When your child has a character misstep

Written by Lee Nienhuis
Published on August 09, 2021

So let’s talk about some steps that we could take in the moment that will help this character come back. 

The first thing is I pray for you in a tag team situation. But if you’re a single mom, or single dad, that’s okay. These steps absolutely apply to you. The first step to take as a parent in those moments is to forego emotions and quick responses. 

Our natural reaction in the middle of one of those moments is panic, right? But what if instead, we practice? First, the presence of God in that moment—he is with us in that and sometimes the best thing we can do is close our mouths, and not respond quickly. 

Ask for time—a lot of times while my kids were growing up, I needed time to separate myself from the moment that we were in. So the best thing that I could say was, I’m going to need you to go to your room for a few minutes and sit on your bed, and I’ll be up there in a couple of minutes. 

And then I would spend time praying and asking the Lord like, what’s the heart issue that’s going on here. And this is a really biblical response—to take a moment and calculate your response. Proverbs 17:28 says, even a fool is thought wise when he holds his tongue. 

I love that. So sometimes the most wise thing we can do is to hold our tongue. And proverbs 29:11 says, a fool gives full vent to his anger. Now, don’t get me wrong, there are times when we will want to blow our tops, like when our kids have done something that misrepresents who we are as a family, or feels like betrayal. 

As a parent, all of those things are natural, and there will be a time to work through them. It’s usually not in that first moment. So the first is to forego emotions and quick responses. The second thing to do is what I did, which is pray, pray, pray, pray in that moment, even if you can’t move out of the situation, but ask God for wisdom. He is always with you. 

Proverbs 13 says, God says he is our helper, and we do not need to be afraid. And the second thing I would just really challenge you to do is thank God that your child got caught in this moment.
We cannot clean up anything that we do not know about, or that isn’t brought to our attention. This is an opportunity for your child to make the next step forward, a Godly one. And so let’s just pray and offer this situation to the Lord and then dive in.

The third thing to do is care more about their character in those early moments than the consequences. Remember, our child’s greatest need is always Jesus, and their greatest sin is always against him.

I always remember thinking when I read the Psalms, the psalm where David’s repenting, he says against you, and you only have I sinned. And I remember reading that and thinking, no, his sin was also against Bathsheba, it was also against Uriah. It was also against all the other people, the people that were in battle with him, the people of the land, and what Gods actually bring into our mind is, yes, there’s sin against those people, too.

But we need to own that the first problem that we have is with our heavenly Father. And we need to clear that up first. So in those moments, we need to look at these character failures. And we need to say, this is more about tending my child’s character than it is about quickly issuing consequences.

And one of the ways that we get to the bottom of the character issues is by asking good questions, because we need to understand where the misunderstanding about who God is, and what he expects of us is.

That leads us right into our next point, which is to guide our children to repentance. They need to understand that their sin is against God, and what the root issue is. So if they were lying, do they understand that this was a sin because God is the God of truth, and his expectation for our child is truthfulness? Is it selfishness that at the bottom they took something that didn’t belong to them? Or maybe they put their needs ahead of their brothers and sisters.

And so we need to help them understand that God says do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility, consider others better than yourself.

Looking for other resources on shaping your children’s character?

‘Meet them with Jesus’: Responding Biblically to Our Kids’ Problems

Raising Rule Benders, Breakers, and Believers

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Lee Nienhuis

Lee Nienhuis is an international author, speaker, and the host of the Moms in Prayer Podcast. She has served as the Communications Specialist for the ministry of her heart, Moms in Prayer International, since 2016. Lee loved the Word of God before Moms in Prayer, but has learned the power of praying Scripture through this ministry.

Lee’s writing and speaking have been featured on Focus on the Family broadcast and magazine; True Woman; Proverbs 31, Hearts at Home, Iron Sharpens Iron conferences; GEMS Girls Clubs; and American Heritage Girls. Lee shares a dynamic vision for the next generation of Christ followers. Her books, Countercultural Parenting and Brave Moms, Brave Kids are designed to help parents biblically navigate this parenting journey.

While she travels extensively, home is her favorite place to be. Lee and her husband, Mike, have been married 21 years. They have four great kids and live at Grace Adventures, a Christian Camp and Conference Center in West Michigan where her husband serves as the Director of Facilities and Maintenance. Mike and Lee have four great kids who make her need Jesus.

Lee loves hot cups of coffee, laughing till her sides ache, and Jesus.

Read more about Lee

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