The Lessons We Teach
"In your anger do not sin." Ephesians 4:26a (NIV)
"You're worthless!" he shouted. "Why didn't you check under your seat?"
"I'm sorry, Dad," the boy said quietly, his face red with embarrassment. "You said we would miss our plane. I left it behind because I was rushing. I apologized, but there's nothing I can do now. What do you want me to say?"
"Stop shouting at me!" the father screamed.
I felt trapped in the tram. A teen stood, angry and quiet while a father raged. What could have happened that made this father so mad?
Those of us who were witnesses to this scene looked away, or wished that the doors would open so we could get away. I wanted to say something, and maybe I should have. I was afraid I would only make it worse, but my heart hurt as I observed this scene.
The teen had left a hat and sunglasses under the seat. Maybe they were valuable. Maybe the dad's nerves were frayed because of a missed connection, or circumstances that I didn't understand. But all I could see was a relationship, something of great value, unraveling over a hat and sunglasses.
It's not fun when a child is irresponsible, or when you have to pay for items only to have a child lose them. But I wonder if the father was missing a real opportunity to teach his son a lesson? Not to show him that he was lazy or irresponsible, but a lesson in what to do when you make a mistake.
The boy could simply replace the items with his own money, or perhaps do a few extra chores when they got home. But it became personal instead with words like "you're worthless" that mark the heart of a child.
And the lessons that were taught? How to lose control. How to shout unkind words. Saying one thing while you do another. The lesson that if you mess up and you apologize, it's not enough. That you are worthless compared to the loss of a material item. Parenting is hard, especially in stressful situations. All of us have experienced that moment when we lost it, and regretted it deeply. I know that I have.
But how can we learn from it? Will we step back and reevaluate our response and actions, or lash out and mark our children with words and actions that we can't take back? Will we teach them out of anger, or pause and ask God for help to show them how to meet life's challenges head on with consistency and calm?
What lessons will we teach?
Dear Lord, You are so patient with me. I make mistakes. I fail. And yet You continue to love me, to teach me, and to show me how to grow. Help me teach my own children in the same way. In Jesus' Name, Amen.
Rather than react in the moment, pause and prepare.
- Pray for your children daily.
- Actions speak louder than words.
- Use words that lead to positive action, rather than condemnation.
- See your child as a work in progress. Show them what to do.
- Encourage your child. Catch them doing something right.
Sometimes the poorest man leaves his children the richest inheritance. — Ruth E. Renkel
Matthew 19:14,"But Jesus said, 'Let the children come to me. Don't stop them! For the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to those who are like these children.'" (NLT)
Psalm 4:4, "In your anger do not sin; when you are on your beds, search your hearts and be silent. Selah." (NIV)