Not long ago I witnessed this heart-warming scene:
My almost-2-year-old was standing in the kitchen holding his almost-4-year-old brother’s water bottle. Big Brother went up to Little Brother and roughly snatched his water bottle away. Little Brother responded by hitting Big Brother.
At the sound of my shocked gasp, Little Brother glanced up at me, and before I could open my mouth to tell Little Brother not to hit and tell Big Brother to share, Little Brother wrapped his arms around Big Brother—water bottle and all—and gave him a huge hug. When he released him, Big Brother gave Little Brother back the water bottle!
I was stunned. How does my littlest one already understand that love and kindness are far more effective ways to relate to others than anger and meanness? The more I reflect on what I witnessed that morning in my kitchen, the more I am convinced that I have something to learn from the youngest member of our family.
How often I allow my own anger to inspire negative words toward my children! On some level, I believe that this approach will be an effective way to help them change their irritating or wrong behavior. But the bad behavior always repeats itself, and we circle back to the same kinds of unpleasant interactions. Afterwards, everyone feels upset, myself included!
Sometimes I have less wisdom than my toddler—hugging is better than hitting.
From now on I want to commit to fostering an atmosphere of pervasive kindness in our home by reflecting to my kids the heart of God who is “merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love.”* Instead of barking, “What in the world were you thinking??” I want to say, “I love you, and you’re a great kid,” sowing encouragement into my children’s hearts at every opportunity. Instead of criticizing my child for throwing a tantrum over the punitive consequences for his wrong behavior, I want to take the time to really understand his point of view and express my unconditional love and acceptance. When I feel overwhelmed, instead of shutting down and shutting out the constant demands of the half dozen young men growing up under my roof, I want to find the energy to invest in making sure they feel heard and valued.
As I read this list of resolutions, I realize how impossible they are to practice consistently and how I fail multiple times per day. I know what I want to do, but somehow in the moment, I forget or simply can’t conjure up the willpower to follow through. I’m thankful that God is so much more patient with me than I am with my kids, and I’m grateful for the ever-present opportunity to repent and seek forgiveness. Just as when my toddler hit his older brother then quickly sought his forgiveness with a hug, I can reconcile with my kids by immediately confessing when I wrong them and asking for their forgiveness. Amazingly, they are always quick to forgive and share a hug with me!
*Exodus 34:6, ESV
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Photo credit: Vadim Kulychenko