Maudlin and Associates ™
Karen Maudlin
Psy.D., CPCC
Kenneth Davison
Cindy Takiguchi
Manette Galván Turner
Robert Gregory
Daniel Doebler
Trevor Simpson

When siblings fight, they might be able to get past the initial conflict, but hold on to lingering resentment for days, even weeks, to come. Often, it's this lasting tension that makes everyone in the family feel like they live in a battle zone. The best solution is to help children learn the true value of forgiveness.

The Bible values reconciliation in relationships so much that Jesus consistently talks about forgiveness in reciprocal terms. A few verses after Jesus' encouragement to forgive in the Lord's Prayer, he warns, "If you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins" (Matthew 6:15). He wants us to forgive even 70 times 7. Jesus calls us to be specialists in forgiveness and to pass this understanding on to our children. Here are ways to do just that.

Model It

Although forgiveness is a lofty theological concept, you can make it come alive by putting it into action. When you've lashed out verbally at your child, ask the child for forgiveness. "Forgive me for yelling at you like that. You were not behaving properly at the store, but I should have spoken to you about it privately and patiently." Asking for forgiveness can be humbling, but in the end, you're teaching your child the real power of grace.

Practice Empathy

Forgiveness requires empathy, or seeing the situation from the other person's point of view. "Do to others what you would have them do to you" (Matthew 7:12) is the golden rule. Similarly, the Montessori Method offers a terrific model for teaching empathy to children when everyday tussles send dolls and trucks flying into the wall and tears streaming down the face.

First, each child is asked to stand and face the other a few feet apart, looking into each other's face. Then each child takes a turn saying, "I felt _____ when you did _____."

Next each child takes a turn stating a solution to the problem: "Right now, I'd like you to _____." Both children then take a turn making an apology for wrongdoing. It's a peaceful and often refreshing process to witness 3- and 4-year-olds talking calmly and maturely.

When we teach our children to value forgiveness and reconciliation, everyone in the family benefits.