“Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.” WRONG. Words do hurt! I hurt one of my sons yesterday when I judged him.
My two older boys were at their dad’s office on Thursday. I assigned them to finish a couple of pages for math and language. But when I checked my five year old’s work the next day, it looked like he didn’t do the language work I asked him to. (But it was I who forgot what I assigned to him.)
Thinking that he had not done it, I said with a disappointed and accusatory tone, “Why didn’t you do your work?”
“I did, mom.” he replied.
“I don’t think so, it doesn’t look like it. You must have done something else.”
He tried to defend himself again, but I kind of dismissed it and said something like, “It’s fine, just do these pages,” pointing to some spelling and writing exercises. My older son, who had heard our dialogue, commented, “Mom, he did his work. I saw him.”
I turned back to pay attention to my five year old who was hunched over his book. He was writing something on the top page of his spelling list that read, “Mommy did not b…”
“What are you writing?” I asked him, looking over his shoulder. And then I figured it out…MOMMY DID NOT BELEVE ME.
He looked up at me and burst into tears! I was not expecting that. Uh oh, I thought, I messed up. I have to fix this.
“Did you get hurt by what I said?” He nodded with tears coming down his cheeks. I hugged him and asked for his forgiveness. “I am sorry, hon. I should have believed you.”
When we got to talk more about it he explained to me that he wanted me to believe him and when I didn’t, he felt very hurt. He thought I didn’t trust him and that was a big deal to him.
Later on in the day, I called him into my room, propped him up on my bed and said, “I just want you to know that I love you so much! I am sorry for hurting your feelings this morning.” And I gave him a big kiss and hug. He left the room smiling and our relationship was restored.
I learned a good lesson as a mom. Words can easily wound my children. I need to be careful about the negative messages I convey when I talk to my kids. They are sensitive. My trust and approval is precious to them.
My children may still be young but I can imagine that years from now, my trust will still matter to them. When I was a young adult in college going out with friends, my parents were not controlling and overly protective. They would often tell me things like, “We trust you.” Sure, I had a curfew but they did not spy on me, complain about my friends, or meddle in my social life. They didn’t even stay up to wait for me at night.
Knowing that I was a steward of this trust made a big difference. I didn’t want to abuse it. It made me feel more responsible. In fact, when I tried drinking and experimented with it, I was open with them. I told them about it and didn’t want to hide what I was doing. When I struggled with purity in my relationships, I also shared what was going on with them. (It took me a while with this one because I was embarrassed.)
My parents did not freak out or go ballistic. They did not lock me up in a tower. Instead, they reminded me that I am accountable to God. They walked along side me, prayed for me and mentored me, not treating me like a child, but giving the Lord room to work in my heart. And he did. Eventually, I asked myself, what am I doing? Is my life really pleasing to God?
If I could have replayed the scenario over with my five year old, I would have said, “If you say that you did your work, I believe you. I trust you. I know that you will speak the truth.” And if he happened to be lying, then I would let God be the one to convict his heart.
We are not all-knowing as parents, but God is. He knows the secrets that lie in the hearts of our children. He can stir their hearts when they are going astray. And we can trust that he is committed to bring them to maturity. Our part is to raise our children to love God and know him, and to pray earnestly for them. He promises to complete the work.
“For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 1:6 NASB)