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3 Questions to Ask a Child Who Has Done Wrong

Proverbs 6:23 says, “Correction and instruction are the way to life….”

Did you know that spending time correcting our children the right way doesn’t just lead to the shallow, short-term effects of behavior modification? It actually leads to life, according to the Bible. The kind of soul-satisfying, abundant life that God intends for them.

Do you believe that? I know I do…but easier said than done, right? Several years ago, I had a chance to attend a heart-based parenting conference put on by the National Center for Biblical Parenting that had some practical suggestions for how to correct children. The focus of the conference and their books is on building a child’s character and not just “whipping the kid into shape.”

Here are some pointers I learned and have tried to put into practice in our home over the years.

First, as parents, we need a plan for correction.

The three heart-targeted questions below will help parents and caretakers correct children in a way that is more than just behavior modification. These questions get to the core issues in a child’s heart and prepare him/her to deal with sin rightly before God and others for a lifetime.

Secondly, we must allow time for correction.

It takes time to have conversations, and we must make space in our day for this by not packing our schedules. How hard is this for American families? When we have to rush from one thing to the next, it’s hard to have substantive conversations that can produce the fruit in a child’s life that God wants for them.

Lastly, we need to deal with each child separately.

When more than one child is involved in the offense, each child usually has a part in a conflict (even if they are only 10% to blame). Remind each child that “how you respond is your own responsibility.”

As part of the correction plan, the speakers at the conference suggested asking three heart-targeted questions to kids when they do wrong. I’ve found these to be very helpful! 

Download a PDF version of the following questions to help remember them and put them into practice later.

3 Questions to Ask a Child Who Has Done Wrong

1. What did you do wrong?

  • Help the child identify his part in the offense and have him say it.
  • This act of naming the wrong teaches him the biblical act of confession.
  • Send them back into “break time” to think about what happened until he/she is ready to talk.

2. Why was that wrong?

  • Note the question is NOT: “Why did you do it?” That question allows kids to shift blame.
  • This question gives a chance to discuss the heart issue (i.e. selfishness, disobedience, etc) behind the behavior.
  • This also provides an opportunity for teaching about what God says is wrong about it.

3. What are you going to do differently next time?

  • Help your child think of practical ways to deal rightly with the situation next time.
  • Remind the child to ask for forgiveness from those he/she offended.

End the correction time with forgiveness and affirmation.

  • Pray together, asking God for forgiveness and help.
  • Remind your child of God’s forgiveness and perhaps share 1 John 1:9 (or the idea behind it), “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”
  • Affirm (and hug!) your child before leaving the time together. Some ideas of phrases to say:

“I love you and you are forgiven.”
“Time for a new start now!”
“Go try again. I know you can do what we talked about.”

Imagine the life-long impact we can have on the little hearts that God has entrusted to us if we take the time to have a conversation like the one above regularly. I’ll be praying for each parent or caretaker who reads this post, as you strive to deal with correction in a heart-targeted way. May God bless you as you lead your child to the way of LIFE.

Download a PDF version of these three questions to help you remember them later so that you can put them into practice with your family. For more ideas on how to make the most of this summer with kids, check out our new page: Parenting During a Pandemic.