He peered over the top of the puzzle boxes stacked on the dining room table and stole a glance at me where I sat nearby on the couch. My eyes met his, and like a hippopotamus he surfaced just for a moment before slumping down again, hiding behind the boxes in shame. He was mad. Really mad. His brother, Quinn, called him a name and he simply couldn’t get over it. Instead, he stormed about the house, threw his toys on the floor, and cried.
As I watched his tirade, I considered my options. Generational anger and yelling have plagued my family history. It has taken many years for me to transform from an angry mom to a gentle one. My natural instinct would be to put my hands on my hips, wag my finger, and tell my young son to readjust his attitude. I would have scowled, insisted he pick up his toys immediately, and given him one good lecture. Yes, that’s the old me. My Tired Old script would have been filled with curt words that were aimed at getting my way, instead of reaching the heart of my child.
Calmly, I made my way over to my son. Before I open my mouth with my kids, I’ve learned to preach to myself first: “There’s nothing anger can do that love can’t do better, Amber.” I brush the hair from his petulant eyes. My own are filled with love. There is no condemnation there.
“Son, I love you no matter what” I say.
“I know your feelings are hurt, but that doesn’t mean you need to react by throwing things. Your behavior is as wrong as Quinn's wrongdoing. I think it would be nice for you to repair your relationship with your brother today. Make amends. I’ve already spoken to Quinn, and he understands what he did wrong. I hope you will understand your part too.” My soft words, soften him. I don’t wait for a response. A loving squeeze and then I leave him to think it through. After a few minutes, he clambers down from the dining room chair and wanders over.
“I’m tired mommy.” He laments.
I know it’s true. He’s tired of fighting and he’s tired of hurting and he’s tired of resisting.
“Come” I beckon. As he joins me on the couch, I whisper words of affirmation: “You are special, Oakley. God loves you and so do I. There is nothing you could do to stop our love for you.” He offers me a kiss.
He takes a look at my laptop there on the coffee table. “How do you write, Mama?” he asks.
“Well, I think about what I want to say, and then my fingers press the keys on my laptop. Like this:
Do you recognize that word?” I quiz him.
“Yes! That’s my name!” he beams.
A moment or two passes as I drape my arm around his shoulders.
“Mama, will you type another word?” he asks.
“Sure, which one?” I reply.
“QUINN" he suggests.
I type his brother’s name next to his and I could cry for joy. The brother he was at odds with is the brother whose name he desired to see written next to his. He was making amends.
Oakley’s heart was drawn by loving-kindness. Gentle responses. The impact of speaking a loving parenting script to him resulted in a child who took ownership for his wrongdoing and sought to forgive his brother in the aftermath of conflict.
Later, we talked about these verses and how we can live them out in our family:
Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.
But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil.
A man who is kind benefits himself, but a cruel man hurts himself.
I take Proverbs 31:26 to heart for myself: “She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.” I’ll have many more opportunities to practice as sibling rivalry continues in my home. But for today, kindness and mercy triumphed. The echo of a mother’s kind words reverberates for generations to come. It is not the hollow sound of wishful thinking. It is grounded in the power of Scripture, and so it carries on, establishing a legacy of love, instead of anger.
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