This transcript has been edited for clarity.
Heidi Franz Host 00:00
I received this email from a listener. She said, “I’ve been encouraged by the Parenting to Impress podcast, especially in the way that you and Melanie both keep the big picture or long term in mind. Doing so in the little years is tough when you’re constantly being pulled in a million directions.” She goes on to say, “In the podcast about sex and sexuality, I was convicted about first planting the seeds of talking about sin with my kids. Do you have any tips or insight on talking to young children about sin without discouraging doom and gloom? I feel my kids get overwhelmed and tune out with the topic of sin. Can you provide some ideas?”
Welcome back to Parenting to Impress. Your go-to podcast to learn practical ways to love God and love others and impress this on the hearts of your children. I am your host, Heidi Franz, and I am joined by my dear friend, Melanie Simpson. Two moms who have made a lot of mistakes but have found grace and truth along the way.
Melanie, this mom brings up a great point talking about sin. Is it necessary?
Melanie Simpson Co-Host 01:09
Gosh, I wish it weren’t. It would make discipling little kids, a lot easier. But at the end of the day, if our goal is to introduce our children to and lead them to Christ, we have to talk about sin. We cannot separate the gospel message from sin.
Heidi Franz Host 01:30
First of all, what is sin? This is how I describe it to kids in preschool. Sin is the bad choices we make. It’s when we choose to do what we want instead of what God wants. Now, for little kids, I explain that, as parents, God has put us in charge, and so when we do not obey our parents, then we are not obeying God. Also, when we are not loving other people with respect (that is sin), and so we go to 1 Corinthians 13: 4-9, talking about that. Love is kind, love is patient, love does not demand its own way. So anytime we’re not obeying our parents, anytime we’re not loving our siblings or other people, that is sin and I would say the next step is to remind them that we all sin.
Melanie Simpson Co-Host 02:21
I mean that’s found in Romans in several places that mommy and daddy are sinners. You are a sinner, it’s not just that you’re the only one, absolutely. Choices, bad choices, or if that doesn’t sit well with you, say wrong choices or call it disobedience. That’s up to you. But the idea is to convey that we are called to love God and, like Heidi said, love others. So anything we do or things we think that disrupt that love of God and love others, that’s sin.
Heidi Franz Host 02:50
Romans 3:23 says, “For all of sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” But I think where we struggle, Melanie, is we see our little babies and we go, yeah, but not them right? Sure, looking at any little angelic infant face, especially when they’re sleeping, (they’re not sinners.)
Melanie Simpson Co-Host 03:09
We cannot fathom that, this creature that cannot speak, that cannot do anything for itself, how can they sin? But scripture tells us that sin entered the world at the fall of humanity, which was with Garden of Eden, with Adam and Eve. We now all are under the curse of sin. Everybody, any human being, is under the curse of sin.
Heidi Franz Host 03:31
And that, right there is the reason why we must talk about sin with our kids, because sin is in them. Sin is in us, it’s in our world, and thus we need to be explaining it to our kids in a way that they can understand. Okay, so what is sin? It’s the wrong choices, the disobedience. Who sins? We all sin, and you know, it’s easy, I think, Melanie, to point the finger at the world and go well, if I can just keep my child away from sin, then there won’t be the problem. But the issue is, the sin is in them. So even if you went to Alaska and lived 50 miles from anybody, there’s still going to be sin in your home because there is sin in us.
Melanie Simpson Co-Host 04:19
Everybody sins. The sin is in us, and it’s things that go against God and against others. So what’s the solution? And this is where we get the joy of presenting Christ to them. This is the blessing, where you say guess what? God made a way for this to all be made right and we get to share Jesus with our kids. This is called discipleship, absolutely.
Heidi Franz Host 04:41
I was convicted one time in listening to a speaker talk about the wrong choices that our children make, and we can look at those wrong choices and get incredibly frustrated, especially when they happen over and over again. Or, we can look at them as opportunities to point our children to Christ. And I thought, well, what a difference that view is in parenting. To see mistakes as opportunities instead of inconveniences. Let’s break this down by age: preschool, elementary, teens. How do we teach our children about sin and their need of a savior? Let’s start with preschoolers.
