Sometimes children are quick to use the phrase “I’m sorry.” At times these words are spoken in an attempt to avoid personal consequences, while at other times they are spoken in haste by one who is remorseful over getting caught in a wrongful act. Then, there are times when this phrase is used by one who desires to correct undesired behavior.

Are you a parent who can easily distinguish genuine repentance from mere remorse or regret?

Before you answer this question, you may want to examine the importance of it:

2 Corinthians 7:10 tell us: Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death. Worldly sorrow is merely sadness over the personal consequences suffered rather than recognition of a sinful act. Godly sorrow, however, acknowledges sinful behavior as being against a holy God and demonstrates a desire to change personal behavior to please Him.

Parents desiring to develop spiritually self-disciplined children will be careful to examine the phrase “I’m sorry” for genuine qualities. For example, does your child say, “I’m sorry” then try to reason or justify their behavior? Does your child use the phrase, “I’m sorry,” then make excuses for their actions? Does your child try to avoid undesired consequences by using the words, “I’m sorry?”

In Matthew 3:8 John the Baptist told the hypocrites of Jesus’ day to “produce fruit in keeping with repentance.” In Acts 26:20 the apostle Paul affirms this truth by teaching that genuine repentance is proven by deeds rather than through words alone.

Teach your child the significance of and God’s desire for genuine repentance. Train him to understand that it’s easy to say, “I’m sorry.” And even though the phrase should be used, its sincerity is demonstrated through action. Praise your child for acts reflecting true repentance and lovingly hold him accountable for those that do not.

When it comes to developing genuine repentance in children, it’s helpful to remember: actions speak louder than words!