“Love is not rude.” “Try again, this time with self control.” “When you disrespect me, I spank your butt. Talk to me with respect.” “You can see that what you’re doing is upsetting your sister. Are you trying to make her feel bad? Then try again, this time with kindness.” “If your sister did something to upset you, first talk to her. Ask her to stop and encourage her to do what is good. If that doesn’t work, then you come tell me.”
These are just a few things that I say to my kids every single day. I’ve recently read through Don’t Make Me Count to Three by Ginger Hubbard and I’m trying hard to instruct my daughters in what is good and right. I have found that it’s easy to dwell on the negative, to always be pointing out faults. I need to be faithful to train my kids in what is good – to drive the foolishness out of their hearts – but sometimes I struggle with feeling like all I do is talk about what they’re doing wrong.
No one wants to live like that. That kind of negativity and pressure to be perfect are bound to create new problems. So how do you correct sinful behavior without always being a voice of negativity? For me, the answer has been in defining what love is and what it is not.
I’m trying to teach my kids that there are two things that God wants us to do.
- Love Him more than we love anyone or anything else.
- Love others and treat them the same way that we want to be treated ourselves.
Love does no wrong to others. If I can teach my kids what it means to love God, to be loved by God, and to show that love to other people, then a lot of behavior problems will take care of themselves. So instead of a list of rules to follow, we look to 1 Corinthians 13 to help us speak, act, and think in a loving way.
Another thing I have become intentional about is praising my girls when I see them do acts of kindness or service to others. I praise them when they do their best and when they obey me right away. I flood their hearts with the message that God created them in a wonderful way, and God doesn’t make mistakes.
I have two reasons for this:
- There is a place for discipline and godly instruction, and it’s a prominent one in a family with young kids. But I think that for everything I correct my kids about, everything I nag at them for, everything I tell them they did wrong, I should be giving them 10x that amount of attention in praise. I do not in any way want to exasperate my children and chase them away from God’s truth. I want them to learn the beauty and freedom that comes from living God’s way, not the judgment and negativity that is placed on them if they mess up.
- Our culture is physically and sensually focused and I have three little girls who are still innocent and unaware of it. This time with them is precious and important. When I compliment, I compliment them on their hard work and character far more than I do on their appearance. And this is tough! I may have a mother’s bias, but my girls are beautiful. It is easy to compliment them on their looks. But because I want them to learn that their value comes from within, that it is given to them because they are made in God’s image, I try hard to praise them the most for characteristics that reflect God.
At this stage of life, this is what it means for me to think about the things that are lovely and admirable. It means looking for God’s goodness stamped in the world around me. It means seeing His reflection in the hearts of imperfect people. We live in a sinful and painful world, but when God created it, when He created us, He said that it was GOOD.
And you know what? The more I focus on building up my kids with the truth of God’s goodness, the more I do it with others. By looking for the things that are lovely and admirable, I love others better and envy them less.
What godly characteristics can you compliment someone on that is in your life today?
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things. – Philippians 4:8