It has hit me in a new way recently, that of the four people in that photo right there, I can only modify the behavior of exactly one of them. Me. I can shape, nudge, model, correct and discipline those other three, but ultimately it’s up to each of those human hearts how they will act and what words they will say.
I’m trying to be ever mindful of the following: When I start to feel like there is not enough gentleness in this house, rather than trying to figure out how to make my kids lose a bad attitude… maybe I just need to spend that energy on myself. On the self-control and prayer and consistency that it takes to be gentle in the midst of harshness. When I worry my kids are being selfish, with their time, their energy, their stuff – maybe instead of discussions and lectures about self sacrifice, maybe they just need to see me get up off the couch and serve with a happy heart. Choose a game with them over Facebook. Read a book with them instead of watch TV. That’s so much harder for me than just having a conversation (let’s be honest, lecture) about behavior, but so much more effective.
To teach my children kindness, I must use kind words. Not lectures about being kind. To teach them gentleness, I must actually be gentle. Not nag them to stop being hard on each other. And some days that seems like an impossibility. With a day full of “that’s my spot”, “you took my glass “, “it’s my turn”……… I finally explode “ENOUGH! WE WILL NOT YELL AT EACH OTHER IN THIS HOUSE!”
Modeling behavior really is everything, isn’t it? I know, intellectually I mean, that to speak harshly and loudly to my kids when they are being disrespectful to each other makes zero sense.To rant and rail at how horrified I am at the level of disrespect in our home does not bring down the tension level. Not even a teeny bit.And yet…. Sigh.
I’m grateful that my kids are quick to forgive, and we can even laugh about those ironic outbursts later, but I’m ready for them to happen a whole lot less.