Making Your Children Feel Loved (Even When They Mess Up)

By Jessica Wolstenholm


It’s Monday, and everything that could go wrong has gone wrong. The dog got loose and you and your kids spent a large portion of the morning looking for him. Everyone got their clothes muddy and will have to change, or else get everything else in the house dirty. Then you find out that the refrigerator is not working properly. You feel overwhelmed, frustrated, and already behind for the week. 

But then your middle child comes to you and says, “Mommy, I have to tell you something. It was me who accidentally let the dog out this morning. I’m really, really sorry.”

Situations like these are the most difficult in Christian parenting, but they can also be surprisingly positive. Despite the stresses all around you, these are opportunities for teaching yours kids Bible lessons through your actions. 

Approaching a Child Who Has Messed Up

1 Peter 4:8 (NIV) says, “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.” 

Love, the Bible says, covers it all. That is a pretty bold statement, but it’s true. When one of your kids messes up, let them know that you love them – that no matter what happens in life, you will always care. Making this reality not only known but felt will help sustain your relationship. Why? Because when you love at all times, you create an environment where they feel safe – where they know that regardless of what they do, they won’t lose your love. 

To help kids navigate life, they need a safe place to come to for guidance, wisdom, and reassurance. If they don’t feel your love, they won’t come to you when it counts. 

Working Together Builds Trust 

Once you’ve established that it’s safe for them to approach you with mistakes, it’s time to begin teaching them how to come out of it wiser and stronger. This is where the difficult part begins. Together, you will need to figure out how to handle the repercussions of the mistake and how they can go about setting things right. 

This may seem daunting, but remember that your actions are a clear way of teaching kids faith. If you respond to them in a Christ-like way, they will begin to understand more clearly what Jesus is like.

But what if your kid begins to justify their actions? If this happens, you may need to back up until they decide to accept responsibility and admit their mistake.

Once they take responsibility, however, ask your child what kind of repercussions they think should happen for different types of mistakes. For example:

  • Was the mistake disobedience or rebellion? Did your child let the dog loose after you told them not to?
  • Was the mistake willfulness? Did your kid let the dog loose because they were mad at their siblings?
  • Was the mistake deceitfulness? Did they let the dog loose, then blame it on someone or something else initially?
  • Was the mistake an accident? Did they accidentally lean against the door of the fence and the dog took advantage of the open door?

The reality is that each of these reasons will elicit a different consequence. This is when patience and love on your part count the most. If you are rash and dish out punishment without thinking or discussing this with your kids, you’ll likely create an environment of fear. Remember that your ultimate goal is to help your kids learn how to be strong and wise, even when mistakes are made.

Here is another verse about love: “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear” (1 John 4:18, NIV). In a household where love is in place, your kids will not fear coming to you to admit when they’ve made a mistake. If your love surrounds them from every direction, approaching you to admit what they’ve done wrong won’t simply be the right thing to do – it might even be a relief!

Love, Love, Love

The Bible spends a lot of time talking about love. Love doesn’t only drive out fear, but it drives out our own agendas and puts God’s agenda in place. Help your kids realize that they are loved, without a doubt, regardless of anything they do. Talk to them about how forgiveness works – that no matter what happens in their lives, you will always love them, and God will always love them, too. Create an environment where mistakes are stepping stones to learning about Jesus and becoming more like him, not stepping stones to feelings of shame. Love is like water to a flower; it’s vital for growth and blooming – and that’s what we want to see in our kids.

Looking for family devotionals, or for inspiring avenues for teaching kids about Jesus? Check out our online catalogue of engaging media and helpful tools!