I frequently think about life a few years from now, to anticipate hang ups or snares, and make a plan for them. Like Proverbs says, “A prudent man sees danger and takes refuge, but the simple keep going and suffer for it”, I figure that if there are challenges most parents complain about, surely there’s a way to take a different route and see a different
outcome. So, I frequently wonder about the teen years of my children and what they will look like. Many times when I was with our youth kids they would tell me something and I’d ask if they had told their parents and they would say, “What?! No way! I can’t tell my parents THAT!” Finally one day I asked my car-full of youth girls as we travelled home from a youth event, “Girls, what is it that your parents do that makes you feel like you can’t talk to them?” They thought for a minute, and without exception, though their examples varied, the bottom line problem they agreed upon was this: “they don’t understand where we are coming from.” I thought about this and followed with another question, “Don’t you think they probably do? They were teenagers before too, and you will be parents one day. What makes you think they don’t understand?” Here the answers varied a bit more but were not a surprise: “Well they just get angry and never want to know how I feel.” “They don’t really listen to me!” “They only care about what they think is important!” What I heard in all their answers was this: My parents don’t hear me, see me, or value my feelings as important. Granted, parents have been there, done that during their teen years and they have a very different perspective looking back in retrospect. Its so clear to them what to do when you can look back on a thing, but what they forget is that when you’re in the middle of it right now, it IS a big deal, and it IS important, and it DOES hurt. And that’s what those girls were saying. “Meet me where I’m at and show me you care, even if it’s not yourconcern.” What a valuable thing to learn: Understanding. What a difference this one thing makes in relationships.
As I thought back over my relationship with the Lord and about all the different times I was an emotional wreck, or a confused wreck, or just plain a wreck of a wreck, and I would go to him for counsel, interestingly enough, he would always meet me where I was at: he would meet my emotional needs FIRST, and then tend to the matter. If I was hurt, he would comfort me and console me with understanding. He didn’t endorse lie-based emotions by telling me how I felt was “normal”, but he DID make me feel that truth or not, the way I felt still mattered to Him. As his love and understanding comforted my heart and brought the healing needed, then he would gently bring me the truth of the situation. That is when he would tenderly bring loving correction, or would show me where I was wrong and how it had hurt me, or even would show me where I needed to go and make things right. Whatever it was, he brought me truth; but not before he brought me LoVe. Love heals and nourishes the way for truth to land on good soil.
Now, how does this apply to my little three-year old? Given this principle of understanding I began to ask the Lord to help me lay a foundation of understanding with my boys now, that way trust would be developed and our relationship would be built on a trusting foundation of placing value on the other’s perspective and feelings. This so that by the time the teen years reach us, we will already be heading in the right direction. See, I knew that if I waited until the teenager years to try to develop an understanding stance toward them, they would see it as an insincere effort because our entire relationship history would have already been built on a different dynamic.
One night as I tucked Judah into bed, we talked about the evening we had just had. There had been some spankings and some tears and so I was taking the opportunity to teach him a little more about the situation. At one point he said, “Yeah, and when me and Levi wouldn’t eat our hot-dogs, you were being mean, Mommy.” I remembered the scenario: hotdogs, ketchup, dinner time, and the never ending challenge of getting them to eat what I put in front of them. This time, however, I was tired. Daddy was out of the country and I was more than ready for bed, so my patience was thin and I was harsh. I spanked them more out of frustration than correction. As Judah reminded me of this, I was about to correct him with, “No honey, mommy wasn’t being mean, you were being disobedient so mommy needed to correct you-” when the Holy Spirit came gently to me and quickened to me, “He is telling you how he feels in three-year-old language. Honor that, and honor him.” Wow. Yes he was. He wasn’t accusing me of being mean. He was telling me that I was treating him with a meanness that hurt his feelings. My tone quickly changed as I corrected myself and softened and said, “Judah, you’re right. Mommy did get mean, and I am so sorry. I should not have spanked you in the way that I did. Mommy was upset and I took it out on you boys and got angry. I am so so sorry. That was wrong and I hurt your feelings. Will you forgive me?” He looked at me with so much grace and gently said, “Its ok Mommy, we can try again tomorrow” as he reached out to hug me. Wow. What forgiveness. And what grace. And what a mended relationship. If I had just forsook his feelings and pursued arrogantly my agenda of teaching him and putting him in his place, his little heart would have gone unseen, his little voice unheard, and our relationship wounded. However, after I took the time to hear him and tend to his feelings and repent for my sin (because it WAS wrong that I spanked him in anger like I did), I gently explained why it was so frustrating that they did not eat their dinner. He nodded in understanding to what I shared, and easily agreed to eat his dinner the next time. And he did!! (And he made sure I knew he did too!) 🙂
The bottom line is this: in any relationship, if we fail to honor each other by treating one another with understanding, then our relationships will slowly deteriorate, one wound at a time. We were designed to need understanding in relationships. In and of itself, understanding carries a healing essence to it. Why else is counselling and having a “listening ear” so beneficial to people?
Proverbs 11:12 says “A man who lacks judgment derides his neighbor, but a man of understanding holds his tongue.” Most times, the doorway to listening with understanding ears is simply to hold our tongue, and reallyhear what the other person is saying. To hear past the words, to what their heart is trying to communicate.
Proverbs 18:2 “A fool finds no pleasure in understanding but delights in airing his own opinions.” and Proverbs 20:5 “The purposes of a man’s heart are deep waters, but a man of understanding draws them out.” If our form of discipline looks more like “airing my own opinions” than drawing out the deep waters of the heart, according to scripture we are not likely in a position of understanding. Listening is a lost art that is crucial to healthy relationships. Listen to hear and see the person you are talking to, not just to see when you can insert your next good point. If you have children, try approaching them from a stand point of understanding. This doesn’t mean that you have to tell them they are right, it just means you offer validation to how they feel, and show them that it matters to you. Understanding brings so much healing and establishes trust in a relationship. Treat them with the same kind of understanding that you hope someone offers you in your next moment of crisis… and watch as the healing waters of love and honor nourish and restore the relationship. For some, this may take longer than others. And for you, this may begin with more than just a habit change, but an actual heart change. Wherever it begins for you, take the challenge. It is worth it if it means peace in your home and more obedient children (which also means they will be safer and healthier if they are obeying you!). Start today, start now. Start with yourself, take responsibility, confess and repent to your children if necessary for not treating them more carefully. And allow the Lord to teach you and give you wisdom on how to treat them with the same honor he treats us with.
Proverbs 24:3 “By wisdom a house is built, and through understanding it is established;”