Teaching a toddler about forgiveness can be as daunting as informing him about the birds and the bees when he reaches adolescence. The Bible is chock full of stories on forgiveness. In fact, that was the main reason Jesus died on the cross -- to forgive sins. Practicing the art of biblical forgiveness is a lifetime endeavor which can start the minute your child swats at you for reminding him to pick up his toys.
Incorporate Bible stories on forgiveness to put a new twist on your bedtime reading routine. Look up scriptures beforehand contemplating which biblical characters will appeal to your child. While the Old Testament Joseph is one of the most common examples of forgiveness, search for other indirect instances such as Job’s forgiveness of his well-meaning friends or King David’s forgiveness of Saul’s murderous intentions. Explain how forgiveness may not happen for years as in the case of Jacob and Esau -- two rival brothers. Instead of reading the story in a children’s Bible, consider acting out the story using stuffed animals. Discuss the story at breakfast the following day. Reinforce main points through rhymes, songs and teachable moments.
Your child has just finished his 5th temper tantrum of the day while uttering the all-too-familiar words “I don’t like you.” Meanwhile you diligently pray for patience -- again. Turn this moment into a tangible lesson on forgiveness. Have a prayer jar ready, one that you made together at an earlier time. Explain to your little one how our words sometimes hurt other people and Jesus helps us forgive through prayer. Place a craft stick in the jar uttering a prayer of forgiveness. Be prepared for your child to return the favor when you blow it. Empty the jar at the end of the day, demonstrating how forgiveness allows Jesus to empty our heart of hate and replace it with love.
Your son might not have 11 brothers but even if he has one, he will someday relate to feeling envious of something his brother has that he does not. Use the example of Joseph and the coat of many colors as another object lesson. Draw a coat on a piece of white construction paper. Cut out the coat, along with various sizes and shapes of different colors. Watch as your son glues all the pieces on the coat. Talk about how Joseph must have felt in his brand new coat while his brothers felt nothing but jealousy. Instruct your child to tear up the finished coat and throw it away in the trash. What is your son's reaction? Discuss how, with God’s help, Joseph eventually forgave his brothers.
You have a cranky elderly neighbor who is always yelling at your son to get off her grass. Frankly, you’re a little frustrated with her nitpickiness as well. Put your forgiving words to action by bringing over the next set of cookies you bake together. Ring her doorbell with both your rakes in tow and offer to remove the autumn leaves in her yard. Beat her to the punch and shovel her sidewalk during the next snowstorm. Chances are she will be surprised by your kindness and not too worried about your tot on her grass after that.
- Brand X Pictures/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images