Christian Parenting – What Do You Do When Your Child Does Not FEEL Bad About Doing Something Wrong?
From the Christian Parenting Corner
What Do You Do When Your Child Does Not FEEL Bad About Doing Something Wrong?
Have you ever made your child apologize to someone only to have the apology be about as tepid as dishwater? There was no real feeling, no emotion, and no sincerely heartfelt remorse. More or less, it was just a matter of muttering an apology by rote. If you have a child that seems to have a noticeable disconnect between doing something bad and feeling sorry, you are probably wondering what you to do about it.
It is a lot like a home with a burglar alarm. When activated, the burglar alarm itself prevents potential burglars from breaking in and stealing everything that is not nailed down. When it is not activated, the burglar alarm does little good and instead of protecting the home does not prevent the break in or the subsequent theft.
Parents need to remember that God created humankind with the inborn feeling of right and wrong. Even if there are the occasional medical or psychiatric situations where a person may honestly not know the difference between right and wrong, these are so rare that it is safe to assume that your child will not fall into this category. This of course leaves only one other option open: your golden haired child has found a way to turn off the innate alarm.
Just like a burglar alarm may be turned on and off, there is the distinct ability to turn on and off one’s own ability to feel alarm at doing something wrong. When you fudge on your taxes, you are turning off the alarm at cheating the government – an institution God commanded us to obey. When he kicks little Bobby in the shin, your child turned off the innate alarm at not acting out physically at a little boy who may have been tormenting him all morning.
The good news is the fact that God is very specific in pointing out that as Christians we are not to rely on our feelings. Instead, we are to act out of our knowledge that stems from Bible reading and our love for Him. As a matter of fact, Satan is quite adept at using out feelings against us by making us feel worthless, unsure of our redemption and unequal to our tasks of being disciples of Christ.
This should lead the worried parent to a simple exercise: direct your child to Psalm 19:7 and Psalm 19:11. Explain that the law of the Lord is perfect and may be trusted above all else. Even if he does not feel sorry for kicking little Bobby, he owes the boy an apology and may do so in writing, stating two reasons why his actions were wrong. Attacking the issue on a purely intellectual level is a better response than making your child do a perp walk and then worrying that he did not show any signs of remorse.
As a matter of fact, the written approach forces your child to think through the actions that prompted his inappropriate behavior, and he may find new avenues of dealing with the issue, should the same problem crop up again. The more your child learns on a mind level what is wrong and right, the more will move to a heart level as well. Forcing the heart level apology, on the other hand, does not work.
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