It’s true that we are the most influential people in our children’s lives. It’s also true that we tend to treat strangers more politely and with more kindness than our own families because it’s impossible to keep our “nice” mask on for long at home. These two facts lead to a third truth: Our children’s perceptions of who God is are shaped by our behavior toward them. This is the reason why so many people in therapy and twelve-step groups routinely express their beliefs that God is an angry or distant God; because Mom and Dad treated them this way.
I don’t want my children to see God as a harsh, angry, unloving God. Instead, I want them to see God for who He is in the person of Jesus of Nazareth. For this to happen, however, I need to take specific steps to model that kind of behavior for my children.
Here is the first of five ways I model Christ for my children in order to positively shape the way they think about our heavenly Father. With a little tweaking to fit your particular set of circumstances, I believe these steps can benefit your family as well!
1. Apologize immediately after I realize I’ve done something to hurt them.
I’m not Jesus, so at least once a day I say or do something that hurts my children’s feelings. Just today, while cooking dinner and trying to help my wife get out the door for a small group meeting, my son and I got into an argument. As my temper rose, that little preschooler started talking back to me and I completely lost my temper. I started yelling at him and ordered him into his room. My outburst frightened him.
After two minutes of cool-down time I strode into his room, sat on his bed, pulled him into my lap, and hugged him. I told him how much I loved him; how much he means to me; how special and wonderful he is. The combination of gentle physical touch and loving words calmed him down immediately. I believe repeating this pattern throughout his childhood will also positively shape the way he sees God. Had I left him to cry in his room alone, there’s a chance he would project my behavior onto God and see Him as a frightening, angry Being who refuses to be reconciled to his ‘sinful’ son.
By apologizing immediately to my son, holding him, and telling him I love him, I positively impact his view of God in a number of ways:
- My son can feel loved even when he makes mistakes
- God will appear to be Someone who greatly desires reconciliation
- My son can see himself as a treasured child of God, not an unfortunate screw-up
- My son’s relationship with God will be defined by learning and growth rather than perfectionism
- Rather than an emotionally distant Being, God will be Someone who wants to understand, and be understood by, my son
- It’s OK for my son to be angry at, or confused with, God. My son’s emotions are not taboo in the eyes of his Father
Do you apologize to your children immediately after you realize you’ve hurt them? Why or why not? How does this have the potential to impact the way your child sees God?
Thanks for reading! Check back tomorrow for the second part of this series!