Some of the MOST IMPORTANT things Christian parents might lack in parenting:
1) DISCIPLINE – Children should be given consistent, unsurprising discipline for a consistent, simple standard.
2) FORGIVENESS – Children can’t be free of sin, unless someone frees them from it. Allowing sin to go unchecked, and unconvicted makes them keep their sin. But forgiveness is not ingoring sin. Forgiveness requires us to call sin evil first. Then it allows us to highlight the depth of sin, at the same time as extending grace. Children should be told outloud that they are forgiven. I even suggest ritualizing the repetition by the child that “I am forgiven.” I make of point of emphasizing “I will always love you because you are my child, no matter how many times you sin in this way. You are mine, and I will always be yours.”
3) PARENTAL REPENTANCE – this means you have to tell your children that you know it when you sin. They know when we sin too. If we don’t recognize it in front of them, we make ourselves visible liars. They will learn to cover sin, and they will learn it from us. Just like MAKING them say “I am forgiven,” we should MAKE them say “I forgive YOU.” Make them forgive their siblings, and us. You do NOT have to make sure that they FEEL it. They are maleable when they are young, and they are created with molding in mind. And before all else, they need to learn that forgiveness is the next step after repentance and confession. It is ALWAYS what happens in a Christian family. It has to go both ways to create a culture of interpersonal sanctification. I suggest such repeated sentences as, “Thank you for acting like Jesus. He is forgiving. When you forgive you are acting like him.” “Thank you for forgiving your brother, you will help him learn to be a forgiving person. Now when you sin against him, he will also say that he forgives you.” “Thank you for forgiving Daddy; we are a family who forgives sin. I forgive you, and you forgive me.” “If we didn’t forgive each other, we would become an unhappy family.”
The whole key here is that there IS a goal, so give them a path. It is hard to find a way to a goal without a path. Give them a path, and keep pushing them back onto it. Over and over and over and over. They will learn to do these things naturally.
Lest we say this is just making them Robots, remember that it leads to God-given JOY in our emotions when we live in this kind of family. Remember, I said that you do not have to make them FEEL it in the moment. This is because you are making them feel it over time. The way that a culture of confession/repentance/forgiveness FEELS is so much better than one of concealing/hardening/embittering. They will learn that they are being fed feast food, and when they eat the trash of bad judgment, as we all do from time to time, they won’t like it. Then the mature choices they make will be personal and real and will flow out of the storehouse of family faith.