When Our Children Know They’ve Done Wrong But They Just Don’t Care

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How do we get through to them when our children know they’ve done wrong, but they still don’t care? Here’s how I’m approaching it.

When our children know they've done wrong but they just don't care

I’m sure as parents we’ve all had those moments.

Those moments when our child snatches a toy out of another’s hands and runs, leaving the often younger victim crying and feeling quite bullied. 

So we as parents do a variety of things, but hopefully at some point along the way, we sit down with our child to attempt to help them understand why we just don’t do that.

But for me, in the midst of those conversations there’s a brick wall into which I run. It honestly leaves me speechless if I’m not prepared.

After all the explaining about selfishness, loving others, God’s love for others, and everything else I can think of to explain why we don’t take from innocent bystanders on a whim, I’m left gazing intently into unwavering, unremorseful eyes and hearing the emphatic phrase, “But I WANTED it.”

After all my explanation, I find myself blinking and at a loss for words and my child’s heart unaffected.

How to speak into this gut feeling that so easily overtakes our youngsters? How to help them make sense of it?

The answer? The gospel.

Because the hard-to-accept truth of the matter is, only God can change our child’s heart. No amount of reasoning or teaching alone can do that. Our simple task is to faithfully present the gospel and to shepherd them as best we can. We must trust Him to do the deep work.

And the first layer of the gospel message is that we must understand our need for it.

So when I look into those stubborn eyes, I say in a gentle tone, “Okay. That’s selfishness in your heart. This is why Jesus needed to die for you. I have selfishness in my heart too.”

It’s amazing the doors that are opened by this line of conversation. It’s amazing the softening I see in those eyes. But it’s still God’s work.

So next time you reach an impasse with your child in the midst of a similar conversation, use it as an opportunity to help them understand their need for a Savior, which is likely on full display.

Share the gospel message with them once again —that God loves us so much that He made a way for us to know Him. That Christ died for us even though we didn’t deserve His grace. That through Jesus, selfishness and sin can be washed away from our hearts, and every bad thing we’ve done forgiven.

That God has a better way for us to live, but we must lay down our sin.

Because the truth is, our children are sinners who need a Savior, just as we do. We want to invite God to work in their hearts… and HE can do it!

How do you handle difficult conversations with your child about his or her behavior?


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  1. Karen says:

    Thank you for this guidance and the reminder that only God can change a heart. 🙂

  2. Lilly says:

    Thanks, Katie! This is helpful, because it’s exactly where I’m at with my son right now. Thanks for the reminder to point him to the gospel.

    • You are so welcome. It’s a way of thinking I inherited from one of my favorite books on parenting, Shepherding a Child’s Heart by Ted Tripp. That was truly a formational read for me.

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