Chapter 13: Repentance, Forgiveness, and Restoration
Gary Ezzo views sin / disobedience as something that interrupts a normal parent / child relationship. He views a sin as the start of a cycle with the first portion of the cycle being separation. The complete “sin cycle” is separation, regret, repentance, forgiveness, and restoration.
The author sees regret as the start of the process, but he cautions that regret alone is not enough. (Though, oddly, he states that this is acceptable for kids aged four and younger). A child must, in addition to feeling regret, also see that their sin or disobedience has harmed their relationship with others.
“It is easiest to understand the doctrine of repentance in the context of relationships. According, the object of repentance is not exclusively the sin itself, but the effect sin has on the relationship. A child’s disobedience disturbs the relational peace between him and his parents. Love for the relationship puts the sin in context and should drive the child to repentance.”p206 Growing Kids God’s Way (Emphasis mine)
A child needs to ask forgiveness for their sin or wrongdoing in order to restore that relationship. The author is exceeding clear that “I’m sorry” or “I apologize” are not acceptable ways to do this. He feels that this is too broad and centers the apology on the child rather than the wrongdoing. Instead, the author argues that a child must ask forgiveness for the specific sin they committed. For example, “I’m sorry for disobeying you and stepping in the flower garden.”
As part of this “sin cycle” the author also feels that a wrongdoer must repay the person who has been harmed. The term used here is “restitution.” Anything that causes damage to another person’s property is entitled to this “restitution” and the child must repay the person for the damage done.
Some odd points the text lays out here. Gary instructs a parent to still discipline their child if they have confessed before getting caught. He feels that a parent is being too lenient if they let the child off every time they confess preemptively. “If a parent removes the consequence at every voluntary confession, the child will repent every time, whether or not he means it.” (p 210). The author feels that forgiveness should still include punishment.
Another odd thing the author points to is how a child is supposed to act after a spanking or discipline session. The author acknowledges that a child may be upset. But he then goes on to state that a child should after a couple of minutes act as if the relationship is completely better now. And it is only at this point, when the child acts positively towards the parent, that the author views that the “sin cycle” has been completed. And, at this time, the relationship has been restored.
I would cynically interject here that this places a lot of guilt and pressure onto the child. A child that was just caused physical pain by their parent is supposed to immediately forgive their parent and act as if nothing ever occurred. And the relationship is only viewed as being “restored” when the child is behaving and acting positively towards the parent.
If the child returns to their “sin” Gary offers two reasons why. The first is that the child didn’t understand that their actions were wrong, or it was never communicated to the child. And the second reason is that the child wasn’t spanked hard enough. The author warns that “half-hearted spankings” are not enough to discourage the child from further sin.
“He may have received some swats that were hard enough to get him upset but not hard enough to turn his heart from sin. For that child, the pleasure of the offense outweighed the punishment.”p 212
There are no other options mentioned. Either the parent didn’t communicate that the what the child was doing was wrong, or the child didn’t receive enough pain. Can you see how this could lead to a series of spankings for a child? A child must listen and obey immediately after discipline, or they will face further pain.
I know Gary intended this chapter to be a way to bring love and forgiveness into a discipline process. But his words and methods show that their is very little room for any love or compassion within his discipline system. Obedience and discipline far outweigh any sense of forgiveness or compassion with Gary Ezzo’s views on biblical discipline and chastisement.