3 Three-Word Phrases I Tell My Kids

Parents are always communicating with their children. A touch of restraint on the arm, an encouraging word after school, or a hug before bed all convey important truths. From the casual smile across the dinner table to the tear-filled conversation before bed, every exchange with my kids is an opportunity.

For Christian parents, one goal must shape every interaction: to help our children grow in their knowledge and love of God. We want them to believe and embrace the gospel of Jesus Christ!

There are on-ramps to discuss the gospel in many of our conversations with our children. And many of these conversations with my kids can start with these three-word phrases.

“I love you”

I grew up in a home where I never questioned my parents’ love. My mother and father both told me (and showed me) that they loved me on a regular basis. I thank God for this—I now realize how much security and stability this gave me.

Children first learn what love is from their parents. So parents must communicate love to their children in a way that is not dependent on performance. My kids should not only know they are loved when they score a soccer goal, when they bring home a good report card, or when their painting wins a local prize.

If parents are teaching their children about real love—and ultimately about God’s love—they will remind their children of their love in good times and bad, during times of correction and praise. Every instance of instruction is an opportunity.

Parents must tell their children “I love you,” and they must say it in a way that is full of grace.

“Please forgive me”

Any two people living in close proximity will sin against each other. Often. This is a sad fact of our fractured world.

Before children turn two or three, parents must think about discipline. They will have hard talks during which they help their children confess their sins to God and others. But one of the most powerful conversations a parent can have with their children is when the shoe is on the other foot.

I have needed to seek forgiveness from my kids many times. I have yelled at them in anger and impatience, I have joked at their expense, I have been deliberately unkind as a form of retaliation. This is, sadly, only a partial list.

My confession to my kids is both necessary, because God commands it of me (James 5:16), and important, because it teaches them vital truths about being a Christian.

In my confession, I teach my children about sin. We are all sinners; we will not lay aside these selfish hearts as we age like some pair of toddler pajamas. And sin has consequences. Because sin offends God, we must confess our sin to Him. When we sin against others, we must seek reconciliation.

I try not to make excuses when I confess my sin to my children. I acknowledge the ways I have hurt them and express my sadness and regret for my actions. We discuss Jesus’s work on the cross for me: I can be sure God has forgiven me because Jesus died, was buried, and rose. And then I ask them to forgive me, explaining that they will bear a cost in forgiving me (not holding a grudge, not retaliating, not bringing the incident up as a weapon in the future). There is always a cost to forgiveness.

We talk and then we pray. We hug. I hope this practice creates a culture of humility, short accounts, and eager reconciliation in my family that my children will remember and take with them. What better way to get to the heart of Christianity than to forgive each other and treasure the work of Jesus together!

“God loves you”

This wonderful truth is the foundation of all gospel hope, and we must say it often to ourselves and everyone around us. God really does love you (1 John 4:10)!

God’s love is the foundation for all our belief and the proper motivation for our obedience. When children ask why our family goes to church, there’s an enormous difference between an answer that describes our duty and an answer like this: “God loves us and wants us to worship him” (see Romans 12:1).

When I remind my kids of God’s love, this provokes all kinds of related questions.

How does He show us His love? How can we know His love? Why does He love us? How do we experience His love? Where do we learn about His love? How should we respond to His love?

These are questions of discipleship—both ours and our children’s! They naturally lead to conversations about the cross, the Holy Spirit, the Bible, spiritual disciplines, and the local church.

Parents are long-term disciplers of their children, so we should seek out these conversations, even when our kids respond with questions that are difficult or unrelated.

Conversations Matter

Parents aim to surround their children with the gospel of Jesus Christ. Our time, our actions, our sacrifices, and our priorities all speak loudly to those nearby.

Our conversations matter most of all. And big conversations—conversations of eternal importance—can begin with these smallest of phrases.

Post credit | Photo credit

What My Children Taught Me About Grace



As I take my keys out of my pocket, the piano stops and the stampede begins. My children rush to the back door and fling it wide before I can unlock it. I am enveloped in hugs, and my day is made.

This is the scene at my house many times when I get home from work. It doesn’t always happen, and I don’t presume it will continue on indefinitely. (And it doesn’t happen only for me!) But, what a blessing it is! God has given my kids a love for me that I don’t deserve, and the occasional exuberance is wonderful.

