We were headed out of town for our summer vacation and a few things needed to happen before we left. Errands needed to be run, packing needed to happen, and the yard had to be mowed. We were in a bit of a rainy season, and the grass was getting high. Several days before we were to leave, either me or my wife informed our 15 year old son that he needed to take care of that before we hit the road. He moaned, but agreed. Two days before departure, I saw a window of time that I thought would work for him to accomplish the task. As he walked past me in the living room, I said to him, “Hey, now would be a good time for you to mow the grass.” He quickly shot back, “But you said I just had to get it done before we left.” He was right. And he used those three little words I am coming to hate as a parent: “But you said … “
In case you are wondering, our kids are listening to what we say. That’s a good thing. But, if we’re honest , the fact that our kids are listening to what we say might sometimes not be such a good thing. As parents, we offer lots of direction and we use lots of words. We tell our kids what they need to do and things we intend to do, and they are taking note. They might not always agree with us or be happy about how we’re leading them, but make no mistake, they do know what we say.
I actually feel like I hear, “But you said … “ quite a lot from both of our children. Because of that, I am learning that I need to be really careful with what I say to and around my kids. That actually gets more and more important as they enter the teenage years and are shaping what they think and believe about the world. So much of their world view and identity comes from their interaction with us, and we need to be aware of how our words, our promises, and our proclamations impact our kids. Can we change our mind as the parent and authority? Absolutely. But I believe that we need to be careful that we don’t change our minds so much that our kids begin to think what we say doesn’t matter or isn’t true. It really all comes down to trust. Can our kids trust that what we say is true and that we’ll follow through with what we say we will do, even if we said it in a weak moment or didn’t really mean it when we said it? If I look at my life with my kids, I probably say a lot of things to simply move a conversation along or maybe even try to bring the discussion to an end. Heck, I can’t remember half of the things that they say I said.
I find myself more and more needing to apply a verse I learned long time ago. James 1:19 tells us that we should be “quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry.” The slow to speak part is what gets tough for me as a parent. There may be no more important place to apply that verse than in the home. I want for my family to be able to trust that what I say is true. I want for them to hear me using my words for good and the building up of others. I need for them to know that I’m not just using words to simply direct traffic and get stuff done.