Relationships are important. In our family we want to both work towards good relationships as well as protect them. But things always go wrong – someone gets hurt feelings and we have a relational issue on our hands.
We have always taught our children that when they have hurt someone they need to apologise and ask for forgiveness. But of course, they don’t always want to. Should we force them to? If we want to see changed behaviour then then it makes sense that we should force them to apologise even if they did do it on purpose, and aren’t sorry at all! On the other hand….If we are going for the heart we need a different perspective. Saying sorry is the right thing to do, but having the right heart doing the right thing is where we really want our children to be.
Our job as parents is to help our child (the offending child) to process what they did, why it was wrong, and what the outcome of their actions were (a hurt sibling) and how they are going to fix it.
Reaching our kids hearts is helping them change their beliefs – change from walking in the flesh (doing what they want to do –lash out and hurt their sibling) to walking in the spirit (doing what God wants them to do, show patience and self control). We want them to come to a place where they can say, like Paul, wretched man that I am!! The things I don’t want to do, I do…. This is their heart recognising that they need to change. A real ‘sorry’ can only come once we are at this point.
Saying sorry instantly is often a reaction, maybe even a protective reaction so they don’t get into trouble. But it doesn’t change their heart.
I don’t know about you but for me, if I have had a bad attitude towards someone, and I am challenged about that, it can take me a while to come to a place where I can acknowledge I was wrong, and that I don’t want to walk that path any more. Our children are just the same. They need time to recognise what is going on in their heart and the implications of that. They need time to recognise that they were wrong and they need to take steps towards putting it right.
Next time your child isn’t really sorry – give him time to sort it out. Send him to a quiet spot where he can reflect on his heart, reflect on God’s ways and come to a place where he wants to walk in God’s ways, where he is willing to humble himself and put relationships right. As parents we cannot force heart responses, we can only make the way for that to happen.