This end-of-day greeting isn’t just a blessing of fatherhood. It’s a picture of God’s grace.

A Picture of Grace

I’m far from a perfect father. I’m frequently impatient, too quick to anger, and sometimes just mean or clumsy with my children’s feelings. In an honest accounting, I don’t deserve the extravagant love my children show me.

But my children give me what I don’t deserve. Instead of a cold shoulder, they embrace me. Instead of hesitating, they run. They let me know, unmistakably, that they are glad to see me.

I feel immediate acceptance when I peer through our back window and see those small, smiling faces. I don’t need to bring anything, say anything, or do anything. In that moment, their love does not depend on what I have done for them or what I might do for them. The greeting I receive has no relation to my recent behavior toward them at all—on most days I haven’t seen them for almost eight hours.

This sounds familiar, right? My children’s love is a small, imperfect pointer toward the grace of God. His constant, lavish, maximum love toward those who don’t deserve it—this is his grace and the heartbeat of the Christian life.

A Biblical Truth

Don’t just take my word for it. And don’t let a sentimental fact about my family convince you God is like this. This picture resonates with me because it is the description of divine love we see in the Bible.

The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
He will not always chide, nor will he keep his anger forever.
He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities.
For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him;
as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us. (Psalm 103:8–12, ESV)

And God’s grace is fully and finally realized in the giving of his son for sinners.

For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. (Titus 3:3–7, ESV)

Embracing Grace

Grace like this demands a response. Overflowing love, once offered, changes us in one way or another.

Do you know the grace of God? You have never been loved like this, so it might seem unreal. And yet, it is certain. Because of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, we can enter God’s house. We don’t need to sneak in a window, we don’t knock ashamed—God opens the door himself.

He is glad to see you. He invites you to sit down with him and rest. And the music starts to play once again.

Photo Credit: Petra (2014), public domain

The Default Posture of Love


It was a delightfully ordinary morning. I was well-rested, blessed by the routines of both the previous evening and the present day. I was enjoying the silence and stillness. Then my children awoke.

Though this happens every day, something was different. I was immediately on edge, listening critically to their conversation and actions. I felt like a coiled spring, ready to bounce upstairs to correct, scold, or yell at the slightest provocation.

Default Positions

We all know a bit about defaults. A default is a position assumed automatically without active choice. We’ve all accidentally subscribed to an email newsletter (or fifty) because we didn’t uncheck the proper box.

On this particular morning, my default position toward my children was one of suspicion and anger. Before they said or did anything, I took on an adversarial stance; I assumed they would soon need correction or discipline. I’m convicted as I remember this attitude, because it’s simply not the way a Christian should think about his kids.

A False View of God

Christian fathers have a weighty task. Whenever they interact with their children, they speak about God’s fatherhood. Like it or not, kids will learn what God is like as a father (in part) by watching, playing with, and listening to their dad.

In my posture toward my children, I was promoting a false view of God.

The culture at large thinks of God as a scold, a grade-school nun eager to draw blood from knuckles with a ruler. The clear, Scriptural evidences of God’s holiness and judgment are used to paint God as perpetually angry, just waiting for us to sin so he can strike. He may be merciful, but only as a last-second shield from his wrath.

These conceptions of God do not square with the biblical picture, especially for Christians.

The True View of God

If you are a Christian, God loves you (1 John 4:10). Your faith is an evidence of his love. He cannot love you any more, and he cannot love you any less. Full stop.

There is not a drop of his wrath remaining toward you (Rom 8:1). Every last ounce was wrung out on Jesus in your place (Rom 5:6–11). Because he is just, God is not waiting for you to fall. (Though he will pick you up when you do.)

Of course, God disciplines us as a loving father (Heb 12:3–11). But God’s discipline comes as needed, in just the right measure and at just the right time. It is never extraneous or excessive; it is never vengeful or disproportionate. His discipline is perfect and perfectly loving.

In short, God’s posture toward us is one of love.

A Godly Vision of Fatherhood

Perhaps the application for parents is clear. Our default posture toward our children must be one of love and peace. We should rejoice at the God-given relationship we have. Friends come and go, but these will be our children forever. Instead of suspicion and anger, my resting state with my children must be warmth and joy, especially if I am to teach them about God.

This posture doesn’t excuse sin or disobedience. In fact, it provides the biblical context for addressing disobedience.

