One of the things that just make me giggle is the guilty look on a toddlers face. They know they have done something they shouldn’t have and yet they don’t have the control over themselves not to clearly express that on their face!! It is as clear as if they had chocolate smeared on their little faces!!
Our conscience is a part of our heart that tells us whether our actions are in keeping with our beliefs. My mum used to talk of a little man sitting on my shoulder prompting or warning and being either happy or disappointed with my choices. Teaching our children what is right, and what is wrong, is the beginning of training the conscience. The next step is to help our children listen to those promptings and warnings.
We short change this learning process though when we lecture, get angry and go on about our disappointment. Instead, we need to guide our children through taking responsibility for their actions – both in recognising what they did and in taking the initiative in putting things right again. This is a process that starts with toddlerhood (in teaching what is right or wrong) and then by the time they are somewhere before 10 they should be able to recognise their guilty conscience and want to deal with it.
I delight in the times our children have come to me to confess that they have done wrong. This is a precious time where they get to reflect on their heart and their actions – it is not a time for me to rant and rave that they should have known better. My role as a parent is to teach and direct towards this very thing happening – responding to what they know is right in their heart. The more they listen to their conscience then the more they will be self-directed in doing what is right.
The best thing of all is if they recognise Jesus and his gift of forgiveness this is the place the guilt stops. Jesus takes it away – gone forever. We know, and our children need to know, that when we’ve done the wrong thing, and we have that sense of dread in the pit of our stomach, that all can be put right by simply acknowledging what Jesus has done for me. With the assurance of Jesus’ love and forgiveness we can get it right with our fellow man and walk with a clear conscience.
Does your child understand their conscience?
Do you let them deal with their guilt?
Do you lead them to Jesus, or do you pile on guilt with your lectures and disappointment?