I remember it was bedtime one night when she was about 5 years old or so. Her room was an absolute mess from a full day of play. I had come in there numerous times to tell her to clean her room. On subsequent visits back to her room to check her progress, I found little had been done. She maybe had put one or two toys away on one visit. She had redecorated her room by displaying toys on tables and hanging them from the blinds on another. There was absolutely no defiance in her actions just spaced-out, artistic redesign of her room. She was creating in her mind, but I was frustrated, tired, and just wanted the job done right. On my last trip into the room, I found almost the same amount of mess as when she had started. I lost my temper and yelled really loudly at her, "Clean-up-this-room." I paused in between the screamed words to truly emphasize the loudness of my words. She looked up at me and her little face crumbled. She said to me with tears streaming down her face, "Mom, you screamed at me, and you said we are not supposed to scream in this house."
Well, conviction comes in many forms, but that night it came on the tear stained face of my little girl. I had become angry and broken one of my own house rules. No screaming in the house. Ephesians 4:26 says, "Be angry, and do not sin." Anger, to me, is not the main issue. Everyone gets angry, and I think this verse points that out. Even Jesus got angry when people had turned God's temple into a marketplace. The sin creeps in when the anger is not controlled and the tongue lashes out in response.
Ephesians 4:29 says, "Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it might benefit those who listen." As parents we have to point out errors in our children's behavior in order to teach them right from wrong. How can we point out our children's mistakes without ever saying anything negative to them? I think therein lies the challenge. I think the line is crossed when the comments go beyond the behavior and begin to break down the child's character. I tell my kids, "It is okay to be mad, but it is not okay to be mean." If I am requiring them to live by those rules, I have to live by them as well.
I am just a sinner raised by sinners who is trying to raise my own sinners the best way I can. I know every word that comes out of my mouth has weight, and I need to weigh each one of them carefully. Am I disciplining out of love or out of anger? Am I speaking words as a teacher or as a prosecutor? It is surely a challenge. I am making mistakes along the way, but I just hope in the end that I have built them up with my words more than I have torn them down.
"Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in
Your sight, O Lord, my strength and my Redeemer." Psalms 19:14