I remember making this mental note before I got married: I want to speak more kindly to my husband than I do my dog.
Seems like a small thing, right? Except that it isn’t. Because if you’re like me, you may know several couples who speak much more kindly to their dog. Or cat. Or friend. This one has been easy for me with my husband, thankfully, but lately I’ve realized that I HATE the way I talk to my kids sometimes.
With one kid, it was easier. Especially when that one kid didn’t talk back. Now I have four and three out of that four can yell, “NO!” with vehemence, or try to argue their way out of things, or just be sassy. And it is so easy for me to talk in a tone of voice that is SO far from a tone that expresses how I really feel about my children.
Which is to say: I need a change.
I’m writing this post for me, but I hope also for some of you out there who may need a change. Maybe you’re yelling. Or just not being kind. Or finding yourself too easily frustrated or saying unhelpful things to your kids like, “What were you thinking?!” (<- I’m learning that is one of the least productive things you can ask your kids, by the way.)
So here is a list of helpful hints for me and for you, but really it’s FOR OUR CHILDREN. This idea of speaking life is really for them.
5 Ways to Speak Life to Your Children
1.Take a Break. Sometimes we think that a re-start or a reset works best when you start a new week/month/season/semester. But it can happen in the moment in the middle of a day. It may take more mental action from us, but it can happen. Writing this post is a break for me where I am examining myself and thinking of changes I want to make. But I can also take many tiny breaks throughout the day where I stop and ask myself, Am I speaking life to my children? Whether it’s a large or small break, when you find that you are no longer speaking life to your children, you need a reset.
2. Pray for Your Children. I just read the book Praying Circles Around Your Children by Mark Batterson this morning and it blew my mind. I love this quote:
You don’t have to do everything right as a parent, but there is one thing you cannot afford to get wrong. That one thing is prayer. You’ll never be a perfect parent, but you can be a praying parent…Prayer turns ordinary parents into prophets who shape the destinies of their children, grandchildren, and every generation that follows. (p11)
I would definitely recommend this book, which is so quick of a read that I finished almost the whole thing while eating my eggs this morning, standing at the kitchen counter. Encouraging, accessible, and short. If we are struggling to speak life TO them, we can start by speaking life ABOUT them in prayer.
3. Pray Scripture Over Them. Though I like to write, I don’t always have words. Prayer is my weakest spot and sometimes I just don’t feel that I have the words. Praying out loud helps me, for some reason, though it’s also terribly awkward sometimes, but praying Scriptures is also a help because it gives you words. GOD’S words. Any verse can be turned into a prayer. A mentor mom in my MOPs (Mothers of Preschoolers) group gave us a handout this past week with a printed idea of prayer. Here is the example it gave:
May the God of hope fill ________ with all joy and peace as s/he trusts in you, so that _______ may overflow with hope by the power of your Holy Spirit. (Romans 15:13)
Find a verse that embodies the prayer you want to pray for your children right now and turn it into a prayer. Pray it in front of your children and in those quiet moments you may (or may not) get. Pray in your head when they are talking back or being particularly trying. Speaking life can come from praying life and speaking God’s words over your children.
4. Listen to Yourself. This one is really hard, but try throughout the coming days to really listen to the way you are interacting with your kids. How would you describe your tone? Your words? How would your kids describe it? (Consider asking them…if you dare.) When we had a house full of guests the other week, I realized that I talked so much more patiently with other people around. I wasn’t necessarily trying to impress the guests or fake it, but that kind of talk came more naturally when I had to consider my words more. Even without consciously thinking about it, my words were softer and gentler. I had more patience. I actually heard and noticed the difference in my voice and that made me listen harder when our guests were gone. If you can think to listen to yourself, this may help you identify the times when you are speaking life and the times when you struggling.
5. Play with Your Kids. Last night before bed, Rob and I put on that chicken song that they play at all the weddings and we did the chicken dance with our kids. (You know the one where you do motions? If not, find it HERE.) It was silly. It was short. But it made a huge impact on our bedtime. For those silly moments dancing around our family room, I stopped having to be the Parent. (Yes, I did still have to break up several fights and correct my kids during even that five-minute time.)
So much of the time I think my speaking comes from that place of needing to Get Things Done. I need to make dinner. Pick up the house. Get everyone out the door, preferably on time. These responsibilities force me to be more of a task-master and to put on that adult Parent voice, the one I thought I’d never have. We DO have to get things done. But we can also take off that hat sometimes and play with our kids. Being silly and playing takes me to another place altogether. Different words come out of my mouth and different tones. And even though bedtime was STILL hard after that silly time, my patience level was different. The way I spoke to my kids was different. Sometimes we need to PLAY.
The effect of speaking life over my children is a light in their eyes. A joy. It does not make parenting easier or take away the struggles of a strong will or a natural inclination to be selfish. But it takes shame out of the equation, because I think so much of how I speak when I am not focused on speaking life brings shame. It gives them freedom and secures them in my love. It has a positive impact on how they see themselves, their world, and ME.
So this is where I am at in the daily chaos. How about you? Are you speaking life to your kids or is this a struggle for you as well? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments and how you battle with your own words in your home!