We saw that the right kind of sorrow over sin, godly sorrow and not worldly sorrow, needs to be present in order for true repentance to take place which leads to salvation. Parents need to understand the difference when dealing with their children’s sinfulness. Sorrow is the first goal, and has to be constant and consistent. When a child does something sinful (not childish, truly sinful) we parents cannot laugh at it. What kind of a message does that send children? We parents need to be genuinely mortified over the sins our children commit.
This is why God commanded parents to keep the Torah in front of their eyes night and day, and teach it to their children (Deu 6:6-9). An example of a Torah commandment that modern society tends to ignore is honoring parents and other authority. This one is might be hard for parents to enforce because they know they are not perfect, and perhaps they feel they ought to be dishonored by their children. But the commandment is not in place to benefit the parents, but the children. It is the children who are hurt when they learn not to honor their parents, because that ultimately causes them not to honor God as adults. And fearing God, honoring God, is the beginning of wisdom. Lack of wisdom is destructive in a teen or an adult’s life, and can lead to literal death. So God has a good reason for naming all that He has named as sin, and naming all that He has named as righteous. We need to trust His word and trust His wisdom, and agree with Him.
Once we have agreed with God on sin, sorrow over sin is most quickly produced by consequences. Parents must prepare consequences for disobedience in advance. Children should know in advance what disobedience will cost them. Children knowing the cost of a sin in advance allows them to practice judging a course of action before it is taken. Parents knowing the cost of a sin in advance helps them to remain calm and in control in the heat of a crisis moment. The consequences, whatever they are, have got to cost the child. Consequences ought to be expensive enough that the child is encouraged not to risk it.
Then the consequences need to be administered so that sorrow is produced. If parents take away toys or privileges but then give them back at the first sign of tears, they have not loved their child. This is why God is a better Father than we are. He loves us enough to allow us to experience some suffering over the things we do wrong. He knows that godly sorrow is needed to produce true repentance.
Some children are so challenging in this area, because nothing the parent does seems to produce sorrow. The parents must persevere in this until they find what works for their individual children. Pray and seek God’s face! He knows what is needed. But whatever the parents decide to do, the goal is to produce godly sorrow in the children over their sin.
Different children come to sorrow differently. One strong- willed child might need a major thrashing from Dad, while for another soft- hearted child, a stern look is enough to produce all kinds of godly sorrow in their hearts. What works for one child might be way too harsh for another child and completely devastate their heart. Contrary to what my mother told me as a young mother, we can’t treat all our children the same (sorry Mom). Some kids have greater or lesser needs in different areas. The goal is, as parents, to meet their needs, whatever it is, including the vital need for discipline and godly sorrow leading to true repentance.