As I stood in line in a large grocery store, I saw a young child bouncing up and down while he sorted through all of the candies at checkout, examining each item closely and putting it back in a different spot. His mother appeared to be at the end of her rope. She quickly snatched the candy and placed it back on the shelf, then she looked down at him, gritted her teeth and scolded him loudly, not caring who would hear. Her words cut across the aisles, as did the sound of the young boy’s crying in response.
I’d like to say that I can’t relate to her reaction, but honestly, I can. I think too often we see that type of sharp correction as being “serious” with our children, letting them know we mean business. As though the louder our voice, the more serious we are with our message.
Regardless of where it has taken place, I think we’ve all had moments where we reacted quickly and harshly to our children when the moment didn’t necessarily call for it. Sometimes, life’s pressures can be a lot, some days our fuses run short, and we don’t always handle smaller stresses the way we should. And, unfortunately, sometimes we as parents can end up taking out our frustrations on those we love the most.
However, seeing that tired mom’s reaction in the grocery store served as a gentle reminder to me. As parents, it can come quite naturally to teach our children to be kind and speak in a soft, respectful manner to us. But when it’s our time for correction and discipline, especially if we’re feeling frustrated, we often forget to heed God’s example for parental behavior: God, our Father, guides us with a unwaveringly firm and unceasingly loving hand. No matter what.
A soft answer turneth away wrath, He reminds us in Proverbs 15:1, and harsh words stir up anger. In this verse, we see the difference between firmly correcting and yelling at a child. It’s crucial that we show discipline as parents—pausing before reacting when possible, choosing our words and tone carefully despite our frustration. It can be so easy for us to respond quickly or react out of anger. But, our words and actions have an impact on our little ones and our relationship with them, sometimes to lasting effect. It’s so vital, then, that we choose our words carefully, guiding our children with a loving and unwaveringly firm approach instead of a hostile one that we might later regret. Maintaining the self-discipline to correct from a loving standpoint will help us better reach our children’s heart.
I most certainly believe that our role as parents gives us authority and power over our children. And in our household, that’s exactly how it is, as my husband and I are strict when it comes to our daughter and what we expect of her. It isn’t always easy, and we will certainly face struggles and conflicts as we strive to raise godly children—and to be godly parents.
As our children grow, the challenges that we face in raising them will also change. But, the promise of God’s word will not waver. Answering harshly will almost always be like adding fuel to the fire, creating more distance between our children and us. Responding in a gentle tone will keep the lines of communication open to get to the heart of the issue. Raising our children without raising our voices to unnecessary levels should be the goal. Diligently correcting them, showing them His way throughout all situations will help us get our sons and daughters where we want them to be, while also being proud of our parenting approach.
Suzanne Stamboulieh is the founder of Scarlett Gray Publishing, a Christian publishing company dedicated to producing children’s books centered on God’s Word. Suzanne is a homeschooling mom living in Mississippi with her husband, Stephen, and daughter, Scarlett. Her latest children’s book can be found here.