How to help children learn the steps of repentance

I suggest the following for a family home evening lesson on teaching children the steps to repentance:

Get a picture or draw a picture of things that are not right. For example, draw a picture of a car. The door might be in the back; the headlights would be where the wheels were supposed to be.- Have the children point out the things that are wrong with the picture. Then explain they can recognize things that are wrong, and just like in the picture, in our lives, we have to be able to recognize what is wrong.

Explain that everybody makes mistakes, even parents.

Show a picture of Jesus Christ and tell children that He knew we would all make mistakes. He sacrificed Himself so we could repent and be forgiven.

Explain the steps of repentance. With each step, tell a story that relates to the step. In these stories, use personal experiences.

Express to the children your love and the love that Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ have for them. When we repent, it makes it possible for us to return as families to live with them again.

Bear testimony of the principle of repentance.

Compliment the child when he or she shows signs of repentance; when they recognize they did something wrong and that they're sorry.

Be an example. For instance, in family prayer, Mom and Dad can ask forgiveness for their mistakes. In addition, if we yell at our children, we should apologize and ask forgiveness. - Joseph Holly, Jasper, Ala.

How we did it:

Burden lifted

One of the best ways to teach children repentance is by example. As a bishop, I get to interview my three sons on their birthdays, and I review with them the steps of repentance. I do that with all the young people I interview. We discuss the details of repentance. I also let them know that when they have done something wrong and they've gone through a repentance process, they'll know through prayer and through the Spirit when they've been forgiven. That burden will be lifted off their shoulders.

The first thing I try to teach is that when people have done something wrong they need to seek repentance. If it's something that requires them to talk to me, they need to go through that process. I try to explain the whole repentance process to them - being truly sorrowful and having a contrite spirit. - Glenn Ashcraft, Bay City, Texas

Natural ability

Our example teaches our children the deepest lesson. It's easier for them to evaluate their own strengths and weaknesses when we acknowledge to them that we have faults also. They see that we are sorry, and they learn what true remorse is.

Being forgiving is a natural thing for children. Therefore, when we are forgiving, we reinforce and preserve this natural ability in our little ones.

We can help our children make restitution when they do wrong. This is probably the one thing they need adult help with. We can remind them to kneel and talk with their Heavenly Father. Be patient as they work on forsaking their sins. Having loving communication within our families and with our Heavenly Father helps us keep the repentance process alive. - Michele Hunt, Aurora, Colo.

Identify steps

I try to teach my children the consequences of their actions early in their lives. I also show them examples of people who have made mistakes so they can learn from others' experiences. One way we can do this is by reading together from the scriptures examples of people who have repented.

In addition, when my children, ages 14 and 16, do make mistakes, I try to work through the repentance process with them. This way, I can help and guide them through each step. I can help them identify each repentance step they are going through. When they are on their own, they will know how to recognize their mistakes and repent. - Leslie Deakins, Auburn, Wash.

Teach them why

We need to be be open and direct with our children in teaching them the steps of repentance. We have great resources from which to teach - the family home evening manual, Church publications and various Church lesson manuals. One resource not to forget is our own testimonies. We can share our testimonies and understanding of repentance. Example can be a great teacher for our children.

As parents, we might wear blinders and sometimes think that "our children" can do no wrong. Teaching them that making mistakes is part of learning and then teaching them to follow the steps of repentance are important principles for our children to have happiness. - Jerry and Betsy Toombs, Benson, Utah

Don't compel

Repentance is more than going through a series of specific steps; it involves a mighty change of heart, where there is no more disposition to do evil but to do good continually. (See Mosiah 5:2.) This change of heart comes when there is a chance for the Spirit to testify and correct. When we try to force or compel, the Spirit cannot support our actions.

Therefore, it is critical to provide children a chance to repent in an atmosphere free from tension and pressure. It is best never to force the child into a situation where he or she denies the truth. For example, if we know a child made a mistake, we speak with him or her with gentleness and kindness about the problem, rather than corner that child and make him or her want to lie out of fear.

In our family, we read the scriptures and ask the children to explain different verses. Once children understand the Plan of Salvation, they are more likely to repent and rely on the Atonement to change their hearts. - Lee and Meg Donaldson, Crystal Lake, Ill.

Done with love

My daughter-in-law, Ann Jones, and I discussed this issue. She said the thing that has been the most helpful to her is Section 3 in the Doctrine and Covenants where the Lord deals with Joseph Smith after the loss of the 116 manuscript pages of the Book of Mormon. First, the Lord explained to the Prophet that what he did was wrong and what would happen if he continued in that path. Second, the Lord helped Joseph solve the problem, but He did not compel the Prophet. This was all done with love, not anger, not hate, not frustration. Satan would have us chastise with anger, punishment and force.

When my son was 5 years old, he and some friends broke the windows and glass out of a junk car in the neighborhood. A neighbor saw them and reported it to the police. We found out that the owner of the car was going to sell it to a salvage dealer for $50. My husband, Don, explained to our son why what he did was wrong and that we would have to pay for the damage. Don then took our son to the car's owner and had him apologize. He never forgot that experience and it has affected him in a positive way for the rest of his life. - Faye Smith, Salt Lake City, Utah

How to checklist:

1 Help children understand the Atonement, Plan of Salvation.

2 Guide them through repentance; identify steps.

3 Be encouraging, patient, loving as they learn repentance.

4 Be an example; be forgiving, repent of your own sins.


July 23 "How to make your money work for you."

July 30 "How to be a hard worker, yet find time to rest body, mind."

Aug. 6 "How to heal after a broken dating relationship."

Aug. 13 "How to have harmonious relationships at home, work, Church."

Aug. 20 "How to avoid being over-protective of your children."

Aug. 27 "How to recognize and overcome jealousy."

Had any good experiences or practical success in any of the above subjects? Share them with our readers in about 100-150 words. Write the "How-to" editor, Church News, P.O. Box 1257, Salt Lake City, Utah 84110, or send fax to (801) 237-2121. Please include a name and phone number. Contributions may be edited or excerpted and will not be returned. Due to limited space, some contributions may not be used; those used should not be regarded as official Church doctrine or policy. Material must be received at least 12 days before publication date.

Subscribe for free and get daily or weekly updates straight to your inbox
The three things you need to know everyday
Highlights from the last week to keep you informed