Children have an excellent ability to know when something is right or wrong. They have a black and white outlook on life. Although this can be a very insightful, it can lead to a want for swift justice when a wrong has been made. One of the challenges we have faced in our home is teaching one of our children about not seeking to right all wrongs.
Some children have an especially strong desire to make sure that all wrongs have been made right. This stems from a lie that we are fed, where we need a strict justice system to handle all wrong-doings. I admit, it sounds nice at times. Even as an adult there are many times when I hear or read about a horrible wrong done to others that makes me angry, and want the offender to pay for their wrongs. In fact, we live in a society where criminals are punished, in a means to right their crimes. Although criminals must be stopped, how do we keep this mindset from becoming ingrained in our children?
“Thou shalt not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people, but thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself: I am the LORD.” Leviticus 19:18
When children decide they must take matters into their own hands, and “punish” their peers, there is a problem. So, how are we to help our children kick this unloving habit?
- Children should not be allowed to exhibit authority over other children close in age. By putting them in this position they feel the need to play “parent”, even to the point of punishing. I think this is more often a problem with oldest children that we commonly look to for their help. Although asking an older child to help out with their younger sibling is a great way to teach many life skills, I think that a child needs to be old enough to handle the responsibility of being in charge, and they must not be close in age to the child(ren) they are watching.
- Our children need to understand that when we, as parents, punish them it is not to make them “pay for their wrong-doings”, but to correct and train. As our children have grown older, we have had to make an extra effort to show that we aren’t punishing out of anger or frustration. We need to let them know that we are commanded to train up our children, and punishments are a way to teach them.“The rod and reproof give wisdom: but a child left to himself bringeth his mother to shame.” Proverbs 29:15
- We need to teach our children of the wonderful gift Jesus paid for all of us. He died to forgive us of all our sins, not just some of them. Although His payment was made for justification in God’s eyes, we do have to deal with the consequences of our actions in this life, but when one really begins to understand the magnitude of this wonderful gift, it has a profound effect on our ability to love and forgive others. God doesn’t just want us to forgive others, He commands it:
As we exhibit these behaviors, our children will begin to better understand that they need to not try to take matters in their own hands. Not only will this help them to have better relationships with their siblings and friends, but it will also make them happier. There is much joy and freedom in forgiving others, and the sooner our children learn this the happier they will be.
“Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye.” Colossians 3:13