When Your Kids Will Not Forgive One Another

Posted by Devin Miller on

I recently heard a church leader say that Heavenly Father does not want us to do what’s right, He wants us to choose to do what’s right. In my home, it does not matter to me if they choose it or just do it…I need the fighting to stop! I am fairly certain that it is not only my family who has struggled through this year trying to make sense of craziness. These ongoing changes have many families all stirred up in a big pot of anxiety and emotion, so we cannot be the only household whose children take offense at everything they say to each other. Holding grudges is a problem in our home. No matter how I try to teach the gospel and what the Savior asks of us, it seems like the anger at one another only grows. Normally, my kids will feel the stirrings of the Spirit as it softens their hearts. They eventually come out of their bedrooms to apologize but too often the other still feels angry and hurt, hurling accusations and blame.

So, what do you do? You cannot force a child to forgive another person. Just like forcing a child to say “I’m sorry” typically is not a sincere plea for forgiveness, forced forgiveness will not meet the mark the Savior set for us.

When tempers are rising and feelings are getting hurt, I might put on a movie about Joseph Smith or about the life of our Savior. It might only be me sitting in the room for a while but eventually they trickle out of their places and join me to watch the rest of the movie. By the time it has ended, the Holy Ghost has softened them enough that they will apologize.

If not, we might write down what the issue was and look for different solutions to the problem. Perhaps we assign chores when two stubborn heads cannot seem to get themselves together. They might even get a chore to do together.

Brother Dyer spoke about the gift of repentance in a devotional at BYU which intrigued me. He said, “As I think back to the times when my children would fight with one another, Theresa and I would often try to make peace by requiring the children to tell each other they were sorry for what they had done. Unfortunately, a few minutes later they would often start fighting again, and again we would tell them to tell their brother or sister they were

sorry. For some reason just saying “sorry” did not seem to change their behavior very well. As I think about it now, a better solution would be to tell my children that they needed to not only say “I’m sorry” but to repair the harm they had done. For example, if they had taken one of their sibling’s toys without asking, they might have to give their sibling one of their favorite toys to play with. If they had said something unkind, they might need to write a letter describing all the good qualities of the person they offended. By requiring such acts of restitution, they might think twice before fighting. Restitution is not easy. It requires thought and hard work.” 1

Perhaps making restitution is a big part of the missing picture of true repentance! Forgiveness comes when we recognize our own weaknesses and how we hurt the Savior by our unjust actions towards others.

In these days when the adversary is ramping up his attacks on home, family, and other principles of the gospel, it is essential that we focus our hearts on the Savior and His teachings. Never stop instructing, never stop modeling, never stop sharing your love of the gospel with your family. They may not always show it, but those precious souls are watching and listening. Fill your homes with the Holy Ghost and He will help you by softening those unforgiving hearts!

1. “Repentance: The Key to Eternal Progression,” W. Gibb Dyer JR., Professor of Organizational Behavior, BYU Devotional May 15, 2001

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