I can love because I am loved. I can help because I have been helped. I can forgive because I have been forgiven. I can correct, guide, and instruct because my Father does the same for me.

For yourself, and for your children, this makes all the difference in the world.

Photo Credit: anonymous (2016), public domain

A Christian Defense of Dad Jokes


If you have a dad, you’ve probably heard a dad joke. If you are a dad, you’ve probably told one (or a hundred).

Dad jokes are silly jokes that fathers tell, mostly to get a reaction from their children. Laughter will do, but a roll of the eyes or an exclamation of Daaaa-dddyy! — well, those are fine, too.

Since dad jokes aren’t typically good jokes, they might seem extraneous. But don’t write them off. Dad jokes serve an important purpose, and we’d be poorer as a society (and as a church) without them.

The Importance of Laughter

If real joy is at the center of the Christian life, then laughter cannot be far behind. A joyful Christian need not always wear a smile, but a Christian who never laughs is hard to fathom.

There are abundant reasons for laughter all around us. God’s world is full of bizarre and hilarious creatures doing bizarre and hilarious things. Doubting readers should visit their local zoo and spend 30 minutes pondering the giraffe.

God’s providence can make us smile just as often as his creation. Sometimes God governs the world with a “frowning providence” (William Cowper), but other times the unfolding of our lives is wonderful: a friendly cashier just when you need a smile; your elderly neighbors holding hands on their afternoon walk; the joy in your heart when an old friend calls for a chat. God means for these glimpses of his grace to delight and cheer us.

So laughter is an appropriate, humble response to a sovereign creator who himself has a sense of humor. But laughter is essential to loving our neighbors as well. No one wants to befriend a stick in the mud. Shared laughter or a well-timed joke can build friendship in powerful ways. Developing our God-given senses of humor makes us the sort of people others want to be around and listen to.

Raising Funny People

Of course, a sense of humor is more readily caught than taught. The best way to help kids develop a sense of humor is to be funny with them. Parents have been doing this with their children for centuries, and children love it.

Though our children will eventually sail away, their preparatory time in the safe harbor of their family is critical. At home, children won’t be rejected or embarrassed if a joke falls flat. Children can test and develop their senses of humor in a supportive environment.

This playful encouragement is especially important for young children. As toddlers learn to speak, they have all kinds of struggles with words—some confusing and some just funny. (No one avoids the pee versus pea jokes, right?) So much humor hinges on facility with language—homonyms, puns, rhyming—that experimenting with words should be celebrated in our homes.

Dads Are Leaders

Dad jokes are probably so named because men typically enjoy the silliness more than women. But the name also reflects a natural part of a father’s calling.

Fathers are leaders in their homes. I take this as a given, though hearty, cheerful defenses of this biblical doctrine abound. A man’s leadership as husband and father is to be Christlike—warm, gentle, firm, and sacrificial. His loving leadership should extend to all aspects of the home, including the laughter that echoes from room to room.

Dad jokes are a natural outworking of the sacrificial love of a Christian father. (Stay with me!) See, the goof in a dad joke is the dad himself. A dad joke doesn’t make fun of others, it doesn’t draw on bathroom gags, vulgarity, or stereotypes; at its heart, a dad joke says Can you believe I thought this was funny? In telling dad jokes, fathers help their children to learn what is funny at their own expense.

Beyond Dad Jokes

Dad jokes are the baby food of humor. They help children develop their palate, learning what is funny and what isn’t. They tickle and prompt a child to chew over language and delight in their circumstances.

If you only tell dad jokes, you’re probably not very funny. But dad jokes are a valuable part of a faithful father’s joke arsenal. They help him prepare his children to enjoy God and his world and to be salt and light to those around them.

Photo Credit: anonymous (2016), public domain

Ruin Your Family Vacation in Six Easy Steps


Taking a vacation with your family can make your year. Especially when they are young, children look forward to these trips for months and have piles of memories afterward.

Because a vacation can be such a balm for a family, parents want everything to be perfect. But there are so, so many ways to fall short of perfect! Most of us are okay with imperfection, but we’d like to avoid disaster.

Partly out of my own experience, I offer six ways to ruin your family vacation. Though it may be too late for this summer, file these suggestions away for the future.

