One of the great benefits of working with young children over the years has been watching them change and grow. Not so much in their physical growth and development, but more so in the growth and development of their characters. Like the physical growth that occurs, it’s often imperceptible until suddenly you look and ask out loud, “when did you get so big?”

I remember when our oldest daughter was only 12 and my wife and I went shopping to buy her a new dress for Easter. My daughter walked out of the dressing room wearing a clingy, long dress and I was shocked. Not because the dress was immodest, but because of what I hadn’t noticed before. I exclaimed to my wife, “when did she get so chesty?!”

In the hustle and bustle of life we all to often miss important milestones in the life of our child. One such milestone occurred this morning at the Preschool.

Two little boys had been fussing about something and the older brother (age 5) took aside his younger sibling (age 3) and spoke with him quietly. He then walked his younger brother over to the other boy (age 5) and one of our teachers heard this exchange between them. The three year-old asked the five year-old (not his brother) “would you forgive me?” The five year-old responded, “I forgive you.” The big brother of the three year-old then said, “now y’all be girlfriends!” Then all three started laughing together: laughing-out-loud!

Don’t miss the significance of this brief encounter. At our Preschool we teach the children that when they have wronged someone, or disobeyed, the appropriate thing to do is to ask “will you forgive me for….” and specify the wrong done (ie: being unkind, disobeying, etc). The required response is “I forgive you.” This interaction is repeated over, and over and over again throughout any given day. As James 3:2 reminds us, “we all stumble in many ways…” especially with our words. This is even true of our children. They “stumble” over and again. But what an opportunity!

They haven’t yet gained the wisdom and discernment that we hope they one day will. Their stumbling will therefore be more frequent and more noticeable. If we see these “stumblings” as an opportunity to train their thinking, actions, and reactions, we will, over time, see the positive results. Count on it. The issue is not CAN any child be trained. The issue is will the parents persevere in that training!

If I have heard once I have heard it too many times, “I have tried and it (whatever “it” is) didn’t work.” No, they tried and gave up. We’ve all done it. Too tired, too distracted, too angry, too (you fill in the blank). You gave up too soon! When we will admit that patient, determined, perseverance is one of the crucial elements in disciplining our children there is hope that we can make progress. The interaction I described above forever demonstrates it.

Raising and training our children is a “once-in-a-lifetime” opportunity. There are no “do-overs.” Training is inescapable. The question then becomes what kind are you doing? Will your child training bring you a harvest of joy or sadness, when your children are grown?

Written by: Perry Coghlan, Co-Founder/Co-Director of SHAP.