In my last post I referenced a book written by Ellen Bowers, PhD entitled, The Everything Parent’s Guide To Positive Discipline, 2nd Edition. I am going to continue with a few more posts regarding this book and some statements that Dr. Bowers makes.
In chapter five Bowers writes a short segment on When Not to Forgive. Of course that heading struck me quickly because as a parent I try hard to communicate to my children that there is nothing that they can do that will make me stop loving them. But then I am quick to understand that not forgiving does not equal not loving. And still there is a great deal of tension in that statement.
Dr. Bowers begins this segment with a question. “Are there times not to forgive?” (Bowers, 2011). She quickly follows up with her answer: “Yes.” Bowers qualifies this “yes” by adding this statement. “If after committing a wrong and apologizing for injury that was done, the child then goes out and repeats the same offense, further forgiveness would only make it easier for the child to continue or repeat the wrong behavior. Thus, in this situation, you declare, ‘The only sincere apology I will accept is not in your words but in your actions – never ever use that kind of language with me again!’”
“Finally, there is one category of wrongdoing you should never forgive – deliberate acts of wrongdoing committed with malicious intent.” (Bowers, 2011).
As a parent I really struggle with the idea of not forgiving my children at some point. I think that the act of not forgiving my children could create a longer term issue than forgiving them when they ask for it with a sincere discussion regarding the child’s actions and attitudes. At the very least not accepting the apology and intentionally not forgiving with an explanation of why you are doing so. In doing so the parent must put an end “date” on the unforgiveness and not leave the child hanging indefinitely in a black hole of parental rejection.
I think that we as parents need to handle the issue of forgiveness and unforgiveness very delicately. The emotional well being of our children depends on our sensitivity, sincerity and intentionality in parenting.