So what do we say to our children; we who certainly lack perfection; we who become weary; we who are quickly frustrated; we who battle with selfishness; we who never experience days of complete contentment with everything and everyone around us? What do we say to them when we say goodbye for a short time? What do we say when we put them to bed? What do we say when they lie to us? What do we say when they do something wrong, or irresponsible, or irritating, or whatever? What do we say to them when we are bored with them, or tired of them, or do not know what to do with them?
Peggy Noonan, former President Reagan’s speech writer and a contributing editor of the Wall Street Journal, reminded us of a particularly poignant lesson that she learned post 9/11.
Ms. Noonan was awed by the messages emanating from phone calls or left on answering machines for those not at home. These calls and messages came from people about to die, and were sent to their loved ones. Many others had no opportunity to make that “last call, or say those final words. Noonan was struck, however, by the substance of the calls and messages that got through. What she wrote was, “Life was reduced to its essentials. Time was short. People said what counted, what mattered…there is no record of anyone calling to say, ‘I never liked you,’ or, ‘You hurt my feelings.’ Amazingly—or not—there is no record of anyone damning the terrorists or saying ‘I hate them.’ Essentially, the messages were what Noonan entitled her editorial, “I Just Called to Say I Love You.
Her excellent point was that, “Crisis is a great editor. No one said anything unneeded, extraneous or small.
James tells us with fearful precision, “The tongue is a fire; a world of evil among the parts of the body…No man can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. (James 3:6,8) The tongue can do inestimable damage. Coupled with the amazing recall of the mind, words spoken years before can be remembered over and over, and in some cases, never forgotten. Have we considered who it is that are the recipients of our words? As parents we have responsibility for immortal beings, our children. When considered in its full context this is an amazing thought, too difficult to fully comprehend. Nevertheless, it is true.
What we say to our children must convince them of our love and care for them! It must set an example for them of what they say to one another, to others, and back to us. It is a great responsibility, is it not? Are we really up to the task? I am convinced that it begins with our having an awe of God. Something must seriously get our attention, and nothing does it better than being awed with the God who is, and who is our God! Second, is the view we have of ourselves, a sinner saved by grace. We are not perfect, even when redeemed. We will sin. And we will sin in our parenting. Third, is the view we have of our children, immortal beings for whom we are stewards; stewards who will have to give account for our parenting of them. Finally, we must consider the promises which God gives to parents concerning the upbringing of their children.
Your words to your children must be timely and consistent. Timeliness and consistency requires discipline. Weariness, without the energy from the Holy Spirit to fortify you, is a sure killer of discipline. Children should learn not to interrupt, but they must be heard and listened to with some timeliness. Patience must be taught, but we all know that patience comes only with maturity, so we must not push their patience beyond their years.
What we say to our children must be consistent with the principle that our “yes means “yes, and our “no means “no! When that is not the case, children will quickly understand that your “no does not always mean “no. Then they will figure out how to change your “no to “yes. Crying, whining, temper tantrums, ignoring you, are all methods that children rapidly learn to get their way. If that works for them consistently, they will soon be uncontrollable. When parents do that, they are not expressing love to their child. Rather, giving your child whatever he or she selfishly wants, but does not need, expresses hate.
The Bible promises in Proverbs, “Raise up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it. ( Proverbs 22:6) Charles Swindoll once wrote that this speaks to a parent who through careful and prayerful observation figures out the particular “bent of their child; that is, his or her calling, God-given gifts and abilities, to pursue a specific vocation in life. Then the parent encourages that calling and “bent, consistent with the principles of godliness, to the end that when that child is old, he or she will not depart from it. What you say to your child should be an encouragement to live a godly life consistent with how God has made him or her. Do not seek to live out your life and calling through your child, if that is not his or her “bent.
Finally, what you say to your child should not bring you any regret if either you or your child will possibly stand before God in heaven that day. None of us knows “that day. Consequently, we must always keep before our eyes that possibility. What you say is important, vitally important. Words have meaning, and they leave their mark. Speak words that count for eternity in their lives in a good and godly way. Stand in awe of God and remember His compassion. When you fail, go to Him again. He never fails to restore those who consistently seek Him.
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