Melanie Simpson Co-Host 05:24
So, as you said earlier, this is the time where we model obedience versus disobedience. This is the training in order for our children to move from the tangible world around them into the spiritual world, and spiritual development. We need to help them just get the basics, the idea that when mommy or daddy or teacher or whoever says go you go, stop you stop, etc. When you grab your brother or sister by the hair and pull and they are screaming, there is a very clear natural consequence for the way you lashed out in selfishness or anger. Talk about these things. Is it going to be a one and done conversation? No, you are going to have the same kind of conversation over and over and over again. But this is the first layer of many. We’ve talked about this before in another podcast that gives children a concrete understanding of wrong.
Sometimes it’s called morality. We are giving our children that first foundation of what does God want from us versus what does God not want us to do.
Heidi Franz Host 06:35
It’s the behavior modification.
Melanie Simpson Co-Host 06:37
Yes, which in theory we don’t ever want to stay here, yes. So that’s why I say it’s the first layer. But you can’t have the spiritual formation in children, you can’t have the spiritual formation until those practical things, those concrete tangibles, have been met.
Heidi Franz Host 06:55
So one of the things that I want to encourage you to do is use the words that the Bible uses with these preschoolers. Use the word sin, use the word disobedience, talk about forgiveness, grace and mercy as you go about modifying their poor choices, their wrong decisions. Teachable moments are a great opportunity. That’s where a situation happens and instead of just telling the child “no”, “stop”, you get to the heart of the issue and talk about why did you do that? What happened when you did that? We use teachable moments to talk about apologizing and teaching the kids. When you tell a child I want you to apologize First of all, that doesn’t have any meaning until you’ve given them words. So we taught our children to say I am sorry for blank. Will you please forgive me for blank? How can I help you?
Melanie Simpson Co-Host 08:05
Because I blank and you and I both know at (the age of) three our children probably don’t have an actual grasp on forgiveness Right, because there’s spirit, the Holy Spirit that compels and moves believers to extend forgiveness, to accept it. Forgiveness has probably not indwelt them yet because they have not turned their life to Christ.
Heidi Franz Host 08:27
Yeah and apology is just words for them.
Melanie Simpson Co-Host 08:29
Right. But again, it is the practical hands on training that is that first layer. And likewise, when you have had a short temper or a short fuse you’ve made a mistake, this sticks out so clearly. I accused my five year old of something that my three year old had done and as it kind of came out, the truth, the truth will out, as Shakespeare says, I had to go back to my five year old and apologize. And you know, I said the Holy Spirit convicted me son, and I am so sorry and I’m repenting. I’m going to ask forgiveness of God and I’m going to ask you to forgive me too.
Heidi Franz Host 09:02
So that example (of apologizing).
Melanie Simpson Co-Host 09:04
Yes, and I love too Heidi, you are so good about talking about emotions. We want to tell our kids about emotions and they’re God given, but not to be ruled by them. So saying I can see that you are really angry right now (with) your sibling, what’s going on here? Give them a chance to talk about it and then, like you said, let’s get to the heart of this. How can we love your sibling well, even while you’re angry?
Heidi Franz Host 09:29
Yeah, be angry but sin not. And so helping children understand that. I think in the preschool time it’s very important to be finding examples of this. Curious George and the man with the yellow hat is a prime example. The man with the yellow hat would tell curious George to do something, and curious George disobeyed every single time I want to caution:
We want to be careful that we don’t call sin funny. We don’t laugh at sin. Yeah, I remember one time that my child was doing something and I mean it was a flat out disobedience and inside I was giggling because it was so over the top. But sin is never cute, Disobedience is never funny.
Melanie Simpson Co-Host 10:25
And so we want to be very careful that we don’t encourage our children to sin because of the chubby cheeks right, and the funny things they’re saying. Or that we post it and share for the world, that we are making a mockery of sin by laughing at it, and it hurts my heart, honestly, to see so many videos of kids disobeying, sinning for a laugh.
Heidi Franz Host 10:53
So looking for those teachable moments to be explaining what sin is and consequences of sin, whether it’s in books or movies. With elementary age kiddos, we’re moving beyond the behavior modification and starting to look at the need for a savior. Now some of you may go well, I’m doing that with my preschooler. Fantastic, absolutely. We want to be starting this with the preschooler, but in elementary it’s no more do this, because I say do it. Now we’re starting to look at the why, right?
