One of the most humbling experiences of parenthood has to be hearing yourself in your children's tone of voice and choice of words. When you hear this, as I'm sure every parent with talking children has, it can either be a moment of delight or one of guilt.
There was a time that hearing myself in my children made me feel very guilty. I will admit - I used to yell at my children. Before God worked on my heart and used others around me to help me with my parenting, I was an impatient and unkind mom, and I lost my cool quite frequently. Anything, big or small, would make me angry and I would express that anger to my children. Then, to my horror, I began to hear my impatience and unkindness in their speech. I recognized it in the way Tommy would yell at Ben when he would take a toy or push him, and I saw it in the way that Tommy got so easily annoyed by Ben. Sure, it's common and normal for small children to become frustrated at each other and yell, but there was something about the particular tone and words Tommy used that sounded just like the way I would talk to him, and it scared me. I did not want to reproduce the same impatience in my child that I had in my heart, but didn't know how to change myself.
It was right around this time that the major turning point in my life of my miscarriage happened, which, among many other things, taught me to place all my weaknesses in Christ and ask Him for help with them. When I did this with my parenting, He was faithful to change my heart in a truly miraculous way. Over a few months, I noticed an undeniable change in my attitude towards my children. It wasn't just that I didn't yell at them anymore (which I didn't), but I simply wasn't annoyed by them like I used to be. I saw their behavior as an opportunity to teach them the right way to act, instead of an intrusion on my peace and happiness.
It's been almost a year since God changed my heart and made me a better mom, and I am now starting to see the rewards of His work in me in my children. Instead of Tommy mirroring my unkind tone, he is working on speaking calmly when his brother or another child wrongs him. I've overheard him telling two little buddies who were fighting over a toy, "Hey, guys, be kind!"
The other day the boys were in the kitchen playing together when Ben hit Tommy for no apparent reason. Here's how the conversation went:
Tommy: "Benji, do you want me to hit you?"
Tommy: "Then don't hit me."
And they continued playing together peacefully. Amazing, huh?
And at bath-time a few nights ago, I overheard Tommy going through our discipline routine with Ben using a squirt toy:
Tommy: [in a very serious tone] "Ben, please look at me when I'm talking to you. I'm splashing you because you were not kind. Do you understand?"
Ben: "Yes, Tommy."
Tommy: "Okay, Ben, you're getting two splashes. [splash splash] Now you're all done!"
Hearing these exchanges warmed my heart and relieved me. They showed me that Tommy really does listen to what I say and is soaking up every kind word and tone of voice that he hears from me, now that my heart is changed.
Please don't misunderstand - I'm not a perfect mother and my children are not kind and loving to each other all the time. We do have some days where I struggle to keep calm, patient, and kind, and sometimes I do fail. But God is showing me how to lay down a foundation that will teach my boys and solidify in their hearts the godly way of dealing with their frustration and anger with kind and calm words.