I was just now trying to round up my three munchkins for nap time. And as I stood in the kitchen, finishing up a task I was engrossed in, I yelled, “Gavin, go get your pull-ups on and get in bed. Abba, pick out your pull-ups and go tee-tee, it’s time for nap.” They ran by me laughing and giggling and went to hide from me. I continued on with what I was finishing up. I started putting the dishes away from lunchtime. This time when they ran by I said a little more sternly, ” Come on, it’s time for naps.”
Seriously, Alissa? What was I thinking? And it dawned on me. What I am doing is ridiculous and meaningless. The verse from Ecclesiastes 1:14 came to mind, “I have seen all the works which have been done under the sun, and behold, all is vanity and striving after the wind.” This hollering at the kids from afar, barking commands at them, and thinking that I’m doing anything good or worthwhile is pointless and like striving after the wind. You cannot catch the wind. You cannot train a toddler or preschooler by barking commands from afar. I know this. I’ve read books about training your children. And most of you know this too. But we still do it. Is it out of habit? Or because that’s how we were raised? Is it because it’s easier in the short term? Or possibly because I’m not being intentional with my words? That was it for me. I find myself lately just saying things. Not really even thinking about the words that come out of my mouth. I didn’t say any “bad” words, I didn’t even scream at them…this time.
But immediately God gave me…
5 reasons to quit barking commands at your children.
1. They aren’t listening. When I holler at them from afar, they are usually engrossed in some other activity, be it playing, reading, or just laughing and having a good time. They are children. They are toddlers and preschoolers. They are the most impressionable they may ever be. And they can only focus on one thing at a time. Thankfully they aren’t into multi-tasking like I am and so many of us are.
2. They think it’s fun to run away and hide. Notoriously, if I tell them something when I’m not in the room with them, they automatically think it’s a game. Let’s run from mama! They are all about laughing and enjoying life at this age. Oh, I’m so thankful for that. I want to learn to enjoy life and have fun from being with my children. I want them to enjoy being with mommy and see me as being fun and enjoyable to be with. But do I want them to learn that anytime I speak, it’s their job to run away and hide?
3. I’m teaching them NOT to listen to me. This one was like a blaring red light to me. I’m teaching them that my words aren’t important. That what I have to say is not worth obeying, or listening to. I’m teaching them that the first time I speak, they can disregard the command. They are learning that it’s only when mommy gets angry or raises her voice that she means business. What am I doing? Is this how I want to train my child? If I want my words to be important to them, then I must teach them that when I speak, they are to listen.
4. I am breeding my own frustration and anger. Really. Why do I become so irritated and frustrated when my kids aren’t listening to me? Because most of the time, I’m not being clear with my instructions. At ages 2 & 3 they still have to learn what it means to obey mommy and daddy. They are learning all the time and processing what is important and what is not. When I tell them something and they don’t listen, I obviously didn’t communicate effectively. The next time I become frustrated, irritated or angry, I must stop and think, is this because of them, or most likely is it because of who I am or what I’m doing in this moment? How could I be more effective with my communication? It will take more time. It will take more thought, but in the end, when I’m more at peace and gentle with my children and even my husband for that matter, it will all have been worth it.
5. I’m speaking meaningless words. God has been bringing to my mind the power of words lately. Every word we speak as the power of life and death. Words are powerful. They can build up and encourage or they can tear down and destroy. It says in Proverbs that a wise woman builds her house. I believe that encompasses the words we choose. When we choose to let words loosely slip from our mouths, we aren’t being intentional with “building our home.” In Ecclesiastes 5:3 it says, “For the dream comes through much effort and the voice of a fool through many words.” Oh, I love this verse. It penetrates to my soul. Do you see what it says? A FOOL uses many words. Do you find yourself talking and talking and saying things over and over and it seems like no one is listening? Could it be your family has learned that your words ramble on and are not meaningful? Have they learned that mommy is always talking, always hollering, always barking at us and they have chosen to tune us out? Now, it is imperative for our children to obey and respect us. But are the words we are choosing worthy of being obeyed and respected? Ecclesiastes 5:7 also says, “For in many dreams and in many words there is emptiness. Rather, fear God.” Many words are empty. I must choose my words carefully, especially at the young age of my children. I want them to learn early on that mommy’s words are meaningful.
So, what must I do to be changed? Did you catch it? In Ecc 5:7… Fear God. I must seek God and His spirit will do the nudging, the changing deep within my soul. The words of this blog post will not change you. And even I, with engrained habits, will continue to shout things to my kids, but little by little as I seek to know God more, as I pursue a life transformed by the Holy Spirit, he will make these nudges more noticeable, like he did for me today. Today, as I hollered at them to take a nap, I felt God tell me to “Stop. Go to them. Gently explain what is expected of them. And lead them. Again. And again. And again.”
God doesn’t just convict us and show us what we are doing wrong. He gently leads us and shows us a better way. Oh, that I would choose the better way. That I would choose words that build up my family. That I would choose right actions over many meaningless words.
I love it when God gives us direction and wisdom. He doesn’t dump it on us. He doesn’t scream it at us. He gently opens our eyes to show us His way, the better way, the way of righteousness. Today, I commit to God and to you reading this, that I will be intentional in choosing the words I speak to my children. I know that my dream of having my children be wholehearted followers of Jesus Christ, of being loving and kind, patient and peaceful, servants and leaders will only come with much effort and training.
Lord, help me to lead them as gently as you lead me. When I am speaking to my children, help me to choose few words wisely, and to go to them and speak with gentleness and kindness. When I’m becoming frustrated, may I remember that the source of my irritation is probably me and help me to recognize where I need to make changes in myself. I love you Lord, and trust you with my children as you love them even more than I do. Thank you for showing me how I can love them better and train them in how they should go. Amen.
So, how are you communicating to your children?
Are your words effective or meaningless?
How is God nudging you to choose the “better way”?