“Children won’t listen to your advice – they will follow your example.”
I’ve heard this before and when I hear this, I feel like it perfectly applies to my healthy lifestyle that I try to follow most days.
But what about when it comes to what I say?
The words that come out of my mouth can be uplifting or destructive.
And lately, I’m embarrassed to admit which one they have been.
One of my small groups is currently discussing the book of James and this past week we talked about taming our tongues.
James 3:9-12 “With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be. Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? My brothers and sisters, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.”
The phrases out of my mouth lately have started with:
Those just shout “encouragement”, don’t they?
My little three year old picks up on every single thing I do and say. So it should come as no surprise that this is what has come out of HER mouth this week:
“MOM – STOP SHOUTING AT ME”
“Mom – I heard you the first time. You don’t have to say it 8 times”
“Emerson, it’s hard being a one year old sometimes, isn’t it?!”
“You just worry about yourself and I’ll worry about myself.”
“We’re doing Emerson and Ainsley stuff over here while you have your quiet time. You didn’t have enough quiet time yet so you need some more.”
Sometimes when toddlers talk, it’s hilarious. Sometimes, it’s eye-opening.
They are brutally honest. They have no filter. They say what they think and they truly believe what they say. So while I laughed about some of the things she said above, some of them made me want to cry.
I started to shut down and realize exactly where she picked up those phrases.
The tone she uses, the phrases she says, the thoughts she has – they’re coming from me.
I have to be on my guard every single day. Every single hour. Every single word out of my mouth needs to be guarded.
I can’t sing worship songs in the car with her one minute and then snap and shout at her the next.
How can I expect her to say her prayers in bed at night and ask God to help her make better choices when I am not willing to change myself?
We cannot both praise the Father with our words and then turn around and scream and shout at our children.
When I want her to follow my example, it needs to be in everything I do.
The outward flow from my mouth is a reflection of the condition of my heart and right now it has not been pretty. It’s not a beautiful, perfect, red shaped pretty heart. It is blackened, cracked and fragmented. I’m not giving God, Brad or my children my best thoughts and words.
It’s not something that I can easily change overnight and it is something that I will never be perfect with, but it is something I can pray about. I can ask for help and patience (eek) and support through this situation.
You see, our children will learn from someone. Yes, we all have innate behaviors that we are born with. Disobedience is already being displayed hourly in our 18-month old. But so much of what we do is learned behavior as well.
So if I want them to be positive women that care for others, I have to show that too.
If I want them to eat vegetables, I have to eat them too. I can’t expect them to chow down on greens if all I ever eat are brownies or ice cream.
If I desire for them to have a healthy outlook when it comes to their body image, I have to model that for them, too. If all my girls see is me yelling at the scale or throwing everything around in my closet because nothing fits, they will follow suit.
If I want them to use their words to praise and encourage others, I need to do the same.
If my girls will become women who share Christ’s love with others and care for the orphans and widows of this world, I need to walk the walk AND talk the talk. It can’t just be one or the other.
The phrases I want to continue to hear from Ainsley include:
“Look at those BEAUTIFUL pink trees!”
“Mommy, I love you!”
“I like your ______” (fill in the blank with necklace, earrings, shirt, shoes, dress, etc – this girl is good at dishing out the compliments!)
“This food is DE-LISH-OUS. Thank you for making it, Mommy!”
It’s not all bad – don’t get me wrong. But there is plenty of work for me to do while their little eyes are watching and their little ears are listening. So I will continue to focus on praising the good and disciplining the bad choices with a HAPPY heart.
One of our mentors said they always told their children they wanted them to be obedient – not compliant. They used the phrase to listen and obey “right away, ALL the way, and with a happy heart”. I’ve been using it with Ainsley for a few weeks now and I’m surprised she hasn’t snapped back at me that I need to have a happy heart too. It’s time, though, and I am ready to start applying this truth to my life as well!
If you don’t intentionally pour into your children and set an example, someone else will, and it may not be an example you wish for them to follow.
What do you find yourself doing to tame your tongue in front of your children?