Have you ever just been hanging out with another mom friend, and they say something so profound amidst their mom duties that it just sticks to your own heart and mind? And then you find yourself employing those words in your own parenting? I’d like to share my two favorite times that this has happened to me.
The first time was with my dear mother-in-law, before I had children. It was a casual scenario where the family was raising a new kitten and training it not to bite or use claws while playing. One family member said “be nice” after being hooked with a claw, but my mother-in-law said “be kind” after getting her toes nibbled on, going on to say “‘be nice’ is not in the Bible”. The difference might be trivial to some, but it really stuck with me. Sure, I still say “be nice” or “you aren’t playing nicely” to my children, but I do make a conscience effort to say “be kind”.
Why does this distinction matter? Well, as I see it, “be nice” only speaks to the outward actions. A child can play nicely upon being reprimanded to do so after being caught in a squabble with a friend or sibling, but they can still be bitter with that person. In contrast, as my husband and I have learned in some parenting classes at our church, kindness is a direct heart attitude and response. I realize that simply saying “be kind” will often still only yield the outward change in a child who’s quarreling with another, but it still acts as a constant reminder. If you are teaching Biblical attributes to your children at home, giving them the proper tools to implement Godly heart responses, that “be kind” will serve as a reminder to them that there is a better way to handle conflict. And that in those moments, it’s not just their parents that expect true kindness to spill out, but as they learn and grow they will better realize and understand that God expects kindness too. Make an impression on their hearts while they are young, and you have the building blocks to nurture them into Godly adults.
The second time that another mom’s words sunk deep into my heart, was actually during a playdate with our dear admin Challice. Years ago, when our kids were playing outside, Challice’s oldest son did something that, while helpful, was outside the parameters of a directive that Mom had given him. Challice responded to his actions by saying “I desire obedience above helpfulness”. My have those words stuck with me! I have pondered them often, and have used them with my own children.
An example for this phrase is, one time when I called my kids to the table for dinner, my oldest son ignored me and instead went and grabbed my youngest son’s hands in order to lead him to the table, obviously thinking he’d get points for doing something helpful. I certainly did appreciate the selfless act of doing something helpful, but the issue was that he disobeyed by ignoring my instruction and doing something different. However, if he had “appealed” and offered to go get little brother for me, then he would have been both obedient and helpful. Am I overly strict with my expectations of this mindset? No, not necessarily, but again it goes back to the heart attitude of my children. Do we want compliant robots? No. Obedience is bigger than listening to Mom and Dad. While they are young, children are to follow the directions, commands, and instructions of their parents so that when they are adults they have the right heart attitude and training to then follow and obey God.
So, as you go about your crazy busy mom-life, take a minute to ponder those learning moments you have with your friends or family. Why does it speak to you, and how can you apply it to your parenting style, or even how you view yourself as a parent? Are there any nuggets of wisdom you’ve received over the years that you care to share?