Should Parents Confess Sin to Their Children?
Parents are the most influential people in a child’s life as they support their development. Parents play the role of a disciple-maker, modeling Christ-like character and cultivating an environment where the child can develop holistically. By holistically, I mean cognitively, relationally, emotionally, behaviorally, and spiritually.
A healthy relationship between a child and parent is vital for the child’s development.
Paul says, “be imitators of me, as I am of Christ” (1 Cor 11:1 ESV). Do not miss the prerequisite of this statement – “as I am of Christ” (1 Cor 11:1b). Parents must follow Christ and His example to extend the call to their children.
A parent’s belief drives their behavior.
A parent’s belief about who God is, who they are in light of Him, and their purpose in life will be reflected in their behavior while raising their children. Paul’s exhortation for those to follow him, as he is following Christ, should be a parent’s unwavering trademark despite society’s expectations. A parent should be able to say – be imitators of me, model after me, follow me because I am following Jesus Christ.
How can parents cultivate a family culture that models Christ-like character to support their child’s holistic development?
The answer is simple: It begins with confessing sin when sin is committed.
What do I truly mean that parents can cultivate a family culture that models Christ-like character to support their child’s holistic development by confessing sin when sin is committed?
Sin disrupts fellowship between God and others.
Restoration is done through the confession of sin.
If sin disrupts fellowship between God and others and restoration is done through the confession of sin. Would the logical and theological response be confessing sin to our children when we have sinned against them?
Once again, the answer is simple: Yes.
By confessing sin, parents glorify the Lord by modeling consistent Christ-like character.
For the parent, various positive outcomes stem from confessing sin to our children when we have sinned against them. However, the most significant outcome is that parents glorify the Lord. The phrase “glorifying the Lord” is simply praising or worshiping. We attribute worth to Him in our daily lives.
Parent modeling is critical for a child’s development as they constantly learn and soak up values, perspectives, and behaviors from the people around them.
This is the concept of social learning. We have all heard the phrase “monkey see, monkey do.” We all learn from our social context.
From a biblical perspective, parent modeling is simply the idea of being a disciple-maker. Our children are learning from us as we consistently model Christ-like character for them. This idea of consistency highlights the importance of parents avoiding compartmentalizing. You are a Christian before everything else.
I am a Christian who happens to be a counselor. I am not a counselor who happens to be a Christian. It is the same idea for parents. You are a Christian who happens to be a parent, not a parent who happens to be a Christian. Therefore, who we are in Christ does not change depending on our context.
Concerning the confession of sin, it is not the act of confessing sin that we are modeling Christ-like character. Some of you reading this may be scratching your head, possibly asking yourself how that is true. However, let us think through the character of God.
God is the only sinless being. Christ is the incarnate Son of God. He is God. Therefore, He is the only sinless being. The author of the book of Hebrews says, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin” (Heb 4:15).
So, it is not the act of confessing sin that we are modeling Christ-like character to our children because that would go against the very character of Christ. However, we are modeling Christ-like character through the expression of humility in confessing sin to our children when we have sinned against them.
“And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed” (Jam 5:15-16 ESV).
Where does the shift of humility happen from non-parent to parent? Why do we lose the concept of humility in confessing sin to one another when we step into the role of parent?
This concept of confessing sin and expressing humility should not change when I become a mother.
We hold authority over our children, but God has authority over us. In sinning against our children, who are made in the image of God, we are sinning against God. Therefore, in discipling our children and modeling for them Christ-like character, may we not lose the expression of humility in confessing sin.
By confessing sin, parents avoid children developing faulty perceptions about themselves and others.
The growth of perceptions is part of a child’s cognitive development. Throughout childhood and adolescence, children and teens make connections. These connections are setting the stage for how they perceive reality.
For example, I remember when I was younger, I had a perception of my dad that he could do no wrong. He was the best dad in the world because he always handled himself and others gracefully, dealt with difficult circumstances humbly, and loved me unconditionally. I still argue that my dad is the best in the world, but it is unrealistic to say he is perfect.
No human person is perfect or sinless. The only person who has lived a sinless life is the incarnate Son of God, Jesus Christ.
Many children with this faulty perception of their parents being perfect are afraid to come to them when they mess up. This is reality. Who wants to disappoint their parents intentionally? I know that I never wanted to disappoint mine.
When I got older, I remember my dad apologizing if he handled a conversation or situation with me or others negatively. This opened the door for me to understand that even my dad, who I visualized as this perfect person, messes up. He expressed humility in admitting his wrongdoing, even to me, his child.
Confessing sin to our children avoids the child’s faulty perception that the parent does not sin. Relational damage is done when parents portray themselves as never making a mistake by standing on the pedestal of pride. Parenting requires sternness and discipline, but it also requires humility and vulnerability.
Faulty perceptions can potentially harm the communication barrier between parent and child, leading to the next point.
By confessing sin, parents are normalizing healthy communication about sin.
Communication is a foundational component of relational development, and sin is a reality in this life.
I agree with Keri Seavey when she says, “If we treat sin as something “this family doesn’t do,” our kids will have no category for the sins they’ll inevitably encounter in themselves. Worse, we risk limiting their opportunities to bask in God’s transforming forgiveness and grace.”
A lack of communication between parent and child about sin will result in children lacking the ability to understand how to navigate sinful behavior or tendencies within themselves and others.
Do you want to normalize healthy communication about sin to support your child’s holistic development?
Normalizing healthy communication about sin begins with confessing sin when sin has been committed.
As parents, displaying Christ-like character in exercising humility when we sin against our children is crucial. We must step down from the pedestal of pride when we sin against our children. We must break the communication barrier by becoming vulnerable with them. In doing so, we influence them in a way that glorifies God and positively impacts their holistic development.
We can change the cultural narrative of the relational dynamic of the family by normalizing the confession of sin to our children when we have sinned against them.