Tenderness is a special character quality for mothers, but it comes from God. He leads us with gentleness so that we can lead our children with gentleness.
Isaiah 40:11 says, "He will tend his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms; he will carry them in his bosom, and gently lead those that are with young."
1 Thessalonians 2:7-8 also talks about the gentleness of motherhood when is says, "As apostles of Christ we could have been a burden to you, but we were gentle among you, like a mother caring for her little children. We loved you so much that we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well, because you had become so dear to us."
And so our children become dear to us, and we are delighted to share our own lives with them -- but only as we are filled with God's tender compassion for us. As we live in the lavish love of God, we can learn to listen and respond to our children, rather than react at them. We don't need to be tyrannical dictators anymore. We don't need to feel like we must dominate our children, to use our own self-effort to make them holy, as if we expect a bunch of outward rules to change their inward hearts. Josh McDowell once said, "Rules without relationships reap rebellion." We've all seen the tragic results of teens and young adults who have walked away from their family and their faith because life was all about legalistic rules, without any warmth or grace.
GRACE! Our own grace toward them will lovingly point them to Jesus, the source of God's grace. On the other hand, our bitterness will only drive them away from God. We need to let go of the bitterness and anger of daily irritation or unmet expectations of how mature your children should be by now. Hebrews 12:15 says "See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled." Many people think that our children will only be defiled by the TV, by bad friends, or by the Internet, and yet one of the worst ways they can be defiled is by bitterness in the family! This will alienate them from you and your values faster than anything. Anger just doesn't work. As James 1:19-20 exhorts us: "Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God." Proverbs 15:1 reminds us that "A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger."
The issue of child discipline can be rather tricky at times. Yes, we must deal firmly and directly with issues, rather than being in denial. However, we must do this with right motives and with self-control. We don't need to shame or guilt-trip our kids into doing what is right, but teach them a better way. 1 Corinthians 4:14 sets the standard for parenting when Paul says, “I do not write these things to shame you, but to admonish you as my beloved children.”
So instead of coming against our kids to inflict vengeance on them when they disappoint us, we come alongside to restore them with grace and to gently teach them the right way to live. So we can say, "I care so much about you that I want to see you succeed in life. This kind of behavior is going to bring you down, so I want to do whatever I can to help you choose better in the future. Now let's talk about it…"
We can choose to speak sweetly from the heart, with deep and tender affection. Tell your children often how much you love being their mother. Give them hugs, kisses, pats on the back -- even if they seem to resist it. Cheerfulness should start early in the day with a hearty "GOOD MORNING!" because "This is the day that the Lord has made -- let us rejoice and be glad in it!" You don't need to be morose or uptight! Enjoy your day! Be energized with a smile!
We can begin to affirm in our children the ways we see that God has gifted them and how they are growing up. We can notice and praise little acts of kindness or signs of progress. We can celebrate their accomplishments, whether it is learning to read a few words, or making the baseball team, or playing in a piano recital, or finishing a project. Whatever it is, celebrate it!
There is so much power in our words and small gestures. Do you really really REALLY want to get through to your kids? Then don't yell at them! Speak sweetly to them! Proverbs 16:21, 24 reminds us that "The wise in heart are called discerning, and pleasant words promote instruction… Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones."
This is just part of the "Tender Compassion" segment of the Amazing Grace for Home School Moms presentation I did in Gainesville, Florida on March 11. Be sure to listen to the whole presentation!
You might also like to read something I posted last year on my main blog: The Greatest of These Is Love.