1. Ignore your children.

The kids will want to do childish things on vacation, like build sand castles, play in the water, and visit amusement parks. If you want to rest, you need a break from your kids. Let your spouse or parents handle the children as much as possible.

You might think you’re missing an opportunity to spend time with your kids. But you work so hard, right? Put your feet up and nap. You’ve earned it.

2. Be tight with time and money.

Your children will ask for LOTS of things on vacation. But stay strong; don’t go beyond the minimum. Money is tight and time is precious. Let this be your mantra.

Say no to the extra scoop of ice cream, the additional hour at the park, and the last ride on the carousel. Your budget and schedule are more important than these simple joys.

3. Be distracted.

Vacations offer a great chance to build relationships and engage in conversations. But that doesn’t sound very relaxing, does it? So make sure you’re not present.

Hang around in the background, but take your mind and attention elsewhere. Put your nose in a device and convince everyone that you’re busy with Important Things. (Acting annoyed can help, just ask George Costanza.)

4. Insist on your own way.

Let your family know the places and activities you enjoy, and push hard to prioritize all of them.

In the interest of fairness, you’ll probably have to go to some places you don’t love. As you get dragged along, make sure your mood is sufficiently sour to ruin the experience for everyone else. If you make your displeasure known (non-verbally, of course), then next time you’ll either be left out or the activity will be cut from the schedule. Either way, you win!

5. Don’t lift any burdens.

Though vacations present an opportunity to bless others, don’t go out of your way to do anything extra. You need your rest.

The person in your house who cooks, who does the laundry, who cares for the children most of the time? Let them carry on as usual, unless that happens to be you. In this case, insist on your right to a break. Enlist someone else to take up your slack (and try to ignore the hypocrisy).

6. Abandon all spiritual practices.

Vacation is about rest and fun. So, cast aside anything that feels like work, including your spiritual disciplines.

It’s easier to read a novel than the Bible, right? Who wants to pray as a family when you can watch TV instead?

By taking a break from your spiritual life, you tell your family (and especially your children) that there is no joy in following Christ, only duty. You also communicate that it’s okay to set aside your efforts to love and obey God whenever the mood strikes.

The Big Idea

There are lots of ways to ruin a family vacation; I’ve just picked the low-hanging fruit. The big idea is to make the vacation all about you. Don’t serve others, and don’t make any sacrifices.

If you follow these steps, you’ll not only ruin your vacation, but you’ll be well on your way to poisoning all of your family relationships.

Photo Credit: anonymous (2009), public domain

Grandparents, We Need You!


As I was leaving a restaurant recently, I walked past a booth where an older man was sitting with a young girl. (I assume this was his preteen granddaughter.) The girl put on headphones and played with her phone while the man sipped his coffee and looked off sadly in the distance.

This stuck with me all day. I couldn’t imagine a breakfast without conversation, especially with my grandfather! What a tragedy.

Abundant Opportunity

Though this was a sad scene, I was not entirely discouraged. I mourned for this man, but then I turned the scene around in my head. What is the best outcome of such a meal?

Grandparents carry tremendous influence with their grandchildren. Here are three ways I’m praying my kids learn from their grandparents.

1. Learn Through Conversation

Many children are eager to talk about themselves but unable to focus on others. Outside of immediate family and school friends, they aren’t great at communication.

Meanwhile, grandparents love spending time with their grandchildren, and they’re delighted to play games, go to the park, or chat over cookies. Your kids can learn valuable lessons during these visits.

Train your children to interact with older adults. Teach them how to ask questions (and follow-up questions), how to listen, and how to take interest in others.

In addition to growing in conversational and social skills, children will learn more about their family. They can hear about their grandparents’ jobs, families, and adventures, and they might even see their parents in a new light.

In grandparents, children have an eager, loving, attentive audience. We can bless both our children and our parents by encouraging these visits.

2. Learn Through Experience

Godly grandparents have a precious heritage to pass along. A lifetime of walking with God, learning from him, and seeing his work—these are all gifts for younger generations.

Older Christians often have moving stories of God’s redemption and provision. They have seen his love displayed in ways that come only with decades of faithfulness. These stories display in vibrant color some of God’s attributes that might only exist in black and white for children.

As children hear testimonies of God’s goodness, they grow in their faith. When we learn how God has worked and provided in the past, we gain confidence that God will work and provide in the future.

