“How one simple practice changed the way I parent”

Written by Sarah Keeling
Published on October 29, 2021

“What do you need to confess, Mommy?” 

I rephrased my son’s question in my mind. What don’t I need to confess? 

I didn’t realize that in teaching my son how to pray, I would need to come face to face with my own sins, and often share them with him. I could have given him a surface-level answer without going into detail, such as “my fear” or “my pride.” 

Those answers would have been OK to share, but God was revealing deeper things to me and prompting me to share them with my son. How could I expect my son to release his deep sins to God if I was unwilling to face mine? Gulp. 

Parenting is humbling! 

Instead of taking the easy way out—which, believe me, was tempting—we prayed these verses together: “Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Psalm 139:23–24, NIV). 

Humility bears fruit

Maybe these verses should come with a warning label: “Watch out! Get ready for God to reveal deep things you were clueless about.” 

That would be nice, right? In truth, God’s lovingkindness reveals our sin to us so we can be free from the weight we carry. We just don’t always feel that in the moment. 

I looked at my son and sighed. “I haven’t been believing God. I have forgotten who he is and have let my fear control me.” There, I said it. 

“That’s a good one, Mommy,” my son said. Yes, it is, dear child. What happened next surprised me. As we continued to pray together and spend time in confession, my son opened up more to me about the struggles he was facing. He shared deep things that I was clueless about. 

God used my openness to create a doorway for my son to share his struggles too. He felt more comfortable being honest, and natural conversations began during our prayer time. 

I didn’t judge him or “throw the Bible” at him after he shared. How could I after he sweetly listened to me share about my unbelief? 

Paul David Tripp says it so well in his book Parenting: 14 Gospel Principles That Can Radically Change Your Family: “If you want to be God’s tool of heart rescue and heart change in the lives of your children, you have to be humbly willing to start with your own heart.” 

My own need for a Savior

I have noticed that God graciously reveals my own heart needs while I am trying to teach my son how to have a heart for the Lord. Spending time repenting together also has enabled me to have more grace for my son when he sins against me. (Let’s face it: kids sin a lot. It’s in their nature!) 

God reminded me of my own desperate need for grace, which helped me offer grace instead of harsh responses to my son. I felt more tenderness toward him, instead of frustration for his behaviors. 

The basic truth is this: Confession reminds me of my need for a Savior. I need Jesus. My children need Jesus. My job is not to be Jesus to my kids, but to point them to him. 

As my son and I spent time in confession together, our interactions with each other began to show a marked difference. Grace is contagious, and I have observed that the more I offer it to my son, the more he offers it to me and the rest of our family. 

As a bonus, family repentance freed me from the unrealistic expectations I place on myself to have it all together as a mom and allowed me to bask in God’s amazing grace. Hallelujah! 

Connecting with your kids through confession 

I want to encourage you that this is not just one more thing to add to your never-ending to-do list. If you already pray with your kids, simply add this time into your existing prayer time.

Family confession time does not have to be complicated or extensive. Take a second during your evening prayer and say, “Lord, reveal my sin to me.” Tell your kids that you are going to practice being still together and listening to God. You only need a minute to do this—a minute feels like an eternity for a kid to stay silent—and then you can continue praying with your confession. 

Ask your kids, “Did God show you anything you need to confess?” They might say “No!” That’s OK, but give him a chance to think about the question without rushing the silence. You can offer suggestions, but do so with lots of grace. 

This is not the time to remind them of all the ways they wronged you during the day, even though that is tempting! When your kids do admit their sins, go overboard in praising them. Facing our sins is not easy, so we want to encourage our kids that it is worth it and not as scary as it seems. 

Be kind to yourself 

Oh, how I wish I lived this out every day. But I still regularly forget and fail to model confession to my son. I am continually learning that I cannot parent my children in my own strength and expect godly results. The good news is that God’s grace is sufficient for my failures, your failures, and our kids’ failures. 

Also, tomorrow is a new day with new mercies! The Lord is waiting for us to confess, and he is eager to forgive us. What a gift to share with our children! 

Consider a few extra resources:

Freedom in Christ—a more enjoyable way to live

Five biblical truths to anchor your children’s identity in Christ

Trusting God’s plan for my kids

Live perfectly imperfect

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Sarah Keeling

Sarah helps busy families connect deeply with God. She loves Jesus and her family, especially her husband and two boys.

Sarah has a background in counseling, loves teaching children the Bible, and is passionate about helping people around the world know Jesus. 

She is the author of Psalm Prayers for Kids and Psalm Prayers for the Nations, and she hosts a family-friendly prayer podcast called Hearts at Rest with Sarah Keeling.

Learn more about Sarah on her website, Facebook, and Instagram.


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