Years ago I was a teacher at a preschool working with toddlers. Kids at that age are pretty social so it was always fun to hear what they had to say, especially when they were talking to each other or playing pretend. Kids say the funniest things and they have the best imaginations!
Sometimes we would hear them say things that they had obviously been told at home. The tone of voice would give it away. "Dolly, you are NOT getting up from this table until you have eaten your green beans." or "I TOLD you, don't hit your brother!" Other times the clue was the advice given. "Johnny, eat the things you don't like first and save the best for last."
Most of the time these tidbits from home were funny, coming from the mouths of such little ones. Occasionally they would make me stop and ask myself if I sounded the same way with my kids. Yikes! It was not a good feeling when the answer was yes.
My kids are a bit older now, but the concerns are the same. I hear them giving each other advice that they have obviously heard from me and speaking to each other in ways that sound like me. That can be good and sometimes not so good. It melts my heart when they are loving and thoughtful with each other. On the other hand, it's pretty convicting to hear your kids say things they shouldn't knowing they heard it first from you. Then you realize that you're not as kind or gentle as you should be, especially with your family.
So I'm a work in progress, trying to be more like Jesus every day, trying to remember to see others as he sees them, trying to love others as he loves me. I've also learned to apologize to my kids. The first time was the hardest. I was so afraid that it would make them think less of me, but the opposite was true. I know it was the right thing to do and it was a good example for my kids.
What do your kids say? Maybe you've already set a great example and your children are kind and gentle. If so, that's wonderful! Maybe you're more like me and still have some work to do in that area. If so, hang in there. If yesterday wasn't the best, you can try again today.
Today you can think about the situations in which you're least likely to be kind or gentle. When those situations come up you can think about how you want to respond instead of just saying the first thing that pops out of your mouth. And if you mess up, you can apologize and try again with better words and a kinder tone of voice.
Practice these steps enough and before you know it, you'll be reacting in a more appropriate manner and the things you hear your kids say will be better, too!
From my parent's heart to yours,
Joy Goodman is a mom whose mission is to encourage parents and to celebrate joys of being a parent.