3. Learn Through Example

While children are at the beginning of life, grandparents are closer to the end. One of the best gifts grandparents can give is to show how to age, weaken, and die with a joyful hope in Jesus.

That took a dark turn, didn’t it? Stay with me.

Most children are insulated from the hard realities of the Fall. We prepare them for school and jobs, for a spouse and a church, but we don’t talk much about sickness, weakness, and frailty. However, death is more sure than a spouse is. Our children need to know how to die.

Children shouldn’t develop a fascination with the grave, but thinking about death brings our faith into sharp focus. We see what really matters.

As grandparents age, they can show their grandchildren the greatness of God and the liberating salvation Jesus has won. As their bodies ache, as moving and breathing become more difficult, they can guide children to the true source of hope.

It’s easy for children to focus on the latest toy, the approval of friends, or the perfect science project. In the end, these are all meaningless. With a steady gaze at the glory of God, grandparents can display the power and grace of God to save and love sinners. Toward the end of life, grandparents can point to God in ways that peers, teachers, and even parents cannot.

Look Ahead

Parents, if your parents (or parents-in-law) are no longer around, don’t despair. Most churches are full of godly men and women who love children. They would jump at the chance to visit with your family once a month.

Finally, by God’s grace, let’s be the older Christians we seek for our kids. Let’s pursue God with all that we have so he can use us to influence generations to come.

Thanks for reading! If you’re interested, you can follow me on Twitter, subscribe to this blog by email (see the box on the upper right part of the page), or follow my blog’s RSS feed here.

Photo Credit: James Peters, public domain

3 Lessons From the Cicada


Through creation, God teaches us about himself, his promises, and our calling in the world. From the rain and snow that fall from heaven (Isaiah 55:10) to the rainbow that doesn’t (Genesis 9:12–17), the earth abounds with object lessons.

God often teaches us using animals. He commends to us the wisdom of rock badgers and locusts (Proverbs 30:24–28), the industry of ants (Proverbs 6:6–8), the dependence of birds upon God for food (Matthew 6:26), and the strength and endurance of eagles (Isaiah 40:31).

This means we should open our spiritual eyes when we step outdoors. Without being trite or simplistic, we can follow the Biblical pattern of looking and learning.

Go to the Cicada

Cicadas are everywhere in southwestern Pennsylvania right now. This surge is part of Brood V, which greets us every 17 years. The lifecycles and developmental stages of this critter are amazing.

Though fascinating, these bugs are a nuisance. Their shells cover the trees, their carcasses litter the sidewalks, and their noise is overwhelming.

What can we learn from these curious creatures?

1. Life is short.

Cicadas live about three to four weeks as adults. After they tunnel from the ground and shed their skin, they mate, lay eggs, and die. Compared to years of life in the soil, their time above ground is a blink.

Though we might measure our adulthood in years instead of weeks, our time is also short.

O Lord, make me know my end
and what is the measure of my days;
let me know how fleeting I am!
Behold, you have made my days a few handbreadths,
and my lifetime is as nothing before you.
Surely all mankind stands as a mere breath! (Psalm 39:4–5)

We are not promised tomorrow. Our lives are just a breath and God calls us to make the most of them.

Christian, don’t waste your life. Put away concerns about your own legacy and reputation. Remember you are loved in Christ, and glorify God with all your might in everything.

2. Adulthood requires preparation.

When cicadas hatch and drop to the ground, they begin a long process. They seek out tree roots, storing up nutrients for the years ahead. A huge proportion of their lives are spent preparing for their three weeks of adulthood.

Our children need more than physical nourishment as they grow. They also need preparation of the heart, mind, and character. Parents have a great opportunity, by God’s grace, to help shape the next generation.

When your children are grown, do you want them to love God? To love their neighbors? To show hospitality? To give generously? To excel in their work? To think carefully about the issues of the day? To be involved in evangelism and discipleship? To know and love the Bible? To have a rich prayer life? To be committed to a solid local church?

In today’s conversations, have the future in mind. What you model, what you discuss, and how you train your children will have a huge impact on the type of people they become.

3. Our songs mark us.

The unmistakable mark of the cicada, beyond the empty shells, is the sound. The male mating song is intense, lasting from sunrise to sunset. Opening my back door is like stepping into a circular-saw testing facility.

Christians should also be known for their songs.

