I haven’t been a parent for very long. In fact, my daughter will be two in November; so I still consider myself a new parent. During my time with my daughter, I have learned a lot about what it means to be a parent. Being a parent has more responsibilities that others don’t normally think of. Sure, there are the normal parent responsibilites of feeding your child, making sure they don’t get hurt, getting them to bed on time, etc. But the hidden responsibilities are often times the hardest ones.
The responsibilities I am talking about are raising your child to be respectful, gentle but strong, and using kind words. Often times these seem like they are daunting tasks and during my two years with my daughter, I have learned a huge lesson and that lesson has to do with my words.
Every parent will tell you to be careful with what words you say in front of your child but it is more than just cussing or using inappropriate language. It is the tone you use and the way we speak to our children in times of discipline. It even comes down to the conversations and tone when speaking with your spouse. These tones are things our children notice.
I’ve noticed, lately, that my daughter is not only copying the words I say but the tone in my voice and the attitude I have. Her attitude towards my husband and me has become a mirror of how I act towards her and my husband.
During moments of discipline, my tone towards my daughter is important. Often times, my tone slips from being a firm but gentle discipline to a harsh raised tone that often teeters towards yelling. So what are good tones to take with our children?
I am no expert. However, these are the tips I have learned with my daughter:
- Keep a gentle but firm tone- No parent wants their child to learn that it is okay to walk all over their parents so it is crucial to be firm in our direction. I don’t like disciplining my daughter (who does right?), but often times I struggle with being too firm or being too soft. Being too soft does not tell your child that what they are doing is wrong. They often believe they can get away with what they are doing because their parent (or guardian) is not serious in the command that has been given. So make sure to be that gentle but firm disciplinary.
- Yelling is a mistake- Yelling at a child and not staying calm can lead into a fearful child and/ or teach your child bad habits when it comes to communicating with others. I am not perfect and have definitely messed up in this area. I have lost my cool in stressful situations and instead of staying calm, I’ve yelled at my daughter. In return, I’ve noticed a tone in my daughter’s voice when she does not agree with me. When I tell her no or to put something away, her voice raises and there have been moments where she has tried to yell at me. Obviously the words are incoherent for a two year old who is still learning, but the tone she has learned is a dangerous one. It is instilling anger within my child instead of discipline. In those moments of frustration, stress and anxiety, we need to take a deep breath and calm myself before disciplining my child.
I want to raise a young woman who is strong but gentle. A young woman whose words are mighty like a rock but don’t tear others down. Part of being that young woman is using your words and your tone in a firm but gentle manner. It is better to instill those skills when our children are younger than to fight for them when our children are older. This is true for both young women and young men. We want to raise our sons to treat others with respect (men and women) and part of showing respect is being gentle with their words and their tone.
Ephesians 6:4 says, “do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.” NIV This verse talks about how we shouldn’t exasperate our children but what does exasperate mean? The Miriam-Webster Dictionary defines exasperate as three things.
a. to cause irritation or annoyance
b. to excite the anger of
c. roughened with irregular prickles
The definition that catches my attention the most is the “roughened with irregular prickles”. When we exasperate our children with anger or irritate them, we are causing them to become rough in an irregular way. There is a difference between being strong and being rough in our heart. I think of making my daughter “rough” and that is not what I desire for my little girl. In order to avoid her growing a rough and hardened heart, I need to show her how to be firm and gentle with my words and tone.
I want to encourage all the parents out there who are reading this. Strive, in those moments of discipline, to be firm but gentle with your words. Instill in your child discipline but do it so that they remain gentle and not rough in their hearts. When you mess up (because we all do), talk with your child. Whether they are old enough to understand or not, talk with them about how you lost your cool and that wasn’t the right thing to do. Tell them that your tone and anger is never acceptable and that we all mess up but the important thing to do is try to be gentle again. Showing them that we all mess up is, yet, another way to teach our children important values.
More verses to keep in mind:
“The words of the reckless pierce like swords, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.” Proverbs 12:18
“A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” Proverbs 15:1