At the risk of sounding like a mean mom, I am going to admit that we are extremely blunt with our kids. Not for the purpose of being mean, but for the purpose of being trustworthy.
They have had experience with adults who tell them things that aren't really true, and they are ridiculously smart. So, sugar-coating things or being less than completely honest with what we think of their behavior does one of 2 things: It either makes them think we aren't trustworthy, since they can figure out the real answers anyway, or it makes us look like people who can easily be duped, since we apparently don't know the truth.
For example, the other day, Thing 1 and I were talking, and he brought up the fact that he had made a lot of poor choices that day (totally true, he had).
I had to agree. "Yep," I said kindly, "You behaved pretty badly."
Now, if I had tried to reassure him that he hadn't been that bad, we both would have known I was lying. And if I lie about that, then in their minds, what else might I lie about? That I love them?
Or, If I had tried to minimize it, I think I would have sent the message that I would settle for that behavior. That I could be swayed from what I said.
I could tell he was upset about something, but couldn't tell what, exactly. Finally, it came up with a heartbreaking question. "I know I've made a ton of poor choices today," he started, "and I'm guessing this will be my last day here."
I thought about his question. I knew he could trust me to be honest, since I had admitted that his behavior was bad that day. And I knew my answer had to be completely trustworthy to help him work through his fears.
"Well," I slowly replied, "I'm not planning on you going anywhere. But it's not because of you or how I feel about you."
I watched the surprise register on his face, followed with a questioning look.
"I love you a lot." I continued, "and that really won't ever change."
"But who do Dad and I always tell you we love the most?" I asked.
"God," he replied, without hesitation.
"Right," I agreed. "And that's the reason you never have to worry about leaving our family. We didn't adopt you because of our love for you, we adopted you because of God's love for us. He is the one who created love, and who teaches how to love. And because we committed to God - who never changes - to love you and care for you and to be your parents, your actions don't change our promise to God."
"In fact," I continued, "Every promise we ever make to you in secondary to the promises we make to God. You may behave badly, but we still love you because Christ first loved us, and we keep you in our family because God taught us what being adopted looks like - God's adoption of us is eternal."
"What do you think of that?"
"I feel better," he said. "You wouldn't break your promise to God."
We always want our kids to see how much they matter in our eyes and God's, but without the pressure of thinking their future all depends on them. It just doesn't work that way, and they are too young to bear such a burden.
On one hand, we are responsible for our actions. But we have also been offered grace we can't deserve and that we can't repay.
God never minimizes our sin. He says that the wages of sin is death. Talk about not sugar coating things!
But then, he gives us reassurance. "But the gift of God is eternal Life, through Jesus Christ." If it were up to me and my actions, I wouldn't ever make the cut. But I'm thankful that my eternity doesn't depend on me. It depends on my acceptance of salvation freely offered to me.
Adoption on earth is just a small shadow reflection of how God's adoption of us when we accept his gift of grace, but I want our kids to understand that their acceptance into our family does not depend on their ability to behave well, but is freely offered. It's not something that has to be earned.
Acceptance into the Schoney family is freely given.