But let all who take refuge in you rejoice;
let them ever sing for joy,
and spread your protection over them,
that those who love your name may exult in you. (Psalm 5:11)

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. (Colossians 3:16)

As a response to who God is and what he has done, we show our joy and thankfulness with our voices. Our happiness in God cannot be quiet or “personal,” confined to our inner selves. Glad hearts overflow with song, and this marks us as God’s people, children by his grace.

Learn from Nature

With God’s creation all around us, we have a lot to learn. Most children love to be outside, so these object lessons are a great way to talk with kids about God.

So let’s take advantage of our senses. God made the world for his glory and his fingerprints are all over it.

Photo Credit: James DeMers (2013), Public Domain

From My Hands to His


Stick your finger near a baby’s hand, and he’ll grab it. It’s a cute and iconic image, worthy of a poster.

But that grip is powerful! When a person that small and helpless clings to another human, it can take your breath away.

That was my reaction. I know it’s just a reflex, but when my days-old daughter grabbed my finger, my heart swelled. It was like she recognized her weakness and identified this person as the solution. There was glory in that gesture, something beautiful and instinctive that helped me understand my new role as a father.

In the blink of an eye, my children no longer needed my finger. But they still needed my hands. When learning to walk or climb the stairs, I provided balance. When crossing the road or tightroping along a curb, I lent direction and safety. When waiting in line at the store, I gave presence and security. Fathers communicate so much to their children through a simple grip.

I’m for you. I’ll protect and help you. I’m here and I won’t abandon you. You’re mine and I love you.

As my children age, they grow more independent and self-assured. When we walk together, my youngest still sneaks up and slips her hand in mine, but I know these days are numbered.

In God’s wisdom, parents often mature in a parallel way to their children. Our kids let go of our hands, and we learn to do the same.

Though I still supervise and teach and discipline, those roles will cease. But my children, like me, will still need guidance and instruction, protection and discipline.

What I cannot provide, God gives in abundance. He’s worthy of my trust. His hands are strong and gentle, capable and powerful, wise and good.

At the apex of history, his hands were pierced, stretched wide on the tree. For me. For my children.

There will come a day when I can no longer reach out to touch my children. But they’ll be in good hands.

For I, the Lord your God,
hold your right hand;
it is I who say to you, “Fear not,
I am the one who helps you.” – Isaiah 41:13 (ESV)

3 Essential Words to Say to Your Child


I slid behind the wheel and felt the familiar pang of spiritual conviction. As we began the short trip to school, I tried to ignore the tap on my shoulder, but I knew what I had to do.

Just twenty minutes earlier, I yelled at my children. This was not a loving, firm correction, but an explosion. They disobeyed, and I lashed out at them, trying to provoke feelings of guilt and shame and smallness. It was terrible and embarrassing. I needed to come clean.

I confessed my sin and asked my daughter for forgiveness, which she gave gladly. Her grace pointed me to the very goodness of God I needed to remember.

The following hours were busy, filled with meetings, classes, advising, and grading. And yet, that four-minute conversation was the most important part of my day.

Seek Their Forgiveness

For their spiritual health and yours, your children need to hear you say those three little words: Please forgive me.

I’ve resisted this, and you have too. I have thought my sin was not that bad, or it wasn’t the right time, or they didn’t notice. If we’re honest, it’s easy to find reasons not to confess your sins to your child. You’re big, they’re small, and they’re not the boss of you.

But these conversations are crucial, both for your child’s spiritual development and for the health of your relationship with them. They’re one of the best ways to spotlight Jesus and glory in the gospel. Each talk may be uncomfortable, but there are at least five reasons we should ask for forgiveness from our children.

  1. Because God commands it. In the Bible, God urges reconciliation and harmony in relationships. We are to forgive others as God in Christ has forgiven us (Eph 4:32, Col 3:13). Real forgiveness presupposes confession from the guilty party, so when you sin against someone else, you should ask for their forgiveness.1 This includes your children.
  2. Because obedience is for everyone. Parents make and enforce the rules at home, so children usually know their offenses. But they see your sin too, especially when you sin against them. Through confession you underline that you are not above the law. God’s standard applies to you, and you don’t measure up. Admitting your sin gives you the chance, as a fellow sinner, to point to Christ.
  3. Because it teaches them how to forgive and seek forgiveness. Give your children a model for these conversations. Confess your sins specifically, without excuses. Describe the pain you have caused. Express your grief over your sin and the relational rift you’ve created. Ask them to forgive you, and thank them when they do.
  4. Because it teaches them grace. You don’t deserve your child’s forgiveness, much less God’s. Remind your child that God forgives his enemies: us!
  5. Because it points to Jesus. God didn’t forgive by putting our sins off to the side; he faced them. He is enraged against sin, but Jesus felt God’s fury in our place. Forgiveness, even the peer-to-peer kind, is costly (see Matt 18), and talking about this cost naturally turns to the gospel.

