How to Hate the Harshness in Your Heart
The Spirit-Led Home: Gentleness
Many of us wake up in the morning with high hopes for ourselves. Hope that we would be gentle and kind with those around us. Hope for peace and an underlying calm emanating from within us as the day unfolds.
Unfortunately, we can quickly turn into commando moms. When the kids wake up fighting, when the breakfast is burning, when the baby is screaming, it’s hard to be in control of ourselves and not give into simply barking out orders.
In continuing our series, the Spirit-led home, we will turn our attention today to hating the harshness in our heart and instead being gentle with our neighbors.
Jesus Was Gentle to Wins Souls to Heaven, We Can Be Gentle Too.
One of the first characteristics of kingdom citizens is that she is gentle, also translated meek (Matt 5). Gentleness has the idea of “power under control”. A meek person has the power, authority or the right to be harsh but instead chooses humility.
If anyone in history was meek, it was Jesus himself. He had ultimate power and was given all authority by God the Father. He was the Son of God, the heir of all creation, the Messiah, the king. Jesus also had every right to be severe. His own people rejected His authority and instead hated, mocked, and scorned him, crucifying and inflicting cruel suffering upon Him.
Yet despite all this, Jesus walked in the steps of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness and gentleness because the goal of his earthly ministry was to win souls not to judge them. Instead of harshness, he offered hope. “Come to me all who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”[i]
Continuing Christ's Ministry of Reconciliation
We also have same ministry of reconciliation and soul-saving as our Lord. And the best opportunity we have as moms to win little souls in our home is when we live Spirit-filled gentle lives accompanied with consistent proclamation of the gospel message of truth.
But you say, “my children only stop what they are doing when I raise my voice”. This is definitely a problem. But the solution is not to yell, threaten, argue or manipulate. 1 Peter 3:4 says that “a gentle and quiet spirit is an imperishable quality that is precious in the sight of God.” Meekness is imperishable because it was given at the spiritual birth of a believer and is always available to a Christian mom. A woman of faith will use the resources that she has been given in order to obey the Lord and accomplish his purposes.
Yelling, using harsh words, manipulating, threatening, repeating oneself and/or name calling are not included in these resources. Often times when the children are small, parents may get the intended result of obedience by using these means to accomplish a perceivable greater good. Some may see that when they yell, “You better pick up that toy now or else!”, they may get their child to pick up the toy that day.
However, as a child grows older, parents begin to see the long-term effects of their harshness when they see signs of exasperation in their kids.An angry and bitter child could possibly be rooted in an angry and harsh parent. We need to look to ourselves first in these matters. We must remove the log from our own eye before we try removing the splinter from our child’s.
Tempting Ourselves to Be Harsh
It’s easy to be gentle when our children are obedient, but it becomes so much more difficult when our children are angry or disobedient, doesn’t it? So how can you discipline in gentleness?
First of all, evaluate if you are using your own means to accomplish obedience in your children. If so, you are tempting yourself to unnecessary harshness:
Repeating: how many times do you repeat a command before you give a consequence? If you are saying it more than once, you are repeating yourself. If you say it more than once, you are repeating yourself! 😊
Threatening: do you offer empty threats that you do not follow through on when your child is being disobedient. You say something like, “We are going to leave the park right now if you do not stop throwing sand,” when you have no intention of leaving the park if they do it again. A threatening parent isn’t one who leaves the park after she says she is going to. A threatening parent uses some means to try to change the behavior without actually giving consequences.
Manipulating: do you use emotional manipulation in order to stop the wrong behavior? Do you say things like, “If you love mommy, you will stop what you’re doing? Do you know how much it hurts me when you do this thing?”
Please pay attention to these patterns. I noticed that the temptation for harshness increased with each time I repeated myself, with each empty threat or with each unsuccessful manipulation. Each time they chose to ignore my commands, I was tempted for my blood to boil a little hotter. Maybe this is you too and you need to work at consistency of consequences accompanied by gentle words.
Say What You Mean and Mean What You Say
I was told as a young parent to, “say what you mean and mean what you say.” This is true. You can give an instruction with a whisper and your child will obey if he or she knows what will come as a result of disobedience.
So with that said, NEVER say things you will not follow through on with a consequence. Period. Now if you say it, then carry out the consequence no matter how much it hurts your schedule, your productivity, or your fun.
If you tell them to get in the booster seat, then you must follow through with a consequence the FIRST time they disobey. It can be the consequence of your choosing, but it must be after you have only told them once. You need not repeat yourself, argue with them, remind them of the consequence or raise your voice. You need only to gently say,
“Are you in your booster seat like I asked?”
“I’m sorry you disobeyed by not hopping into your seat. When we get to the park, you must sit with me for 5 minutes while everyone else plays. You may not play with toys or play on my phone. If you whine or complain, I will add time for you to sit.”
If you are on your way to the store you may tell them,
“Each of your siblings gets to pick out a treat today for obeying, but you may not. I am so sorry. I hope you will obey next time.”
But you may say, “The consequences I give aren’t working”. Please remember that your goal is to do what is right, not necessarily what is expedient. You may want to re-think your consequence,but if you and your husband thinks the consequence is logical and appropriate,then remember that it will be the long -term consistency and faithfulness of the parents to bring about discipline that will get your child’s attention. If this is without harshness, you will eventually bring them around to do the right thing.
Here are a few more examples,
“If you eat everything on your plate when the timer goes off, you will get a treat” (With this you don’t need to repeat yourself every 30 seconds so that you begin to feel frustrated. If your child does not finish within the set time frame, he will not get the treat. If he whines and fusses about not getting the treat, then you may give him further consequences. You can try again at the next meal).
When the toys are put back in the basket, we will have lunch. (Don’t serve lunch until the toys are put away. If the child refuses, they can have further consequences for rebellion and disobedience.)
Disciplining As Our Heavenly Father Disciplines Us
Even as adults, our heavenly Father tells us what to do and we sometimes do not obey. As our parent, He has a long-term plan to bring about change often through discipline (Hebrews 12). So as we continue to “not grow weary in doing good”, let us look to God in dependence upon the Holy Spirit as we live our lives in Christ.
Let us continue to pray in the morning when we wake up, pray with our children aloud throughout the day, let us lift up prayers of confession when we lose patience and speak harshly. Let us be consistent to pray, “Your kingdom come, Your will be done”, and not acting out in harsh speech when our children are “getting in the way” of accomplishing tasks in building our own little kingdoms.
Don’t Make Me Count to Three by Ginger Plowman
The Heart ofAnger by Lou Priolo
Instruments inthe Redeemer’s Hands by Paul David Tripp
[i] Matthew 11:28