Melanie Simpson Co-Host 11:29
You think about a typical elementary age child. Their world is opening up. Whatever your school choice is, there are going to be more people in their lives. They’re going to be exposed to more things, and so it’s just natural that your conversation is going to grow. It’s going to encompass more things. They are developing an awareness of the world around them, and so, again, it’s a wonderful time to remind them -You are a sinner and there is sin in the world. And how do we tackle that? Only through Jesus Christ. And it’s also a time where we begin to engage their thoughts, their ideas. We want to raise thinking theologians. We don’t want these blind sheep. We want sheep that are faithful to the Lord, but who can have conversations about their faith. Begin asking those questions and pulling things apart. This is not a one and done. It’s another layer.
Heidi Franz Host 12:26
And speaking of not one and done this is when it really starts to come out in your children of these issues that they keep running back to. That they have strong ties to. Maybe they get angry really easily, maybe they are not organized and are continually struggling with being late and not being ready, and so what we want to do is help our children see that they need help and pointing them back to the help that God can provide them. Because of the sin in their life and, using the example of how God wants to sand off those rough edges and He wants to be the sandpaper, and it’s not fun, but He’s gentle.
Melanie Simpson Co-Host 13:18
Yes, and the outcome is always for our good and for his glory. And so we can rest in the knowing that, unlike a lot of the things in the world that are hard and the outcome is not great, when we are being submissive to sanctification, which is what Heidi was calling the sandpaper, the outcome is always better. It’s always better. What you were saying earlier, Heidi, about the issues that our children have, you have to be a student of your own child. Here’s the good news/bad news. Every kid in your house is different. I don’t care how similar they are. Their sin issues, the ones that kind of rise to the top, are going to be different, and so it is up to you and your spouse to really get to know your kids.
Heidi Franz Host 14:09
Yeah, very true. You were talking about apologizing and we were talking about giving words to our kids on how to apologize. I think during the elementary age is when we start confessing our sins, showing our kids how to deal with sin and how we, on a personal level, are dealing with sin. So let’s use for an example that you are not, as an adult, you are not making healthy choices. Maybe it’s you’re not exercising, you’re eating poorly, and so to confess this to your kids, “This is something that I’m struggling with. This is how I’m dealing with it.”
I think in the teenage years, talking about sin is a great time to talk about accountability, because when we’re stuck in sin, what does God call us to do? Call on the body of Christ to help us, to hold us accountable. If we are struggling with something, we’re gonna confess that to our kids and we’re gonna show them what accountability looks like and being willing to have accountability.
Melanie Simpson Co-Host 15:24
And I know you didn’t mean it this way, but I’m just gonna pick on it for a second. You said I’m struggling with, and I would just say, take the word struggling out and say I am sinning by mistreating my body. I know that it is the Lord’s temple, scripture tells us that and I am sinning by over-consuming, underusing it and in a way that is not going to help the longevity of my body. And I want my body to be strong so that I can serve the Lord for as many days as He’s given me. And I’m guilty of it too. So I’m not just picking on you.
Heidi Franz Host 15:55
No, I’m so glad you said that, Melanie, because isn’t that just what we do? We call a sin cute, we call a sin struggle.
Melanie Simpson Co-Host 16:05
We just diminish the levity of it. I mean it’s a big deal.
Heidi Franz Host 16:10
In reality, it is a choice that I am making. It is a choice my child is making.
Melanie Simpson Co-Host 16:17
And I think that’s the other thing too is the root of all sin, is the unwillingness to be submitted humbly to the Lord and, at the end of the day, each and every one of us have a choice to make. Is God the King of my life? Is He the only one on the throne of my heart, or is He not? Because I’ll tell you He will not share the throne? He is a God who is jealous for us, and that simply means that He desires all of us. Elementary and teen years are the best time to model, “I understand, I get what you’re going through, because today, when I was at work and in the break room, everybody was chattering about Susie and what happened to Susie over the weekend, and I stood there and I listened. And I confess to you, son, I actually chimed in, I gossiped, I flat out gossiped. I talked about this woman and her business as if it was something to be chatted about and it was wrong, it was sin.” I love what you said is just having the conversations.
We use that ACTS (model). So it’s Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, Supplication, and we would do that when we homeschooled. We do it similarly now, just at the dinner table. It’s just a sweet way to help our kids stay grounded to the truth that God loves them, he is worthy of worship, he is worthy of confession and that he is also worthy of interceding for one another. So, as the person across the table, my husband confesses a sin for the day, I can pray for him in that moment. It doesn’t have to be complicated, I guess, is what I’m really getting at.
