Mid-morning light spills through the kitchen window as I stand at the sink washing dishes.
“Mom, Caleb just punched me!” 3-year-old Aiden calls from the living room.
“He took the remote right out of my hands!” Caleb contends.
“I saw the whole thing happen,” their big sister interjects. “It was totally Caleb’s fault. He started the whole thing.”
“Mind your own business!” Caleb barks as he charges toward his sister with his fist in the air.
It takes every ounce of restraint I can muster, but I manage not to get sucked into the yelling match happening in front of me.
Taking a deep breath, I dry my hands, walk into the living room, and calmly say, “We treat one another with kindness and respect in this house. There will be no more television until each of you can demonstrate kindness and respect to one another.”
I’m not sure why I expect my speech to work. It seems to create the opposite effect of what I hope for. The yelling intensifies. The boys are suddenly rolling on the floor in a wrestling match, and their big sister storms upstairs to her room mumbling about how none of this is her fault, but she always gets punished anyway.
I check the clock. It’s 9:30 a.m. This is going to be a long day.
Five hours later, I’ve broken up at least 10 additional squabbles. The children have “lost” and “earned back” the television no less than six times. It’s finally quiet time, and after tucking little Aiden into his bed, we all retreat to our bedrooms for some much-needed solitude.
Leaning my head back against the headboard, I mutter a prayer that goes something like this . . .
God, I’m quite certain none of my words are reaching my kids’ hearts. Help me be the mom they need me to be.
Maybe you can relate. You’ve told your children to be kind to each other no less than 1,500 times in the past two years. Nonetheless, they can’t be together longer than seven seconds without arguing.
Perhaps you’ve been trying to teach your little ones to clean up after themselves or stop complaining. Sadly, they seem to be getting messier rather than neater, and they complain every time you cook meatloaf or ask them to brush their teeth.
You wonder if your words will ever sink in and make a difference in their lives.
I’m wrestling with this precise thought as I sit on my bed and sort through my frustration. I don’t come to any helpful conclusions and decide to shift gears and spend the quiet hour of the day working on my latest writing project.
Today’s project is editing a manuscript I’ve been working on with my 11-year-old daughter Bekah. A few months ago, she asked me to write a mother-daughter devotional book with her, and I jumped at the chance to write alongside my girl. We’ve been writing devotions together every few days, and the experience has been deeply bonding for us.
Opening my computer, I see that Bekah has finished writing the most recent devotion we were working on.
It’s about resisting the urge to have the last word in arguments.
It seems like a fitting topic considering the kind of day we’re having. I can’t help but smile as I read Bekah’s thoughts about bickering with her brother. She describes losing her patience, and then she writes the following words:
“You might feel annoyed by someone in your family at times too. Remember this: Competing to have the last word will only create stress and chaos. Sometimes, the best thing to do is smile and walk away. Like my mom often says, ‘It’s better to be kind to each other than to prove that you’re right.’”
Gratitude wells up within my heart as I read her words.
Maybe some of my words are sinking in after all.
Several months after the frustrating Saturday of bickering, Bekah and I excitedly published our mother-daughter devotional book.
Recently, a friend called me and said, “Do you know what I love most about this book? I love how often Bekah quotes your words. It reminds me that our kids are absorbing more of our words than we often realize.”
I immediately realized my friend was right. It doesn’t often feel like our kids hear the words we speak. But they are listening. They might not always respond the way we hope they will respond, but our words are not lost.
Let’s not lose heart, weary mamas. Let’s keep encouraging, teaching, and directing our little ones. Our words are sinking in more than we realize, and we are impacting our children’s lives in profound ways.