Think on the story of the Prodigal Son. As much as the father extended mercy and forgiveness to this young man, he modeled it as well. Kids learn more through observation than information. This boy had wasted all of his father’s money. He hadn’t invested it wisely, he didn’t have a formal education to show for it, and the money was simply gone. He didn’t deserve the mercy extended to him. His father demonstrated something powerful in this exchange.
I believe extending mercy is also a means of teaching empathy. My friend, Julie, is a professor at a university. She happens to also be an amazing artist. She created a painting that hangs in her home with a quote by Plato that reads “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”
I want my kids to grow into an understanding that everyone they meet is fighting some kind of battle. We could all use some kindness and mercy. The more we extend this to our children and to people around us, the more familiar it feels to our kids.
Equally important is that they see us extend grace and forgiveness to ourselves. Moms, you in particular, can be so hard on yourselves. You expect a lot of yourself, can be hard on yourself, and have a hard time forgiving yourself. Never lose sight of the reality that your daughters are watching closely and learning how a woman handles failure, disappointment, and adversity, among other things. Dads, our sons are tuned into the same channel. We are the first place they learn how a man navigates these same experiences. Do they see a guy who shuts down, goes off the deep end, or spews emotion all over his family? It’s vital that kids see us being kind to ourselves (and others) and willing to forgive (ourselves and others) when we blow it.
What battle might your son/daughter be fighting right now?
What battle are you currently fighting as a parent?
(Excerpt from Intentional Parenting by Sissy Goff, David Thomas and Melissa Trevathan)