When my mom got upset with me, I knew I was in big trouble if she whispered so softly I couldn’t hear what she was saying. She didn’t yell. And trust me, her whispers scared me into submission! And I always thought, I’ll do the same thing when I have kids. Then I had children. It’s a lot harder than it looks.
Everything is urgent with little ones. They repeat everything: unwanted misbehavior, phrases, and requests…not just once, but a million times. And they blatantly test and disobey. Add in exhaustion and being pulled in every direction and mommies feel like they’re gonna blow. Mt. Vesuvius ain’t got nothin’ on us! Yelling is a completely natural response, but that doesn’t make it the best response.
The day I realized I wasn’t following in my mom’s footsteps was very distressing. And leave it to my children to show me. I heard my oldest yelling at his friend about who knows what, and as I was about to yell at him to stop yelling, it felt like someone punched me. His friend may or may not have been at fault in the situation, I can’t remember, but I definitely knew I was at fault. It’s a natural reaction to yell when people (our children) aren’t responding to you the way you want them to, but I knew right then I hadn’t been a good example of responding calmly or quietly. I had often heard myself yelling before and made the excuse, “the situation deserved it.” But when I heard Diego yelling at his friend, I knew it was time to change, to work harder and more consciously to control my responses, and no more excuses.
And wouldn’t you know, that parenting handbook, God’s Word, has a great parenting tip regarding yelling.
“A gentle answer turns away wrath,
but a harsh word stirs up anger.” (Proverbs 15:1)
“A gentle answer.”
Is a quiet, gentle answer as powerful in expressing disappointment and disapproval in poor behavior as yelling? Yes. A resounding YES. I was scared to death when my mom would whisper to me! It does work!
It’s so simple. But it’s not easy.
But I wanted my example to be based in God’s Word, so with “a gentle answer” in mind, I had new a new determination. I also decided to be accountable. I explained to Diego that both he and I needed to work on gentle answers instead of yelling. And if I started yelling, I asked him to remind me.
Is it easy? No. Way. In fact it’s one of the hardest things ever! I mean, I want to yell sometimes. But instead of yelling at me when I mess up, God quietly whispers correction in my ear. (Thank you, Lord!) Am I great at answering gently? Nope, but I’m getting better. Has Diego caught me starting to yell at him or his brothers? Yup. And after I apologize for yelling, in a gentle tone, I continue the disciplining and they still get in trouble.
But, have I seen a difference in the boys? Most definitely. They respond in a more receptive way to the gentle rebuke rather than the harsh yell and things don’t escalate into quite a chaotic frenzy. Not as many tears over hurt feelings from being yelled at but rather we can focus on the problem with behavior. And I see a difference in Diego, too. He still gets all hyped up and yells — he’s five, remember? But I don’t think it’s as often and when I do correct him, I can do so knowing that I’m setting the kind of example that I want him to follow.
Thank you, Lord, for the quiet reminder that “A gentle response defuses anger, but a sharp tongue kindles a temper-fire.” (The Message Bible) and help me to respond gently.