I wasn't planning to write about this tonight, but as I discussed it with my husband over dinner K chirped, "Are you gonna put that on the blog, Mama?"
Once I got over the fact that my daughter is now offering editorial input, I asked if she thought I should.
"Definitely!" she replied.
So here you have it...content an 8 year old requested. :-)
I have been feeling increasingly convicted about the tone of voice I use with my children. Bothered by an unnecessary sharpness/bossiness in their tone, I realized I'm the source of this negative influence. I don't use words that insult or demean, but the way I convey my point likely does. It is not what I am saying, but how.
I have cringed at my own echo in my head while barking an order, correcting a mistake or expressing disapproval for an action/inaction. Simply put, when I paused long enough to think how I'd feel if someone who professed to love me spoke to me in the tone I sometimes use, I was humbled and embarrassed.
It's not hard to trace how it got to this point. When the babies were toddlers and unable to fully comprehend language or the rules of the world around them, tone was a great helper in my communication. A stern "No, Ma'am" or "No, Sir" was quite effective to correct behavior. Let's face it, when tired, frustrated, overwhelmed or outnumbered, it can be hard to breathe in, slow down and control the tongue.
I am no longer raising toddlers. Instead I am called to model godly living to a gaggle of bright 8 year olds. Their grasp of the English language and the world at large is exponentially greater than when I adopted tone as my primary tool for correction. They think, converse and reason. I have many other tools for discipline and instruction these days and they are more centered on their hearts.
While there is still a time and place for me to use my voice to drive home a point, it certainly doesn't need to continue as my default position. It's efficacy is diminished by overuse. People become defensive. We all wind up feeling badly. But despite my conviction, tone of voice is an old habit that dies hard.
This morning our pastor was preaching about sin and the human propensity to get stuck on behavior modification /morality and miss the root cause. It is a theory I have adopted in parenting--shepherding the heart--treating the disease not just the symptoms. But, when it comes to the world around me, I so often just want people to straighten up and act right! Keep their promises...Think about the implications their actions have on others....Stop being so self serving... Be kind and self controlled. (Even in my head as I type, my sharp, bossy, exasperated tone has taken over.)
I forget sometimes that these truths often transfer from parenting to marriage to friendship and the way we relate to the world. God's design for living applies to all of it. He commands us to love one another.
And just as my unloving tone towards folks I profess to adore within my home gives me pause, I can't help but wonder if this isn't a stumbling block for the non-Christian world at large. Have Christians unintentionally forgotten our tone? In our fear, overwhelm and exhaustion have we become bossy, disapproving and demanding in places where we should be speaking in love, joy, peace, kindness and goodness with gentleness and self control? Have we become so consumed with eradicating symptoms that we've forgotten it is the broader problem of sin in the world we truly oppose?
I don't intend to paint this with too broad a brush. I am not a theologian. I am just a Mama trying to love her family and glorify her God. For better of for worse, these thoughts gave me pause tonight (and my 8 year olds liked them too.)
As we were doing nightly tuck ins after this dinner conversation, P prayed:
"Dear God, will you please help me and Mom have more love in our voice?"
I echo his prayer.