Tuesday, April 08, 2008

A Week of Gentleness -- Starting with our Kids

Wow -- you all have left such great comments on my post yesterday about Gentleness in the blogsphere ... in fact ... all over the place.

Michele from Homeschool Housewife made an excellent point that I'd like to focus on today:

"I think that the hardest thing for me is to stay calm, stay kind, keep looking for joy in life if those around me are grumpy and critical. But I also notice that when I am stressed out and grumpy and critical, the tone of voice my children use is worse."

If I understand her comment correctly ... meaning that when we get grumpy, or critical, and when the tone in our voice changes, so does our children's tone of voice.

I can totally relate. I have long been a proponent of speaking gently to our children. Even before I had a child, I would try to encourage moms around me to speak gently to their children. That is... until I had my own willful, determined child (I've been told that John the Baptist was quite willful, determined, and a difficult child so there is hope). He has challenged every belief I have about speaking gently to children, and he may have broken me on more occasions than I care to admit. But my husband made a wise observation recently...

He noticed that when we raise our voices at Hunter or speak harshly to him, Hunter reacts in much the same way. Did you catch that? Hunter reacts in much the same way. Literally, he screams back at us and gets overly excited. I know -- we're rocket scientists.

Is that how I want my child to become accustomed to interacting with others? Do I want my child to remember me as a screaming, neurotic momma? No. In fact, I don't think any parent wants that. If my assumption is correct, I think that most parents want their children to grow up being able to handle stressful situations in a calm manner, with all their faculties in order (unlike how I tend to react on a daily basis). But you know what? Children learn from example. They learn from the people that interact with them day in and day out. As parents, we are the ones that "set the bar" for their expected behavior. Not only are they observing how we treat them, but they are also observing and learning from how we treat our spouse (more on that later on in the week)! If we loose our tempers easily and frequently with our spouses, and we interact in an un-gentle manner with each other, they pick up on that!

I think it would be a fair statement to say the gentleness is a form of loving someone, and when we speak harshly, aggressively, or when we are critical or cruel, we are not acting in a loving or gentle manner. When we treat others with gentleness, it shows them that we value and respect them, and shows them that we care enough to control ourselves and our reactions. I'll be the first one to admit that I am not always gentle with either my child or my husband. It is something I will have to work on daily.

Having said that, will it be easy for me to change the bad habits I've established? No way... It's going to be difficult for me to begin speaking to them gently (read: with a sane head, not excited, not yelling, and not hyperventilating -- in other words, with my faculties in order). Is it possible? Absolutely. If I have turned control of my life over to the Holy Spirit, all things are possible. In fact, it is one of the gifts of the Spirit... and it takes incredible, and true humility to acquire it.

Consider this scripture:

"What do you prefer? Shall I come to you with a whip, or in love and with a gentle spirit?" 1 Corinthians 4:21 (NIV)

Check it out in The Message translation...

"So how should I prepare to come to you? As a severe disciplinarian who makes you toe the mark? Or as a good friend and counselor who wants to share heart-to-heart with you? You decide." 1 Corinthians 4:21 (The Message)

Ouch! Paul, Paul, Paul ... He was dealing with difficult people. He loved them, but he knew they needed discipline --- not unlike us with our children. Do we go to our children and correct them in a gentle and loving spirit or do we crack the whip?. Is it beneficial to speak gently to our family? You bet. I'm convinced that if I do, my child will learn that he is valued as a human being and that I love him beyond measure; he will learn how to interact with others in a kind and gentle manner; and he will learn critical communication skills that will benefit him as he gets older.

Is it to late to start? No... it's never to late to start. Try it out this week and see what happens.

Now... does anyone have any ideas on how I can capture Hunter's attention in a gentle manner before he unlocks and opens the front door and runs out into the street? Again???

Updated to add -- A bit of business: if you are a blogger who has at least 50 unique visitors a month, you can claim your FREE copy of Empty and Beautiful by Matt Maher right here -- but you need to hurry because there are only 100 free copies available!


Christine @ Serenity How? said...

That is so true. I've noticed my children at times talking to each other harshly, and I realize it sounds the way I've spoken to them. Ouch. Instant conviction, just add children LOL!

Robin said...

It is so true. I am currently doing the Bible study called Conversation Peace and I have been blown away about how much scripture pertains to how we speak. And about how much scripture teaches that what comes out of our mouths originates in our hearts. So we have to clean up our hearts before we can expect to get a handle on how/what we speak.
Good work GiBee - you are really on to something here!

Koryn said...

I am a mom of four teenagers. All born in five years time! Now, those were some very stressful 10 years! I look back with a bit of sadness as I remember yelling a lot and screaming and being grumpy many many times. God brought a lovely neighbor into the duplex we lived in who had three small children but was always so kind and loving and warm towards her kids. That great example showed me that I was certainly not being the kind of mommy He would have me to be. The tongue, who can tame it? God can! It is so destructful. But it can also be the greatest blessing. Now, these teen years are such a sweet time with our kids and they are proud to say they have a home free of fights and yelling. Thankfully I do not think they remember the type of mom I was when they were little.

Mrs. Brownstone @ XBOX Wife said...

I really, really like this post!