We’ve been blessed with a textbook first child. She eats well, sleeps well, is well-behaved, cleans up after herself and looks out for her younger siblings. She is the absolute poster child that makes you want to have more babies.
Suddenly we noticed her stories didn’t always add up. She would tell on her brother for making a mess but we could clearly tell that she caused it. She would sneak treats without asking permission, insisting that the other parent allowed it. Thank God children are terrible liars! We run a pretty tight ship here and every action must have a consequence, so time-outs happened quite regularly. But the lies kept coming and some days, the lies were so elaborate we started to wonder what was happening. The thing is, you don’t want them to be good liars, right?
So, my husband and I paused and considered, what’s really going on here?
It turns out that in our pursuit of justice, we’d forgotten mercy. We got so busy teaching discipline that we forgot to show compassion. In Bahasa Indonesia we have the word ‘maklum’ – it means ‘I understand, I forgive, I’m not going to hold it against you’. We had forgotten to ‘maklum’. She’s still a kid and she will make mistakes.
So, I sat down with her and asked her a hard question (hard for me, that is), “Are you scared of Mommy?”
And she said “Yes. When you’re angry it makes me scared.”
A piece of me died when I heard her response. The last thing I want her to feel when she sees me is fear, because I was that teenager who was so scared of her parents that I lied and lied and lied until I didn’t know who I really was anymore. I don’t want her to become that teenager. I want her to be able to come and talk to her parents when she gets in trouble.
So we told her we are going to start again. We told her to be honest from now on, and we will ease up and not make a big deal about little mistakes. Sometimes we even pretended not to see her when she did the wrong thing and yet she would still tell us about it and then we would say ‘It’s ok (maklum)’. It didn’t take long at all and the lying stopped.
Who knew mercy is more powerful than justice?! Forgiveness stronger than discipline?! Another lesson our children taught us.
Jess is a Youth Pastor at Crossway Baptist Church. Jess and her husband are in ministry together and have three kids aged 5, 3, and under 1. While working with youth and young adults is familiar territory for Jess, she finds raising children is a whole new level!