Our daughter wasn’t giving us the reaction we were looking for. Her attitude was terrible, and the way she was treating her brothers and sisters, not to mention us, was even worse. As she stood in our kitchen looking at us, with a blank expression, we lectured. And lectured. And lectured. We weren’t going to stop until she fell to her knees in repentance over her many sins of the day. Somewhere deep in our psyche we were looking for tears and brokenness, and a full-on act of contrition. She wasn’t budging.
The night ended with her stomping off to her room and us collapsing onto the sofa in complete frustration and anger. Nothing had changed. The next morning was only a continuation of the night before. We weren’t getting through. Our logical perspectives on the wrong-doings our daughter had committed were falling on deaf ears, or so we thought.
It was a few days later when she uttered words that made us both step back and check ourselves. She said, “I’m trying to listen to you both. It’s just that you keep on lecturing me and lecturing me. It makes me so frustrated that I stop listening and just wait for you to finish!”
Ouch! That was a punch to the gut. But, she was right.
In our attempt to squeeze remorse from our daughter, we had overdone it. She had checked out after our very first (solid) point. Could you blame her? We must have lectured for a solid 40 minutes. In retrospect, I would have checked out too. In fact, I think I did whenever my parents would do that to me growing up.
I must say, I get why parents lecture their children. It’s the same reason why we lecture ours: we’re looking for remorse. We want to see sorrow. We find parental satisfaction from humble repentance. However, that doesn’t always happen. Sometimes our children will show this but many times, they will not. That’s what we continue to learn from our children. The older they become, the more stubborn they become.
We have to remind ourselves of this often. This post is not being written from a “been-there-done-that-mastered-it” point of view. It’s coming from a “good-grief-you’d-think-I’d-have-learned-by-now” point of view. The ongoing challenge for us is this- speak what you’ve got to speak in truth, and then let it go in grace.
Speak it in truth:
You and I have a huge job as parents. We’re charged with guiding these little human beings into adulthood while making sure they don’t die, kill somebody or themselves, or wind up in jail, not to mention drink toilet bowl cleaner or eat from the dog’s dish. Big responsibility! We must speak truth to them even if it hurts. We must be forthcoming because our job is to protect and lead before it is ever to make happy and keep content. Therefore, when discipline needs to happen, or a wrong needs to be correct, you and I need to speak the truth to our children!
But then….we need to let it go in grace!
Say it once, and be done. Let it go and forgive. Extend grace. Restore! If your child continues to persist or do the opposite of what they were told, natural consequences (or the consequences you’ve outlined) come into play and need to be enforced. But nothing more needs to be spoken. Trust me, this is not easy! It’s not easy because, as a parent, you want to say more, and, you’ve lived enough life to have a really big perspective on things. The hardest thing to do is to stop speaking. But if you continue to lecture, your child will check out. Ours do. They will stop listening and miss the point altogether.
By speaking the truth and then letting it go in grace, you are doing 2 things: first, you are showing your children you love them, and, second, you are freeing them from the chains of their mistake. That’s a powerful lesson for them to experience and it’s a powerful move for you to make as a their parent. We understand the difficulty and the tension. We are still learning how to do this. But every time we succeed, stop lecturing, say things once, then extend grace, we see progress. And we even see full repentance at times, which is something a long lecture never produces!
Are you a lecturer when your children screw up? How difficult is it to stop and only say something once?