I am a classic over-explainer.
I have lots of words, am quick-witted and sometimes use way too many when I’m trying to communicate with my children. So I’m working on using less words when I’m explaining something and give them a chance to get it right on their own.
But even more important than the words I use when trying to give directions is what I say when I’m having to correct them. That’s where the real challenge begins for me.
As all moms can attest to, it’s all too easy to fall into using our words to:
and even manipulate our kids into doing what we’d like. Even when we really mean to:
and love. I find it terribly inviting to do exactly the opposite of what I have set in my mind to do because in the moment the temptation to pull from the list that would discourage is strong because I want to discourage the behavior that’s causing me to have to stop and correct them.
How do we encourage them while discouraging the poor choice? And what if you’re having the same conversation day after day to discourage the same behavior for years on end? This is the dilemma.
I can easily speak with grace and kindness when it’s a new business they’ve gotten themselves into. I mean usually.
But the habitual sin? That’s so much harder. Is it for you?
Jesus telling us to forgive seventy times seven pops into my head SO often. His words haunt me.
In Matthew 18:21-35, Jesus is speaking to his disciple Peter, and Peter asks how many times one should forgive someone who has sinned against him. Jesus tells him to forgive seventy-seven times (or seventy times seven), not just a few times like was taught in Jewish tradition.
Jesus wasn’t trying to name an exact number of times one should forgive, he was trying to throw an absurd number out to get to the point: we are to forgive an infinite number of times. We need to stop counting.
He then launches into the parable of the unforgiving servant. It gets me every time.
(Watch this version with your kids!)
In the parable, the servant owed the king more than he could ever repay in a lifetime but was completely forgiven the debt he owed the king because he had pity on him. A true miracle.
Even though he was forgiven his enormous debt and should have been falling over himself in gratitude, he went right out and demanded a fellow servant repay him what he was owed.
The nerve. Right?
The king gets word of what happened and sends the unmerciful servant to be tortured until he can repay his original debt.
Then Jesus said, “So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.”
Our hearts don’t forgive with just our words or just our actions. Both have to be mirroring true forgiveness.
Yes, I can forgive my kids. I really can. But how do I talk to them about it? How are my words and tone speaking forgiveness? Do they match?
What does forgiveness look like to my kids? What am I teaching them about God? Does forgiveness look like a mama with gritted teeth who offers harsh words and icy cold stares? or does forgiveness look like love?
How do we show love and kindness with our words, tone, and body language when we feel anything but that at that moment?
I’m finding I can do this if I use less words and keep the goals of relationship, forgiveness, and guidance in the forefront of my mind. Even in the moment. Even if it means they need to stand there for a minute, or I need to step away for a bit for me to get to this good place.
A plea in the form of a prayer is usually the catalyst.
I can give them the consequence they already know all about with less words. I don’t need to lecture because the chances are we’ve already been down this path. Maybe a hundred times.
I can speak in love and forgiveness because it’s truly what I want and what’s best for guiding them and keeping our relationship intact.
Less words. It’s definitely not my strong suit to convey a message with little words. But I find that when I let too many words loose, they turn into words that bite. Part of my frustration comes when I’m having to explain it all again. Don’t. Just don’t. Let the consequence speak for you.
Unless of course there are special needs at play here. Trust me, I’m right there with you. But sometimes even then, they already know.
So I’m learning to keep it brief, keep it kind, and send them off to complete their consequence with a heartfelt hug.
It’s in those times we remember how much we’ve been forgiven (everything) that we can offer the same to others.
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