Showing Kids the Ropes of Remorse


There’s no question that our children will make mistakes, but how can teach them to grab the rope, swing and become a better person on the other side of them?

There’s no question that our children will make mistakes.

But will they learn how to grab the next rope, swing through and be a better person on the other side?

This is why showing kids the ropes of remorse is so important. God’s design of human remorse is a gift to be used for us to get closer to Him and to others.

When you are staring into the eyes of the toddler who found a Sharpie Marker and just drew on your new big screen TV (true story about my son Luke at 18 months old), there can sometimes be no answer. At least no good answer.

How do we teach them through those “What was I thinking moments?”

How should we help them stay accountable when they find themselves facing them?

Here are 3 steps for showing them the ropes of remorse:

1. Get a handle on it. “Whoa, look what I did!” (acknowledging the wrong-doing)

Leading questions to ask might be: What was your mistake? If you could go back in time, what would you do differently?

If they are little, just “play CNN”. Report the news. State the facts: “You _____________. That wasn’t a good choice. This ________ would have been better.”

For example, instead of saying, “You crazy child, why on earth did you take mommy’s red nail polish and draw on your new dress that I just bought you!” can become, “Wow! There’s red nail polish on your dress! Whoops!”

That all sounds lovely, but when your toddler or preschooler does something crazy — it’s important to keep your cool as best as possible. Stating the facts instead of making it personal helps.

2. Swing onto the next rope of “I’m sorry”. Kids will say “I’m sorry “, as a knee-jerk reaction just to get you to calm down. It’s important for them to understand why they are saying it.

Leading statements/questions can be: “Do you know that was wrong? Why was that a poor choice? What should we say when we realize that we did something wrong?”

Say, “I’m sorry to ____________ and ____________ (and anyone else this may have affected)” “How do you think it made ________ feel when you did that? Say, I’m sorry to them too.”

3. Be brave and grab the next rope of fixing the mistake.

Have your child, either out loud or silently, ask themselves, “What can I do to fix it?” Offer to help them get started on making amends, if they need it.

After the child realizes that they did something wrong, figures out who they need to apologize to, brainstorm with them about creative ways to show their newly penitent heart. No, their hearts might not REALLY be particularly penitent, but this step helps them realize the value of making amends anyway. 

Note: Some kids are naturally extremely remorseful, to a fault. If they feel like they have disappointed you in ANY way, they crumble. There is often a bit of anxiety or approval seeking going on here than true remorse. Be wise to recognize the difference.

Others have to be shown the ropes. However, all of us have to step up and be willing to lead our kids to discover their natural, God-given conscience. 

How have you helped your child process remorse?
Do you require public apologies?
What have been the strongest lessons your child has learned from fixing a mistake?
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