Having 3 children 3 and under one can only imagine the noise level in our house. During breakfast "Little Einsteins" is blasting on the TV while the kids are jumping from couch to couch either singing along, laughing, or fighting depending on their apparent mood. At the same time I'm trying to get dishes done while they "eat" and the radio is tuned in to the local AM talk station so I can get my dose of local news and conversation. Of course the radio is turned up so I can hear it above the running water, clanging dishes, and to try to cover up the noise coming from the living room.
To top it off I am one of those people who is just "loud." I mean, I am physically LOUD. My voice just carries! Then the icing on the cake, I grew up in a family with four children where, unfortunately, our conversations consisted more of arguing and raised voices than nice, gentle conversation.
So combine this family background with my naturally loud voice and the noise level in our house and top it off with an autistic child who at times doesn't even realize there is anyone else on the planet and it had begun to seem impossible for me to ever keep my voice to a normal level! I began to feel like I wake up screaming! The need to speak so loudly put a major strain on my emotional health throughout the day. I felt like my children weren't listening, that in order to make them listen I had to speak louder. And because I was already speaking loudly the level I felt like I had to reach in order to discipline my children reached levels that I'm pretty sure our entire neighborhood, if not the entire city, could hear. I'm talking birds flying out of trees, dogs howling, make my children's eyes get as big as saucers loud. Mommas, this is not a part of our calling.
Have you ever reached that point where you are shouting so loudly you don't think you can shout any louder? Then some how you find it in you to give it just a little more? I always picture the scene in "Beauty and the Beast" when the Beast is yelling at her to get out when he discovers her about to touch the rose. Why did he react this way? Out of fear that she would touch the rose and it would jeopardize him ever being able to become a prince again, out of anger because he told her not to go in there, and probably a little out of surprise. Seems pretty similar to why I react the way I do as well.(Yes, I know I am analyzing a Disney movie, but if you have ever been in my house to see me scream you would realize just how perfect that scene is so stick with me!) Do you remember Belle's reaction? She is so afraid that she runs not just out of the room, but out of the castle, and runs straight into the wolves grasp as she escapes into the forest. Are you beginning to see why this scene is so perfect for so many reasons?
Commit to memory Proverbs 15:1 (The book of Proverbs is where my entire knowledge of discipline has been learned. If you haven't read it lately you should read it searching for truths about discipline. It will amaze you.) Proverbs 15:1 says, "A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger." I love the New Living Translation which says, "A gentle answer defects anger, but a harsh word makes tempers flare."
This verse is perfect for any relationship, but let's really look at how it will effect our relationship with our children. My children are all still small so that's why the image between Beauty and the Beast is so perfect for me right now. I am at least 2 feet taller than my children, and I promise the fact that I am a very petite person compared to most adults does not make me any less frightening to my kids! We have reenacted this scene many times. I realized I really needed to change the way I was reacting when I saw the same reaction in my children as I saw in Belle. They ran from me screaming with terror, into whatever room was closest, and locked the door. My son was screaming, "I don't want to unlock the door," as I pounded on it so hard I swear the door was about to fly off of its hinges. Talk about giving in to my flesh! I had completely lost all sense of the fruits of the spirit, but I wasn't the one who was getting hurt in that moment, it was my children. My children had run from me and had reached the point where if there was a fire in the house I would not have been able to convince them to open the door. My children were becoming afraid of me, and I knew that once they were afraid of me my chances of being an effective parent were shot.
How did I know this? Insert the scenes that were flashing through my mind while I was yelling at my own children. I saw all of the times my parents had yelled, gotten physical, and let their anger show more than their love for me. Trust me the scenes I remember from my childhood that matched up so well to the scene in "Beauty and the Beast" were NOT the scenes that I wanted to run through my children's minds as well. I knew what would happen once my children began to feel those feelings from me and for me because that is how I had felt towards my parents. As children they ran to the safety of a locked room to shut me out, but as they got older I knew they would run to very different and even more dangerous places. So here's where it led me...
I challenged myself to 30 days of gentleness. I chose 30 days because I heard somewhere that it takes about 27 days to break a bad habit and I figured I'd need a few more days. So for 30 days I did not allow myself to raise my voice. Did I fail at times? Of course I did. At the beginning it wasn't until I was coming up on minute #2 of shouting at my children to listen, that I caught myself and switched to my "gentle" voice. Trust me, there is no effectiveness to the "gentle" voice once it has been preceded by the "harsh" voice. In fact, I think my children realized I had done something I didn't want to do and decided to take advantage of the moment of weakness. This led to even more opportunity for me to practice my "gentle" voice.
After about a week though I realized that I had gone a couple of days without raising my voice! (Please, don't confuse things here. During times of discipline there is still a need for a very firm tone, but tone and volume are two very different things. Also remember that a firm tone needs to be used with gentleness rather than anger). The funny thing was by the third week not only had I began to go days without raising my voice, but my children did as well. I promise you when I realized what had been happening the heavens opened and I could hear the angels singing and that is the complete truth!
Remember our children model everything from what they see, and that means they model everything they see in us.
I cannot even begin to describe the changes that have come from this 30 day challenge. That natural reaction that I used to have of yelling and waving my arms and all the other craziness I used to do has now been replaced by a reaction of bending down to their level and speaking with a calm, quiet tone. In turn, their reaction to me has been one of obedience and even more tenderness. My children now give me a hug when I scold them. I promise you I did not see that one coming, but they do. It's almost like they are thanking me for not yelling at them (I have to guess here since they are so young it's not like they can even begin to explain to me why they do what they do.) It has also changed the way my children have reacted to each other. If you ever want to know what you sound like, listen to how your kids talk to each other. I found they talk to each other the same way I talk to them. The good thing is it makes it very apparent to me when I am doing something wrong.
So, I challenge every one of you mommas who struggles with this to take a 30 day gentleness challenge. I know it will work for you the way it did for me. Commit Proverbs 15:1 to memory, write it on your mirror if you have to, put it on a rubber band that you wear around your wrist to pop yourself whenever you find yourself screaming. Whatever works for you, do it! Then just sit back and watch in amazement the changes it will bring to your life! Here's a hint on where to begin: I learned very early on in the challenge to turn the TV down, leave the radio off, and enjoy the peace and quiet while I do my dishes. It's amazing how easy it is to be more gentle when you don't have so much noise to compete with!
UPDATE: CHECK OUT THE RESULTS!!!