I still remember the words of my school principal in the days when I was a young teacher just starting out. She asked, “When do people usually yell?” Even before I could answer, she said, “When they think they are not being heard and when they feel as if they are not in control.”
Those words have stayed with me for a long time – especially during the years I have taught and been principal of a believing school.
If we’re honest, most of us had parents who yelled at us when we were kids and who frequently lost their temper. While we may not have answered back in kind, especially those of us who were raised at a time when children were not permitted to talk back, many of us found ourselves inheriting that very same temper as we became adults.
Bad habits seem to pass from generation to generation, and lack of patience and a calm spirit is right up there on the top of the list. How do we as parents and educators correct our children? Do we emulate the style of our parents who may have easily flown off the handle? Do we copy the style of a rattled and hassled teacher who felt out of control and was only able to correct while shouting? Perhaps, we correct in a berating and humiliating way, because that is how it was done to us.
All of the above approaches are quite human, and we’ve all been guilty of them, but if we would think about it for a while, we’d probably all admit that this kind of correction is neither ideal nor effective. In the end, it can lead to a great deal of personal damage including loss of ego, loss of respect, feelings of rejection and even a tendency towards verbal abuse.
As believing parents and educators, we have a charge given to us by the Lord to “Train up a child in the way he should go.” Prov. 22:6
What is the proper way to train a child? If we use God’s pattern, we see, according to the scriptures, “God pities us as He knows our frame; He remembers that we are dust. Psalm 103:14. We also see that His first method of correction is to show mercy, “The goodness of God draws us to repentance.” Romans 2:4.
God tries to speak to us and correct us with gentleness, often convicting us through the loving words of a praise song or a spoken message. We may shed a tear, because we feel bad for what we’ve done or how we acted, but that tear may also be in response to what we know is God’s gentle touch, privately given, not meant to publicly humiliate or make us feel beaten down and squashed.
If that is the way we prefer to be corrected, then why do we do otherwise with our children? Do the choice of our words wound them? Do they feel crushed by the weight of our anger? Do they feel shame and rejection? If that is their prototype, will they then repeat that style of correction with their own children, spouses and even other relationships?
It may be time that we examine this issue and ask ourselves a few crucial questions:
1. When we correct our children, what is our ultimate, desired outcome?
It would probably be to influence our children to do the right thing, to use good judgment and to make the right choices. If that, indeed, is the desired outcome, are our children more likely to get there as a result of anger, frustration and badgering or will they more easily comply because they see a calm and loving parent or teacher who shows compassion, caring and regard?
2. How do we take control of our children?
To have authority means to take control. The way we do that is to set the rules, the limitations and the conditions. We make sure that all of that is understood by the child along with the consequences for breaking the rules. Yes, there must be consequences, and they must be faithfully enforced. If there is order to the way we control, then we can dole out the punishment calmly and forcefully – yet without anger. Anger is not necessary, because an understanding has been reached beforehand. There has not been a “wearing down process” where the child tests the authority of the adult to see how far they can go before they are brought into check.
Isn’t that what really gets us worked up – we take and take and take until we explode. This is allowing the child to be in control, to determine how much is too much and to relinquish the authority which rightfully belongs to the parent or teacher. At that point, it is easy to see why we feel we’re not being heard, and so the yelling begins.
3. How do we motivate our children to develop godly, strong character which they can, in turn, pass on generationally and throughout their other life relationships?
We pattern our style after God. We practice the Fruit of the Spirit understanding that patience, endurance and love yields the kind of character and spirit that we desire for our children. We pass on to them the spiritual tools which they will need to be good parents, good spouses and good friends. We are their daily example. How we speak to them and to our friends and family will be what they emulate. If we do so with patience and kindness, they, too, will develop those traits. We will set the tone for their future lives – for good or for bad.
Hebrews 12:6 says, “He corrects and disciplines those whom He loves.” God’s correction and language begins and ends with love. Ours should too!
This article originally appeared on Makor HaTikvah and is reposted with permission.