Most of the time, it’s not what you say but how you say it.
It’s a phrase we’ve all heard, many of us repeat, but few of us heed.
The Bible reminds us that what we speak is important, but how we speak is important, too.
We might insist on our children talking to us a certain way, but do we realize that how we talk to our children is just as important? Here are two reasons why:
We ARE the model
How we speak is how our children will speak. The words, the expressions, and the tones we use will be the words and expressions and tones they use. If we are finding that our children are speaking in a disrespectful tone, we must first evaluate how we ourselves are speaking.
If my daughter is struggling with sassiness, I must become acutely aware of my own tone of voice, especially when talking to my husband or when talking about a struggle I’m facing with others. Have I been complaining, whining, or showing disrespect?
I also have to look at how I’ve been talking to my children. Have I been sassy or sarcastic or short-tempered in response to them?
I usually find a direct correlation between the attitudes of my heart (as evidenced through my words) and what I am seeing in my children’s behavior.
Action Point: Think about how you talk to your spouse, your children, and the people around you. Would you want your children speaking the way you do?
We can ENCOURAGE or CRUSH
As we discuss the phrases we can use in directing our children, how we say them is so important.
These phrases are in no way a formula to parent “right.” These aren’t meant to lead to legalism or to be spoken in a condescending or shaming way. In the process of training and discipling our children, our own attitudes are very important.
If we have a critical spirit toward our children, our tone of voice will reflect that. Condemnation, shame, and contempt is revealed in how we speak. Our children may not be able to articulate it, but they will feel it and carry it with them.
If we want our children to be open to correction, our instruction and direction, and even our discipline, must be done in kindness and with gentleness.
I have to admit: I have struggled often to respond to my children’s misbehavior in kindness and with patience. But for the past year and a half, the Lord continues to impress on my heart James 1:19-20 and Romans 2:4:
“…Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires” (James 1:19-20).
“…God’s kindness leads you toward repentance” (Romans 2:4b).
You may have heard the popular Josh McDowell quote, “Rules without relationship leads to rebellion.”
Our “rule” with our children can only stretch as far as our relationship with them, and the same is true with these phrases. How we say these words will make all the difference in whether or not they are effective and helpful.
Let’s use these phrases to help encourage our children to do right, not to crush them in the process.
This next month, I hope these words give us a starting place and freedom and a fallback when we don’t know what to say, and I pray that these phrases will improve the way we communicate with our children — and I pray that how we say them will improve, too.
Action Point: How does your communication with your children need to change?
Remember: Most of the time, it’s not what you say but how you say it. For parents, too.
Click here to view all of the posts in this series.
Flickr Photo Credit: James Emery
Tammi D says
I am very excited about this post series. I have had problems with my sons behavior over the past two years while our family has gone through many changes. I have struggled to find ways to help him change his behavior and I think this series is coming to me at exactly the right time. To help me learn a better way to communicate so that I can in turn help my son communicate without bad behavior. Thanks for following what God has laid on your heart.
Thanks for the encouragement, Tammi! Many of these are simple but have been helpful for us. Praying you find them so, too! :)