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Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Forgiving When Children Disappoint

No matter how great your kids are, they will probably disappoint you. I'm not talking about small disappointments like forgetting to pick up their toys or clean their room when you ask. I mean deep disappointments that hurt your heart and make you wonder what their future holds.

When they lie to you about where they've been, announce they're pregnant, experiment with drugs, or consistently break curfew, how do you forgive them and keep loving them? Obviously, there are no easy answers. But here are ten things you may want to consider.

  1. Remember your child is trying to find his way in the world. He will make mistakes. Just because he's using bad judgment now doesn't mean he always will. 
  2. Look for any positive quality in your child and focus on it.Let him know you appreciate that quality. For instance, "I love how you're so tender with your girlfriend. You'll make someone a wonderful husband someday." You act as a mirror to your child. Hold up a positive image of him so he can live up to it.
  3. Catch him doing something right and either thank him for it or comment on it. If he picks up his dirty dish and carries it to the sink, thank him. Or say, "You're getting really good at picking up after yourself." Show him you notice the good in him and not just the bad.
  4. Hold him accountable. Let natural consequences be his greatest teacher. If your child won't get up to go to his summer job, let him sleep. Eventually, he'll get written up or fired. Great! This will teach him he must be responsible with his job if he wants to have the money he wants or needs.
  5. Don't make his problem your problem. You can advise, pray, and possibly help, but if he wants to make a bad decision, he will, and there's not much you can do about it. Talk to him about it and decide what the consequences will be.
  6. Speaking of consequences, set them and stick to them. Or better yet, let your child decide what he thinks his consequences should be.Often, they're harder on themselves than you would be.
  7. Pray for your child and let her know you're praying for her. Even if she seems to resent it, I believe deep down, she appreciates it and even expects it.
  8. Keep showing affection. It doesn't have to be hugs and kisses, but a pat on the back, a hand on the shoulder or a smile from across the room convey that you're happy they're your child no matter what you're all going through.
  9. Keep a sense of humor. What would happen if you laughed instead of got mad? How much tension would that eliminate from your home atmosphere? Try it. You'll love the result.
  10. Offer grace. Your child blew it in some way. He expects a punishment of some kind, but seems to be genuinely sorry for what he did. Surprise him by wiping the slate clean. No punishment this time. It's what God did for us when he let Jesus die in our place. We were forgiven when we didn't deserve it and you can give your child the same experience. It sends him a powerful message of how deeply you love him.
When children disappoint us it feels like the end of the world, but it's really not. Keep in mind that most parents disappoint their children, too, so we're all on level ground. Keep loving, laughing, and praying for your child. God has them right where he wants them and is teaching them things an easier path may not have. And don't miss the lessons he's teaching you on this journey. It's all good when it's in God's hands.

How have you coped when your child disappointed you? How have you handled it when you disappointed your child?



  1. Excellent point. Often we parent out of fear. We're afraid certain behaviors will become magnified throughout their lives. Or we're afraid of what they might do because of what we did as a child. I like your idea of talking honestly with your child about these fears and disappointments. Thanks for your insightful comment.

  2. Great points, Linda. Affection is important, even in times of disappointment. I think many kids crave this from their parents. Hate the sin, but love the sinner.

  3. Yes, Jean. Most kids are afraid they're unlovable when they disappoint their parents. It's our job to continue to reinforce their great value to us, as well as to God. No one is ever unusable by Him, no matter what we've done. Thanks for reading and commenting. And sorry I was so slow in responding!

  4. Linda, thank you for such an excellent article. This really lifted my spirits and changed my perspective. Sometimes we can become resentful or bitter towards a child who has disappointed us and sometimes we feel as thought we've made many sacrifices for nothing. But I believe that the seeds of love sown over the years will manifest in their lives at some point. Prayer, is the key in helping them and keeping us strong while God works out His plan in their lives. Thank you so much for the inspiration.

    1. Carmen, thank you for your comment. You're so right that the seeds of love sown over the years will take root and grow later in their lives. It takes time. Sometimes a long time. But God is a Master Gardener and is nurturing, cultivating, watering your child's soul, even when it looks like nothing is happening. Trust Him. He loves us and our kids so much. Thanks for reading and commenting.