and therefore we all have the potential to hurt one another. Forgiveness is a mode we must learn to live in and live in with peace. In a previous series on childhood depression, I described my Cyclical Perfection Wheel as a way God actually uses our need for forgiveness to perfect us through the process of sanctification. The goal of living our imperfect lives as parents is to show our children that we not only can forgive them, but we can also accept forgiveness ourselves.


Judgment Doesn’t Lead to Forgiveness

When parents struggle with anger, it often stems from judging right/wrong, good/bad, devious intentions/poor choices and making many more “assumptions” instead of holding out for God’s truth in a situation. This immediate need to resolve a situation based on human assumptions can lead children to believe mistakes of any kind are not permissible or forgivable. Over time, many children take on this judgmental burden and apply it to themselves without even knowing they are perceiving their world through this judgmental lens.

Judgment leaves no open door for forgiveness. Instead, self-condemnation fueled by misguided assumptions pull both parent and child away from receiving God’s mercy and complete forgiveness. Our parental fears push our children further away from us and in doing so make us their opponents instead of their coaches, as in the boxing ring example mentioned in the previous article in this series. So, while we think we are fighting to help our children battle life’s obstacles, we instead become the greatest obstacle in their path because of how we are judging their behavior.


Judgment Skews Truth
When we get angry and allow our judgment to lead the way on how we respond to our children’s behavior, we don’t leave room for the whole truth of a situation to come to light before we react. Often, when we wait to allow the whole truth to surface, we find our judgment was extremely skewed, and any response in the moment would have made the situation worse instead of better.

Just recently I received a desperate call from a mother whose son had been cheating on his school work and lying to both her and others about his progress. The mother’s first response to me was to ask what possible outside influences her son must have recently gotten mixed up in to cause him to change his behavior so dramatically. Her perception was that based on her son’s past behavior this sudden change must be someone else’s fault.

In talking more with this mother, I found out her son was under a lot of pressure and his actions were more in line with a depressed and anxious teen, than one who was acting rebelliously. I explained to her that even though she perceived her son’s lying and cheating as a malicious act, from the perspective of a depressed teen his actions were more likely self-preserving. Without trying to be devious to those who cared for him, his anxiety over what his future held after high school was causing him to act in a way that would keep his world in a place he felt he could survive. His lying and cheating, although not the best means to create a safe bubble, were allowing him to stay in a place he felt he could control and could distance himself from his fears.


Truth Opens the Door for Mercy and Forgiveness

Looking at a situation in truth allows for our hearts to see beyond judgment. This is what mercy is all about. Mercy is the opposite of judgment, but mercy is the necessary first step in bringing us to a place where we can forgive and receive forgiveness. In the example above, both mother and son must see the truth of how depression, anxiety, and assumptions are skewing their ability to work together towards fighting the battle ahead. But, mercy is not a one-way street. Even if this mother does her best to see her son’s battle from a merciful perspective, she can’t change her son’s ability to accept this mercy for himself.

Many times, we struggle with our inability to control our children and their decisions. Angry parent responses are often triggered by the desire to control our children. Thus, allowing our children to struggle and fail while we patiently coach them, pray for them, and forgive them is one of the toughest transitions parents must make to help children start the process of receiving forgiveness for their own failings.

Learning to forgive as well as accepting forgiveness takes time and lots of prayer. Mercy is often the step we try to skip in the forgiving process because it’s the most difficult part of forgiving; it requires us to let go of controlling the outcome and, at the same time, to fight our desire to judge. But we win this fight by praying for eyes to see others the way God sees them.


Allowing Forgiveness to Be the New Norm

As a child’s heart softens, he learns over time to be less judgmental of mistakes. Judgement is replaced by the life-giving response of giving and receiving mercy and forgiveness. This transition opens children’s hearts for instruction, because mercy is the new norm instead of fear of judgment. Children who operate under the umbrella of mercy learn to embrace their mistakes as ways to learn as well as a means to grow closer to their all-forgiving Father.

As parents, we also need to live in a state of mercy and forgiveness. We need to realize how our past actions towards our children, as well as how judgmental we have been of our own lives, is not healthy. God’s forgiveness heals any wounds our sinful actions have created. He even turns those wounds into some of the most powerful places from which we can minister to share His hope. But, asking your children to forgive you and accepting forgiveness is where the healing must start. Then, it must continue with restorations, which I will talk about in my next article in this series as we dive into the importance of honor.


Supportive and Forgiving Community
Until next time, I hope you embrace the forgiveness God has for both you and your children, and the merciful perspective He has to share with you on how He views each of your lives. If you are looking for a community who is willing to help you walk through this process, and who understands that parents are not perfect people, then check out the SPED Homeschool Facebook Support Group.

We also invite you to join our other Facebook groups as well as the SPED Homeschool Facebook Page. On the links imbedded here you can find the SPED Homeschool Resources Sharing Group where you can find as well as share resources that are helpful to special education homeschooling families. And, the SPED Homeschool Buy/Sell/Trade Facebook group is where you can find lots of new and used curriculum for teaching your special education homeschooled student.



Parenting Anger Series Articles:
Why We Should Be Talking About Parenting Anger 
Parenting Anger Demystified
The Parenting Anger Escape Door
Shifting Parenting Anger from Controlling Mode to Training Mode
How-To Effectively Instill Godly Character in Children Using Parenting Anger 
Integrity: Step 1 in Cultivating a Child's Heart for Instruction
Humble Authority: Step 2 in Cultivating Your Child’s Heart for Instruction
Unconditional Acceptance:  Step 3 in Cultivating Your Child's Heart for Instruction 
Forgiveness & Mercy: Step 4 in Cultivating Your Child's Heart for Instruction
Honor: Step 5 in Cultivating Your Child's Heart for Instruction 



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