Teaching children to identify a need for forgiveness an to impart grace to one another is a lesson that requires practice, guidance, and most importantly, the modeling of their parents and caregivers. These are a few steps that may help your child learn to ask for forgiveness.
*Identify what they have done wrong. Many times children are not aware of what they have done wrong, until they have learned what is offensive to others. Each of us are created with selfish inclinations and it is only through focused learning that these traits can be identified in little ones. I would say something like, “Taking that toy away from your friend is being selfish. When you are selfish, you are sharing like a good friend should, and that has hurt their feelings.”
*Ask them how it would feel if it was done to them. Young children live with their whole hearts involved in all they do. Being aware of this, ask them to consider how it might feel if the same things happened to them. They are often quick to notice why it hurt the other one and are more likely to work on being more kind because they have been able to draw connect their own experience with these feelings.
*Start with God’s forgiveness. Children should learn at an early age that God’s forgiveness is so important to making our actions better. When children have hurt another, encourage and model for them how to ask God to forgive and help them to do better next time. When they have prayed and are forgiven they feel so much better. Also, it is an important part of building an authentic relationship with Christ, learning to follow in Christ’s example as a disciple.
*Require a genuine apology. Once they have prayed for forgiveness, an apology is often easier for them to ask for forgiveness from another person. Some children do well with a simple, “Will you forgive me for __________?” instead of a generic “I’m sorry.” This will aid in further discussion and help to solidify the specific behavior that was hurtful.
Again, the most important way that children learn about confession and forgiveness is through the example of the adults around them. With that in mind, demonstrate a desire to authenitcally apologize, forgive, and speak to the importance of God’s grace in your own life.