Heidi Franz Host 17:55
You were talking about humility just a few moments ago. I think during the teen years it’s that amazing opportunity to call humility what it is and pride what it is. Pride is a sin. Humility is laying down our pride. It’s not thinking of ourselves less, because that’s still pride. It is that idea of I have sinned. Also, God has forgiven me and I don’t consider myself better.
Melanie Simpson Co-Host 18:27
We’re all in the same boat, in need of a savior, and that’s a huge thing for teens because in teen culture it’s frowned upon to think that you’re better than somebody else. Teens are very defensive about being better than someone else, and the other side, of course, is that most of the time, they all think they’re better than somebody else. So it’s important that when we approach our teens, we approach them with the understanding that I’m speaking to you. I’m not trying to speak to your friend group or to your school. I’m speaking to you. I want to be curious about you. What does God think about this? What do you think about this? What are you feeling about your walk with the Lord? And as you have those conversations, you’ll be surprised at what comes out, that you can then say, yeah, that’s sin.
Heidi Franz Host 19:17
Let’s hash that out. But I think, in order for us to ask those tough questions, we have to be willing to ask those tough questions of ourselves and we have to be in accountability. We have to be in discipleship groups where people are asking those questions of us, Because otherwise it comes off as arrogance.
Melanie Simpson Co-Host 19:39
Heidi Franz Host 19:41
Melanie Simpson Co-Host 19:42
That’s a great point, Heidi. We’re going from toddlers to elementary, middle, high school. What you’re hearing us say is it’s layer upon layer upon layer. Nothing new for those of you who have been listening to the podcast. We’re big fan of layers. Layered cake, layered ice cream. You yourself have to be in relationship with God so that you have an awareness of your own sin, so that you have the ability to say I confess I’m doing this too and inviting those conversations. You know, I’m just thinking about the woman who’s going, “Okay, but I don’t want my child to be filled with shame. All they’re hearing is that’s a bad choice, bad choice, bad.” So how do we walk that line between teaching them rightly about sin and not falling into this ditch where they spend the rest of their lives having to get rid of the shame that they had heaped upon as a child?
Heidi Franz Host 20:32
Oh, I love that question on so many levels. I think shame comes when forgiveness doesn’t follow. So shame comes when somebody is pointing their finger. It’s kind of the imagery that I have in my brain right now of you did wrong, you failed, you messed up. And it goes back to the child’s identity, which you can say well,but Heidi, you said at the beginning that in their makeup is sin. Yes, it is, but their identity is a child of God. To get rid of that sin is a desire to glorify God. Shame, is you messed up? There’s no hope, right?
Melanie Simpson Co-Host 21:20
Shame says I am bad. Yes, I am unacceptable. Something in me is so, so bad, so unworthy. From a Christian perspective. That’s actually true. You are flawed, right, you are unacceptable as you are. But the gospel says grace, says I love you where you are. I love you flawed, I love you unacceptable, because I’m going to give you Jesus’s righteousness, I’m going to give you his love and his grace and his mercy, and then you are acceptable to me.
Heidi Franz Host 21:56
I think about the two ditches. We’ve got the ditch that is, it is all grace, it is all love. And then we’ve got the ditch of shame on you. You failed, you messed up. And John 1 says that Jesus was grace and truth, both. When we get into a ditch is when our kids don’t understand what sin is, when they ignore what sin is, when they are abusing grace, versus the other ditch where they have the shame. And so we need to come together and I think that happens on the road of relationships Absolutely, when we are walking alongside of them through their journey, just like God’s walking alongside us through our journey.
Melanie Simpson Co-Host 22:50
Yeah, I just want to close by saying none of us get this right all the time, oh goodness.
I would say the victories we celebrate are probably few and far between, but the best news of all is our God is a redeemer and a restorer. The times that you feel like, that did not land the way I intended. We did not connect. He misunderstood me. She’s not getting it. We, by faith, believe that God will move for that child’s good and for his glory, and so we can trust Him to be faithful. And He is a promise keeper. Scripture tells us again and again and again of all the promises He’s fulfilled, and one of the promises that He gives us is that when we are obedient to Him. He will do work in our hearts. He is transforming us. We just rest in that. I mean, that’s as much for me, as it is for anybody living in the church, as it is for anybody listening. But there is peace in knowing that our God is a restore and a redeemer. Amen.
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