“She openeth her mouth with wisdom; and in her tongue is the law of kindness.”
Some of the most important lessons we teach our children aren’t done in our homeschooling. Instead, It is in how we speak to them—our tone, our vocabulary, even our countenance. I both love and hate the second part of the verse above. The New American Standard Bible translation puts it this way, “…the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.” Ouch! When I open my mouth to speak, am I teaching my children what kindness means?
We are probably tested the most when our children are being disrespectful. It is easy to fly off the handle and snap at our children, but what does that actually teach them? Nothing righteous, that’s for sure. Recent weeks in our home have been stressful. Constant illnesses being passed back and forth led to me falling very behind on some areas of responsibility. I have felt the weight of the world on my shoulders in recent weeks, and the burden of some hurts that just won’t go away. That makes for a tense mommy. I realized the other day that my countenance has been broody. I could not remember the last time a smile felt natural. I could not have been pleasant to look at. That bothered me, so I made a mental covenant to not let my circumstances take away my children’s pleasant mom. I committed to being peaceful despite what was going on around us.
Well, you know what happens when you make such covenants….yep….everything goes haywire. In our case it was one of the children going berserk. I had never encountered such horrible behavior in this child’s entire lifetime. Hitting, screaming, punching, kicking, scratching. It was a living nightmare. I was aghast. I was frightened. I was angry. In case you don’t know, I’m a single mother. There is not another adult for me to call on when things get out of control. Either I get it under control or we all sink. I’m kind of a small person physically, so I was not able to restrain the offender. I began to fervently pray for wisdom. This is not typical behavior in our home at all, so I was at a loss. Instantly, the passage from Proverbs came to my mind.
With scratches on my arm, I gently grabbed the child and tried to direct them to their room. I wasn’t able to. They were too strong for me. So I simply said in a surprisingly pleasant voice, “I want you to go to your bedroom and think about what you’re doing. You can come out when you are ready to behave in a way that invites the Spirit instead of chases Him away. I know you. You want to honor Heavenly Father. You want the presence of the Spirit in your life. This isn’t allowing either.” The child refused, and continued to yell and batter.
I decided this child was not going to decide the tone of our home, I was. So I left them where they were and went to my other children to continue our day. We cheerfully finished our school work, and even had a little fun together, all while this other child was having an all out terrorizing fit. No matter what came out of the child’s mouth, or what behavior ensued, I spoke with gentleness and didn’t allow the other children to berate the offender. I didn’t know how this would help, but it was the only thing I could think of to do. This was new territory for me.
At some point, and it was instantaneous, the offender broke into tears of repentance. They confessed how they disappointed and offended everyone in the home. They picked up the things they had thrown. They sat down and quietly finished their school work, and have been completely pleasant ever since. The storm was over.
Now let’s imagine that I had not just that week covenanted to remain peaceful and pleasant despite our circumstances. Let’s imagine that I allowed the bone tiredness I felt from lack of sleep, over-work, and too much on my plate to get the better of me. If I had started lecturing and maybe even shouting back at this child in frustration, would we have had the same ending? I doubt it. In fact, I think it would have brought nothing but more unrighteousness.
You see, sometimes it’s not how we instruct our children with lessons and lectures, but how we live before them that teaches them the most. I could teach kindness by handing out worksheets on what it means to be kind, or I can teach kindness just by being kind. Which do you think is more effective?
Many parents want to see their children grow up to be good people—kind, loving, disciplined, responsible. The road to getting them there is paved by how well we model those characteristics ourselves, not by how convincing our lectures are. I wish I could say the teaching of kindness is always on my tongue. It’s not, and that makes my heart weep. But, at least I know that when it is, I’ve laid the foundation for the best possible lesson.
Annmarie Worthington is a single mother of four children, who loves homeschooling her children. You can learn more about Annmarie, including her conversion to Mormonism, on her blog www.annmarieathome.blogspot.com