Mothering creates a Before & After in our kids (and in us). Today my friend Melinda shares about how mothering with kindness can transform our kids. She has just published a new book about finding your parenting style…and feeling good about it!
I knew it was going to happen.
I was at the grocery store with my son Micah. He immediately asked to push the cart.
I’ve learned that this is a tactic to get me through the store quicker. Like most men, my son is not fond of shopping. For that reason, I rarely take him with me, but occasionally it can’t be avoided.
“Micah, slow down. You’re going too fast. You’re going to run someone over.”
“I won’t! You worry too much, Mom.”
But moments later, right in the middle of the taco aisle, it happened. I stopped to pick up a jar of salsa.
And Micah (aka Dale Earnhardt, Jr.), who was coming up behind me at warp speed, didn’t allow for this sudden course diversion. I’m not sure if you’ve ever had a metal shopping cart slammed into your ankle tendon, but I don’t recommend it.
My immediate reaction was (extreme pain and) anger: “I knew it!!! I told him not to go too fast or follow too close, but he didn’t listen!” I took a deep breath and a few moments to calm down. “I know you didn’t mean to, Micah. It hurts alot, but I’m okay.”
His face softened. “I really didn’t mean to! I’m sorry!”
The rest of the shopping trip continued without incident — and at a much slower pace.
I shudder to think about how many times I’ve handled situations like this very differently. I’ve allowed my anger to rule my words. I’ve assumed that my child’s disobedience, impulsivity or immaturity was somehow a personal assault. Kindness doesn’t come naturally to me.
When I was researching kindness for this blog post, I gained a new understanding of the depth of it meaning. I’d always assumed that kindness was simply “being nice toward others.”
But kindness goes much deeper than that. One of the Bible dictionaries I read described it as “common grace.” And what is grace? Unmerited or undeserved favor.
Strong’s Bible Dictionary defines it as “sweetness of disposition, gentleness in dealing with others, benevolence, kindness, affability. The word describes the ability to act for the welfare of those taxing your patience.” (emphasis mine)
Hmmm … does that last phrase seem like it might apply to mothering?
Romans 2:4 tells us that “God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance.” And Titus 3:4-5 says, “But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy.” (emphasis mine)
Isn’t that what we want in our children when they disobey or show disrespect — a soft heart that is quick to repent?
And yet, I know, if I’m not consciously aware of it, my natural tendency is to be harsh and angry. I can be quick to inflict consequences without applying “common grace.”
I’m certainly not suggesting that we don’t give consequences and boundaries to our children. That’s why kindness and “goodness” are paired together in Galatians. They go together.
Goodness means “uprightness” or strong moral character. And we want that for our children, too. Too much tolerance and permissiveness doesn’t achieve that. But neither does a harsh, unyielding set of rules.
Showing kindness with the goal of helping to instill goodness in our children truly requires the power and wisdom of the Holy Spirit. He knows them far better than we do.
I know I need Him to help me know exactly what my child needs in each specific situation: Love? Grace? Discipline? All three? That knowledge helps me determine when, how and if consequences should be given.
When we show kindness to our children — with the goal of goodness in mind — we disarm our child’s defensiveness. Kindness makes them much more likely to look at their own actions. Instead of blame or make excuses.
Kindness communicates love. It says, “I love you and am going to act in your best interest in spite of your actions.”
And it opens the door for the Holy Spirit to work to soften their hearts.
In Micah’s case, I just hope He can keep up.
Melinda is mother to a strapping teenage son and a beautiful and entertaining teenage daughter. She has written for Focus on the Family, CBN.com, In Touch and Lifeway’s Journey.
Melinda and her blogging partner Kathy Helgemo are co-authors of the new book Mothering From Scratch: Finding the Best Parenting Style for You and Your Family, (Bethany House, 2015), available on Amazon, BarnesandNoble.com and ChristianBook.com, as well as bookstores nationwide. They blog together over at Mothering from Scratch.