When we were kids, I remember watching The Blues Brothers. Jim Belushi and Dan Akroyd starred as two blues-playing brothers who were raised by nuns in an orphanage. They learn that their home is going to be closed down unless the nuns can pay the back taxes that are due. So ensues their "mission from God" ... organize a gig and give all the proceeds to the orphanage. The only trouble is that they are both hoodlums. :) Anyway, the parts that I remember the most vividly are the car chase through the shopping mall (I think we tried to count how many cars were crashed in this movie ... but lost count somewhere in the 100's) and the song by Aretha Franklin in the diner. That scene of Aretha singing her lousy, no-good man out the door was my introduction to the Queen of Soul. As it turns out, she was famous for several R & B songs ... perhaps the one she is best known for is "Respect". Now while this songs mainly focuses on a relationship between a man and woman and her desire to be treated right ... I think it rings true for everyone. We all want respect ... and that includes our kids.
Almost nothing breaks my heart more than to see and hear a parent or care-giver being disrespectful to a kid. These children are given into our care for the purpose of training them up and caring for them. We truly are an advocate for our children and need to be their protectors ... not the one who dishonors them. Too often, we forget that these little people are just that: people; and we interact with them in ways that we would never do to another human being.
At the store the other day, I ended up trailing along another mom and her daughter as I shopped. (You know how it is ... from aisle to aisle you keep bumping into each other.) Everything seemed normal enough. Then we both ended up at our cars at the same time and in the "privacy" of her van, the mother verbally let the little girl have it. It broke my heart to hear the mother speak so gruffly and hurtfully to her daughter. It was poison in our ears. Poor Ashley looked at me and said, "That's not very nice. That makes me sad." I stood outside our van for a few seconds, wondering if I should say or do something and then the opportunity was over and the mom drove away. I don't know what I would have done if give a bit more time, but obviously the scene has stuck with me.
Maybe she was just having one of those days ... I want to give her credit for that. I will be the first to say that I have had days when my mouth was not loving or respectful. I have had days when I made my kids cry at the breakfast table (great start to the day, Mom!) because they were being kids (i.e. bouncy, giggling and goofy) and I was a grump. I have had days where I felt like I was apologizing for my "icky" words all day long. But ... that is not my usual interaction with my kids and it is not a habit that I want to get into.
When I am careful and respectful in the words that I speak to my children, not only am I honoring them, but I am modeling to them how to speak with other people. I am my kids' most influential teacher and without a doubt I want to teach to them what I in turn desire to see and hear from them. You know as well as I do that our kids hear what we say and then turn right around a say it. Maybe not right that minute ... but you will hear your words again soon. :)
I love when I hear my kids saying sweet things to each other. And my ears cringe when I hear the other stuff! When it's loving, I think to myself, "What sweet kids ... " When it's rude, I think to myself, "Where did they hear that?!" Sometimes the influence is from the TV or something that a friend said ... but unfortunately I have to take ownership for some it. Usually what I hear back as an icky-echo is not so much the words, but the tone of voice used. It's absolutely horrifying to hear your little four-year old say, "Sto-o-op. You're makin' me nuts." With that little huff and sigh. It stops me in my tracks to hear my exasperation come out of my little person. Along the same lines, Lydia has a few new phrases: "Stop" and "Down". Any idea what she has been hearing a lot? :) They hear it ... they say it.
Teaching our kids manners is a perfect example of this. When I want my kids to say "please", it's essential that I say it, too. Same for "Thank you," and "You're welcome." If I say, "Give that to me," the odds are good that I will later hear, "Give it to me." In contrast, if I say, "Can you give that to me, please? Thank you." ... there is a good chance that my child will put that little tidbit away in their head & heart and use that phrase when he needs something. That, of course, is not guaranteed, but practice does make perfect.
I had a friend in Bible study a number of years ago who was a great encouragement to me. Her youngest was just a tad bit older than my first. She was a mom who helped me to keep perspective and see the finished product I was working towards. (I recommend every mom to have one of those!) She told me one time that she spoke to her children as if they were the neighbors' kids. Ha! You wouldn't talk to the cul-de-sac kids with sarcasm and rudeness ... so why would you with your own kids?! I loved this advice for two reasons: it revealed to me that she struggled with being respectful with her kids, too (validating!); and it was something easy that stuck in my head and was came readily to my mind (practical!). Since that little chat eight years ago, a day doesn't go by that I don't think, "Would I have said that to so-and-so next door? Would I have said that with such an exasperated tone?" It is a great mental check for me in the middle of my interactions with my kids ... and the cul-de-sac kids.
So ... what does this look like in the normal day-to-day? Well ... sometimes it means a "time-out" for Mommy until I cool down and can speak nicely. Sometimes it means a "close my eyes and clench my hands" moment before speaking calmly. Sometimes it means making a concerted effort to say "Please," when what I want to say is, "NOW, NOW, NOW!" It is a decision I am making to speak respectfully and then I have to ask God to help me. And it requires some practice in my part, too ... see above. :)
Now honestly, is every word that comes out of my mouth going to be measured and honoring? Nope. I truly need God to transform my mind and mouth to be respectful and edifying in the words that I speak. I also need to surround myself with people and influences that will help me ... I also speak what I hear, so I want to hear good stuff so I can share good stuff. I also need to apologize to my kids when I mess up and ask for their forgiveness. This habit is two-fold: my relationship with my kids is restored and they see first hand the importance of being authentically apologetic. Another modeling opportunity for Mom! :)
Ashley has been saying a little sing-song verse for the past several days that sums up what God thinks about how we should treat others. "Do for others what you want them to do for you." It's our good old Golden Rule (Luke 6:31). It really does make sense. If we treat others the way that we would want to be treated (with respect and honor), our world really will be a better place ... and our families will be better, too.
So ... share a little R-E-S-P-E-C-T with your little ones. Sock it to 'em! :)
P.S. We had another KEBL night last night. The song we studied was "Abre Mis Ojos" ... not familiar. Better check it out!