*Forewarning, I am not proud of my actions that lead to the writing of this post. Many times I need more Radical in my life too.
My daughter is crazy cute. As in, other parents look at their own kids disapprovingly because they aren’t as cute as Berkley. I guess there is the chance I’m just a really proud dad, but I’m willing to venture that she is the cutest kid who has ever lived. She is a little 23-month-old bundle of oddly worded sentences, gibberish requests and oatmeal faces. She says things daily that stop my heart for a second of pure joy.
Berkley is also a living, breathing, gorgeous tornado. She can destroy any room in a matter of nanoseconds. Tsunami Berkley is one of the more frustrating aspects of parenting a toddler. Recently I had just gotten the house all picked up, to surprise my wife, when I walk in the living room to see 3 puzzles on the ground, Minnie Mouse on the mantle (that one is actually pretty impressive), and a whole bag full of building blocks placed precariously like mines throughout the living room, just waiting for me to step on one with disastrous results. Immediately I huffed in exasperation and turned to my beautiful little girl and said “Berkley! Seriously? I just got this all cleaned up?” I would venture to guess that my voice was higher than a normal decibel (revisionist history…I may have “raised my voice”).
Immediately crocodile tears began to creep out of my daughter’s beautiful blue eyes. I was instantly hit with pangs of regret. Why? Was a spotless house that important to me? Did I need to yell at my toddler, who honestly had no idea what she was doing? In that moment I was reminded about a text I got from a friend the other day. It said, “I wonder how many problems with kids could be averted by using humor and hugs instead of raising your voice.”
Am I saying that as a parent, there will never be a situation where you should raise your voice? No. But my friend’s question has eaten at my since I received it. What kind of impact could we have on our kids if, instead of yelling at them when we get frustrated/angry, we kept control of our emotions and have a real discussion with them. Terse words infuse undue anger and frustration into situations that are already frustrating. When we use the volume of our voice to assert our authority as parents we immediately begin the process of burning the bridge of conversation with our teenagers.
We are told in scripture to be “slow to speak and slow to become angry.” That verse doesn’t say “be slow to speak and slow to become angry, unless your teenager has really done something colossally dumb. If their decision is completely off of the moron meter, then yell away.” I am not saying that all discipline needs to be lollipops, rose petals, music from the 60’s, and non-punishment. But, there has to be a point where we don’t rely on our volume to show that we mean business.
We as parents rarely realize the profound impact our words have on our teenagers, and we are even less likely to think about the impact of the way that we say things. We’ve all heard the saying “it’s not what you said, but how you said it.” This saying is true with teenagers. Sometimes our words mean less than the tone we take. Is it firm but caring? Is it loud and derogatory? Is it so carefree that our kids don’t understand that we mean business?
Are there times where our voices should be raised? Absolutely. I can come up with many scenarios where that would be the appropriate response. However, more often than not we are raising our voice because we’re just plain mad. When we parent out of anger we tend to say things we don’t mean and insinuate things we don’t actually say. So, I have a challenge for you. Make a Radical decision the next time you have conflict with your kid, or even with your spouse, to take a deep breath and ask the Lord to calm your emotions. Then see if that conflict plays out differently than the other conflicts that you have had. It may seem Radical to parent from love and grace, but we need to remember that Jesus is kind enough to us broken, sinful people who sometimes make moronic decisions, to speak kindly, be slow to anger, and err on the side of grace. If he can do that with me, I can definitely do it with my kids.