The Importance of the Heart

When you talk to your children about sin—whether theirs or yours—emphasize the heart. Give your children categories and language to describe the most important part of their relationship to God.

For example, I yelled because I was angry. But I was angry because my child’s disobedience upset my comfort and peace. I reacted in a sinful way because my happiness was more important than honoring God and caring for my children.


Enlist your spouse in your efforts to keep short accounts with your children. They have a better sense of when you need to confess than you do, and they can see your relationships more objectively.

As these conversations become more a part of your family life, your children will trust you more. Hopefully, they will come to a greater awareness of their own sin and the forgiveness and grace that God offers. This is the great aim of parenting.

  1. For much more on this line of thinking regarding forgiveness, check out Unpacking Forgiveness (affiliate link). 

Photo Credit: sarahbernier3140, public domain

Children: A Blessed Interruption

child-eating-watermelon-1I started a recent Saturday morning with a sigh. It was time for one of my least favorite tasks: grading.

Grading for a professor is like sweeping the floor for a barber. It’s necessary, tedious, and often a hairy mess.

I was hoping to finish in an hour. I sat down with a red pen and braced myself. Then, the barrage began.

Daddy, can you watch me dance?
Daddy, can you make me breakfast?
Daddy, will you help me with this puzzle?
Daddy, my sister is bothering me!

Abundant tears. Disappointment galore. (My children had a rough time, too.)

One hour stretched into two. As with so much of parenting, this was not what I planned.

Children Are Interrupters

Interruptions and parenting go hand in hand. Every parent-to-be hears this, but it’s hard to grasp the new reality until it arrives.

For mothers, disruptions begin early as the child takes over her body during pregnancy. Unplanned clothing, cravings, emotions, pains, and trips to the bathroom mark those nine months.

During their first years of life, children survive through interruptions. They broadcast their needs at all hours and volumes.

While those early-year disturbances don’t disappear, they gradually change. Feedings, diaper changes, and 3am lullabyes give way to snack requests, scraped knees, and 3am counseling.

This isn’t unusual; this is parenting.

God is an Interrupter

I often brush aside these intrusions as meaningless accidents. Surely (I say to myself) the important parts of life lie elsewhere: adult conversations, work, community service, prayer, reading, church.

But God is an interrupter. Just ask Noah, Abraham, Moses, David, Paul, or anyone that encountered Jesus.

Because he is sovereign, none of our interruptions come by chance. Some people use the term “divine appointment,” but that’s too tame. God disrupts our lives more like a rock through the window than a polite meeting request.

Learning Through Interruptions

God’s interruptions are more than a detour. His diversions don’t just lead to the correct path, they are the path. God teaches through disruption.

Consider Moses. God used Moses’ curiosity about the burning bush (Exodus 3:3) to reveal his name (Exodus 3:6,14–15), give Moses his mission (Exodus 3:10), and pledge his presence (Exodus 3:12). God didn’t just end Moses’ shepherding career, he gave Moses spiritual supplies for his new, enormous task.

We must embrace not only the result of God’s interventions but the interventions themselves. We need to see the opportunity, not the annoyance.

Which brings me back to my children.

Learning With My Children

I need these parenting interruptions. I need to be shaken from self-centeredness and reminded of how important my children are. I have only a finite number of dances to watch, breakfasts to prepare, and puzzles to build.

Yes, life with children is harder. But it is better, too.

God teaches me though my children’s requests, their needs, their disagreements, and even their disobedience. He shines a light on my heart, my requests, and my disobedience. He graciously shapes my character as I learn how to respond and how to love.

I’m grateful for God’s instructions. The question is: Will I listen?

Photo Credit: Petr Kratochvil, Public Domain