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Parenting like God: Dealing with mistakes


The way I was parenting taught my kids to lie.

If something was broken or left out, I would call out, “Who did this?” and, of course, everyone would say, “Not me!” Especially the culprit.

The lie would make me even more upset and angry than I already was, and trying to force a confession just escalated it more.

I knew I needed to change how I approached the problem. But how? So I prayed and immediately found an answer when I sat down to read my scriptures.

Repentance as a model for dealing with kids’ mistakes

I was reading¬†1 Nephi 7:20, when Nephi says “I did frankly forgive them all that they had done.” And he says this immediately after his brothers had tied him up and were about to leave him to die in the wilderness.

That got me thinking. When I sin, when I make mistakes, how does God react? He doesn’t bluster around, growling, “Who did this?”

Most often, he waits for us to feel bad and confess our sins. And how does he react when we confess? Not “I can’t believe you did that!” but instead, we feel his love, stronger than ever.

The process of repentance is simple: feel bad for your wrong, confess, try to fix it, and don’t do it again.

So I tried it with my kids.

Write out a cue card

I drew it out (since they can’t read yet) to help them remember and posted it on the fridge:


I walked through the card and told them if they tell me when they make mistakes or break things or _(insert most recent rule-breaking here)_, I would respond with love. We practiced it a few times, pretending they’d broken a lamp. They thought it was funny.

Immediately that day, we used the process for real. My knee-jerk reaction was to get upset or to be appalled, but, fortunately, I remembered the card in time. I took a deep breath, gave the child a hug, and told them I loved them. I was proud that they told me. I asked what they could do to fix it. And then what they could do to not do it again.


It takes trust

This process requires that your child trusts you to not flip out when they tell you stuff. Which means you have to earn their trust. You have to not flip out every single time. You have to respond consistently.

I’m going to be the first to admit, I am not very good at this. My initial reaction is still to get angry or upset. But I’m getting better. Kids forgive quickly, especially when you apologize. And having the cue card up helps me more than it helps them.


So far, I like this much better than getting angry and upset. I think the kids do better, too. The only problem, now that we’ve been using this method for a while, is the canned responses they’ll give. I ask, “how can we make sure you won’t do that again next time?” and my son always, always responds, “to not do it again.”

When I do follow through and encourage him to push deeper, to come up with a real answer, it actually usually does help him not repeat the mistake as much as he would otherwise do.


What do you do to help kids with their mistakes without yelling at them?

1 Comment

  1. I like this. I am going to try this with my kiddos. Brilliant!

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