I witnessed some good parenting this past weekend while attending a sporting event. A man and his four-year-old daughter sat in the row behind us. Apparently, the little girl had accidently hit the head of a man in front of her. Her aunt, who she was sitting by when the incident occurred, said she needed to apologize to the man. The girl refused. After a bit of prodding, she still wouldn't do it. That's when the dad stepped in.
She moved down the two seats toward him, head down, arms crossed, grouchy-pouty face full on.
"What's going on? Tell me what happened."
If she responded, I couldn't hear her.
"Did you hit the man in the head?"
I assume she nodded.
"Did Auntie ask you to say you're sorry?"
Probably another nod.
"Did you do it?"
"Then go do it."
Again she refused.
"Listen, baby. No one cares if you messed up. Everyone messes up and it's OK. But when you mess up, you have to say you're sorry. That's what big people do. Okay? Now go tell him."
Reluctantly, she made her way back to the man. I couldn't hear if she apologized. But I saw her dad help her lift her arm to high-five him, which is pretty much the same thing. And then Dad asked her if she wanted to go walking around the ball park with him. All was forgiven. She'd done the right thing and her daddy loved her.
I was so taken by this interaction. That dad got it right and he taught his girl some important lessons. Obeying is mandatory. Apologies are necessary. She wasn't in trouble because she hit the guy. She just needed to make it right. Dad's love was never in question. He never got mad or even raised his voice. He explained the situation calmly and told her what needed to be done.
A simple explanation to a child goes so much further than anger. And it models respect, which will be returned as the child grows. I wish I could say I got it right all the time when I was raising my kids. I didn't. I'm lucky if I got it right half the time. But I love seeing parents doing a good job. May this example inspire you to keep at the often exhausting task of disciplining your children. Or as Galatians 6:9 says, "So let's not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don't give up" (NLT).
That blessing just might be well-behaved, thoughtful children living for the Lord.