Sin, Forgiveness, and a Parenting Dilemma

What a little goof-ball! This is Clara last summer. She wore these swim
goggles EVERYWHERE we went for a good month!

Well, I've been struggling all day with what to write about today. It's amazing how a subject just seems to fall out of the sky on days like this. Or in this case...fall right out of the mouth of a 5 year old little girl.

I was upstairs putting laundry away, and Clara and Samantha were bickering. Clara wanted to play with Sammy's doll house, but Samantha didn't want to share. Normally I would encourage sharing and see if I could help them make peace. But today I felt like it might be good for Clara to get a dose of her own medicine. Samantha had been asking so patiently and sweetly all morning if she could play with one of Clara's dolls...and Clara consistently snatched the doll away and said "No!" So I let them bicker, and reminded Clara that sometimes other people treat us just the way we treat them.

I didn't see it happen, but I heard a "thump" and then I heard Clara scurrying away upstairs to the playroom while Sammy cried. She told me "Clara hit my back!" with big tears rolling down her rosy little cheeks.

I called Clara downstairs and asked her, "Did you hit your sister?"

"No" (with averted eyes, fidgeting of hands, and shuffling of feet)
"Are you telling me the truth?"
"Please, Clara. Tell me the truth. Did you hit your sister?"
"So why is Samantha crying and saying that you hit her? Is she lying?"
"Yes" (oh my, this hole is getting deep)
"OK. Well Clara, I want you to know that it makes me feel very hurt and sad when you lie to me."

Clara feels like she dodged a bullet. I don't know what to do! I set about making the kids lunch while I thought and prayed about it. I keep thinking about how God handles it when his children sin against him. Hmmm, I still don't know what to do.

After lunch, I sat down and talked with Clara again.

"Clara, are you ready to tell me the truth yet?"
"No. I don't want to."
"I don't want to get into trouble."
"Sometimes it's important to tell the truth even if it makes you get in a little bit of trouble. It's important because it's not right between you and me with a big ugly lie between us. Do you understand?"
"Yes. But I don't want to, Mommy."
"Alright, but when you're ready to tell me the truth, you come talk with me, OK?"

Hours went by! I was getting more and more upset, while Clara was getting on with life...playing, watching cartoons, coloring...all normal stuff. She didn't seem to care or feel even a little guilty, which made me feel even worse about the whole thing.

I keep thinking - how does God handle this situation?

In many cases, God simply leaves us to deal with the natural consequences of our sin. Natural consequences are severe enough! Eventually we call out to him for help, and he graciously welcomes us back with open arms and forgiveness as soon as we admit that we've messed up.

But how can I apply this to Clara? It seems that the natural consequence of her lie is of benefit to her...she gets away with hitting. That doesn't exactly work! I don't want her to learn that lying benefits her.

The Bible also teaches us that God sometimes gets so fed up with a people that are so sinful and unrepentant that he simply wipes them away (the Flood, Sodom, etc.). He gives them ample opportunity to repent (confess and turn away from sin), but they are just too happy in their ways to humble themselves before God. Seems harsh from my perspective, but hey...he's God and I'm not.

Can I apply this method to Clara (in a non-flood, turning to stone, sending to Hades kind of way)?

I don't know...

I'm going to stop here. I'll post tonight or tomorrow to let you know what I did and how it turned out (I'm still not sure if I handled it right). But first, I want to hear from you on how you would handle this situation...

Anonymous –   – (4/10/2008 06:09:00 PM)  

I think you handled it beautifully. My five year old is the one that seems to be content with her lies, and I just try to be patient and remind her that lying is hurtful, and will make things worse...

If she does something wrong, but then is truthful and admits to it, there will be consequences... but the consequences will be much worse if she lies about what she did.

Still, it's a hard lesson to teach, and frequently I think the only thing she gets out of it is that she needs to try harder to not get caught in a lie. :)

Just have patience, and I'm sure the Lord will see you through.

~ Amy @ Memoirs of a Mommy

Kimberly S  – (4/11/2008 09:39:00 AM)  

I think this is such a tough one--I have dealt with this once or twice with my daughter, the exception being that since my son can't talk, I have no confirmation that she did what I think she may have done. So I don't know if she's lying or not--though my hunch is that she was.

In the broader scheme, I wonder how we teach our kids to accept responsibility? Because I think that's the crux of your situation. The lying was bad, but the heart of the matter isn't that she's a liar (I'm sure she's not, in the sense that she doesn't lie habitually), it's that she doesn't want to take responsibility for her choices. And I don't know how to convey that, especially to a young kid, except to just keep talking about taking responsibility over and over, every time something like this comes up. And not let them off the hook whenever they do something wrong! (I think that's where most parents go wrong these days.) But still so tough--I'm right there with my daughter too.

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