A great thinker once said ‘To err is human, to forgive divine’, and I don’t think any of us would disagree. However, most parents will agree that being able to forgive is not something our children learn automatically; like kindness, truthfulness and empathy, it is a capacity that must be developed and encouraged.
Aside from being a wonderful virtue, forgiveness actually benefits our mental and physical health, from reducing anxiety to helping us sleep better at night, and forgiving can guard against stress and depression. Therefore, we owe it to our children to teach them how important it is.
Forgiving doesn’t always come easy and learning to do so really is a lifelong process. However, we can get our kids started on the right track with these lessons on forgiveness.
1. Why we should forgive
We always tell our kids they need to forgive others, but do we also explain why forgiveness is so important? Even as toddlers, they can begin to grasp the basic concepts that we all sometimes do things we shouldn’t. Plus, if we don’t learn to forgive, we might end up with no friends one day.
If your child is having a hard time getting their head round this, you can always remind them of a time they did something naughty and you forgave them or read them a kids’ story on forgiveness.
2. Forgiveness and understanding
A key part of this process is learning to understand the perspective of the other person. When your child receives an apology, such as after a sibling squabble, talk it through with them and help them understand why their sibling did what they did. For example:
“Your brother was wrong to break your musical toy, but he did so because he was angry that you didn’t let him play on the swing.’
Note that we are not excusing the bad behaviour here, simply understanding the motive behind it.
3 Forgiveness and letting go
There’s an old saying that ‘Being resentful is like taking poison and waiting for the other person to die’. Well, science kind of agrees.
Grudges fester like infections; holding on to them increases your cortisol levels, which results in stress and anxiety. Therefore, we must help our children let go of any anger or other bad feelings toward another person after they forgive them.
A good way to do this is to teach them to express their feelings as they accept the apology. For example:
“I’m very upset that you pushed me off the slide. It was a nasty thing to do, and you really hurt me. However, I accept your apology and will move on.”
Also, once something is forgiven, let sleeping dogs lie. If kids bring up things that have they have been resolved, remind them that they chose to forgive and that it is in the past.
4 Forgiveness and justice
Hand in hand with the above point about letting go of anger, children also need to know that forgiving doesn’t mean accepting the same behaviour over and over again.
It’s a difficult balance here, as you don’t want your kids to hold grudges for a lifetime over one mistake or disagreement. At the same time, although they can forgive a friend who stole one of their toys, they don’t need to give that friend a chance to steal another one. As always, talking to your children about their conflicts is the key here.
5 Be a good example
There’s little point in trying to teach your children to be forgiving if you can’t do so yourself. You can preach about it all you want, but if your children see you holding grudges and refusing to forgive, this contradiction will confuse them, and they may even come to resent you for it.
No one is perfect, and some circumstances make forgiveness difficult and painful, but you need to be conscious and work on it yourself if you’re going to have any chance of teaching it to your kids. Forgive your children and other family members, show forgiveness in your daily life, and talk to them about this issue.
About the Author:
Matt Morrisey is a former teacher who has travelled all over the world teaching children English, from China to the UK Matt is well known. Matt’s parents are teachers and his only brother works for a children’s charity in UK.
Matt currently writes for www.buzzparent.com and loves to write about parenting topics ranging from kids’ toys, activities for kids, parenting hacks and lifestyle. He loves remote-control drones and can’t wait until he opens his window to allow a drone to enter with an Amazon package. Not long now.
His work has been read by readers all over the world and features on blogs and websites all over the world. Matt recently decided to go back to university to do his PhD where he looks to continue his career.