Where Do I Begin?

When it comes to asking for forgiveness, the hardest thing to do is take the first step.

1. Look into your teen's eyes. Don't glance around the floor or wipe the counter or dust the furniture while you're talking. Don't sit at your computer. Find a quiet spot away from other family members and make eye contact. Your teen may be afraid at first that you're going to lecture her about something she did, so don't be surprised if she squirms a bit.

2. Define the wrong; don't leave it vague. Name what you did that you shouldn't have done. For example, "I'm sorry I called you a ‘stupid kid.' That was insulting – and untrue, too." Or, "I'm sorry I didn't believe you when you told me your teacher was being unfair. I didn't take the time to hear you out."

3. Say those difficult words. "I'm sorry. Will you forgive me?"

4. Be quiet. Your teen might respond by granting forgiveness.

He might be stunned and say nothing. If he's still angry, he might say, "No."

What should you do if you get a negative reponse?

Smile. Pat him on the shoulder or knee and say, "I love you."

Then walk away – not angrily, but knowing that what you did to hurt your teen might take time to heal. Allow him that time. After all, if someone dropped a concrete block and broke your toe, would an apology take away the pain?

The Truth Will Set You Free

Asking for forgiveness opens up plenty of possibilities – all of them good. Here's what happened when one father took that awkward step. His son tells the story:

My dad asked to sit and talk with me. And I was like, "Yeah, sure." I sat down thinking this was just going to be another lip-service thing. My dad said, "Listen, I know you hate me. You've got a lot of reasons to hate me. I want to apologize for not being the type of father that you needed. I just wanted to get everything out on the floor and I just want you to tell me everything."

My dad was just so sincere about the whole thing. And he hugged me and grabbed me and said, "You're my boy … you'll always be my boy."

He was hugging me different. It wasn't like the hugs before – just a courteous hug. He grabbed me and embraced me like a brother.

Or like the Prodigal Son's father embraced his boy (Luke 15). As you may recall, that led to a whole bunch of partying.

Forgiveness is like that.


Adapted from Sticking With Your Teen: How to Keep From Coming Unglued No Matter What, published by Focus on the Family. Copyright © 2006 by Joe White. All rights reserved. International copyright secured.

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