Helping Children Overcome Sin

Recently we had a request for a Mom’s Corner on a topic to which many of us can probably relate.

“I have become aware of my controlling tendencies and have begun to work on this area of my life. Knowing this behavior does not please the Lord Jesus I am learning to pray and trust His ways.

My goal is to serve my family with a gentle spirit, patient heart, and quiet voice; however, I have noticed that my ten-year-old daughter has picked up and mimics much of the ‘Old Mom.’

What methods can I use to teach her that Mom’s old way does not bring glory to God and that she will suffer the same if she continues in those behaviors? Most of the time she (like I was) is unaware of this controlling nature. Please help.” A Mom Who Is Growing Away from Controlling

As we evaluate our lives and our children’s lives, we often see our sin mirrored in our children. The world recognizes this with sayings such as, “Like mother, like daughter.” My example to my children is usually speaking as loudly as, or louder than, my actual words. Scripture also gives us a picture of how this process of our example works. “Keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty; visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the children’s children, unto the third and to the fourth generation” (Exodus 34:7).

Our salvation frees us from the bondage of sin, but we can still live with the consequences of that sin, including seeing it reproduced in our children. Because of our own recognition of the particular sin and our battle with it, we become very aware of it not only in our lives but also in our children’s lives. When we begin to experience victory, we are happy to release our families from the effects our sin has been having on them, but we are not happy to see those effects perpetuated by the same sin in one of our children.

Seeing my sin in my children helps to keep me aware of the consequences of that sin, my need to depend on the Lord Jesus Christ, my desire to continue to grow spiritually, and my prayer that I not fall back into the old ways. I can use my children’s failures to help me not become prideful over any victory I am experiencing but to be grateful for the Lord’s work in my life and to give Him the glory for it. It should also allow me to be compassionate toward my children as they battle the same sin that I have and most likely am continuing to struggle with in some measure. “Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4).

When Steve and I face these kinds of situations of seeing our sin mirrored in our children, we begin discussing the problem and the solution with the child. Steve, as the spiritual head of our home, is the one who takes responsibility for initially addressing these kinds of sin issues. These difficulties offer good opportunities for heart-to-heart talks and then ongoing follow-up. Steve makes it a point to pull out practical application of the Word in our nightly family Bible time to the specific needs of the children. Often what sin one child is dealing with, another one may be as well.

Steve and I share with our children our failures and what the outcome has been through the years. We acknowledge to them that we know it has been our bad example that has opened the door for their sin. We discuss how the Lord has convicted us of that sin, how He has been teaching us to deal with it, and the changes we have experienced as a result.

In this particular case, here are verses of Scripture that might that apply to the problem and could be used in seeking to teach the Lord Jesus’ heart on the matter:

It is better to dwell in a corner of the housetop, than with a brawling woman in a wide house. (Proverbs 21:9)

A foolish woman is clamorous: she is simple, and knoweth nothing. (Proverbs 9:13)

Every wise woman buildeth her house: but the foolish plucketh it down with her hands. (Proverbs 14:1)

It is better to dwell in the wilderness, than with a contentious and an angry woman. (Proverbs 21:19)

A continual dropping in a very rainy day and a contentious woman are alike. (Proverbs 27:15)

Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. (Philippians 2:3)

But let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price. (1 Peter 3:4)

Steve and I have found the one-on-one discussions are best to have at a time when the child is not in trouble for some wrong behavior. At the moment of failure, the child is often defensive and making excuses. However, if we plan for a time to spend alone with the child later on, first sharing the testimony of our failures and then discussing his need for change along with the applicable verses, then his heart is usually more open.

We can use these one-on-one discussions to begin the process of crying out to the Lord for victory over their sin. We will be a prayer warrior for our children in these struggles they are facing. We can pray with our child. Then the child can begin praying for himself daily to overcome the sin. We can also choose to pray for each other since we each know the other is wanting to be obedient in this area. Every time there is failure it will be another opportunity to pray since there will be confession, repentance, and asking of forgiveness.

As moms we want to point out and encourage our children’s successes in an area where they are wanting to change. We can bless them by helping them to notice the victories and to be grateful to the Lord Jesus for His work in their lives. We will also need to bring up the failures, if the children don’t do so first. Sometimes they won’t recognize their sin or will try to make excuses for it. Excuses are an indicator of pride in a child’s life, and that also needs to be worked with. Each failure is a step toward humility, if they will cast down pride, repent of sin, and choose to be obedient.

I also want to be aware of whether I have truly turned from the sin I see mirrored in my child’s life. Sometimes I may think there is spiritual growth over the sin, but in reality, I am still continuing to walk in the sin at least to some extent. I think this can be especially true in the area of controlling. It is good for our children to hear us acknowledge our sin and ask forgiveness for it.

“Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you” (Philippians 4:9). Paul tells his readers in this verse that his instruction to them of God’s Word and his personal example are the path they are to follow. This is important for us as mothers as well and very sobering since it bears with it great responsibility in our own personal obedience to the Lord Jesus Christ.

The path of instruction, example, and correction would apply to helping a child with any sin he is struggling with, not just a daughter who needs to stop controlling. We have the precious opportunity in our children’s lives to help them learn to obey Jesus Christ, depend on Him, and repent of their sin. Moms are generally with their children on a minute-by-minute basis, whereas our husbands are with the family for more limited amounts of time in the evenings and on the weekends because of their need to provide for the family. May we make the most of the mothering years we have with our children in helping and directing them in their spiritual walk with the Lord Jesus Christ.