A few days ago, we lost a beloved pet, my daughter’s gerbil who outlived practically every other living thing in this home. It was an emotional time for folks, and it was important for me to be tender and understanding of high emotions during these times.
The night after the little guy died, I was reading out loud to the Rocket Boy, and these words from Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Farmer Boy seemed to just leap off the page…maybe it will speak to you as well.
“Every Saturday morning he (Almanzo) spent in the barnyard, teaching Star and Bright… He knew you could never teach an animal anything if you struck it, or even shouted at it angrily. He must always be gentle, and quiet, and patient, even when they made mistakes. Star and Bright must like him and trust him and know he would never hurt them, for if they were once afraid of him they would never be good willing, hard-working oxen.”
Maybe you’re like me, and have wondered sometimes what I was missing in my relationship to my children. As a parent, there are so many roles to fill – teacher, cook, laundress, etc. But how can we gain our children’s heart and trust?
While Farmer Boy is no replacement for the child training principles found in the Scriptures (the Bible does teach the need for occasional loving correction,) there is a lot we can learn from a 10 year old boy trying to break his calves:
- Be gentle – Gentleness is that elusive quality of speaking softly, with no rash moves or words. Having been a “self-made individual,” I can tell you that growing up I was known as very forthright and frank, and gentleness was nowhere in my vocabulary or actions. Without the Holy Spirit of God, the ideal is truly impossible, but “with God, all things are possible.”
- Be patient – The Devil tells us, “don’t pray for patience, all you’ll end up with is troubles.” But never forget that we have troubles anyway – we might as well have patience to deal with them.
- Be knowable – i.e, transparent. Allow our children to actually get to know us, the real us. Let’s not hide under a façade of Supermom, but let the kids see us when we spill milk, or shed a tear over our own losses, or accidently cut ourselves with a kitchen knife. Share with them your love of beautiful things, and don’t be afraid to share with them your fears and how you deal with them – it’s very likely that they will draw strength from yours.
- Be likeable – Play games with them, tell them jokes, or be goofy with them.
Put on silly hats and having screaming contests into your pillows. Make each day a playful adventure, even if you see nothing but mounds of laundry and piles of dirty dishes.
- Always work for their good, not your own comfort.
Every week I go to the store and get a small box of 85% chocolate, otherwise known as “bitter chocolate.” There are 5 pieces of chocolate in the box, and there are 2 other girls who are doing Trim Healthy Mama with me. How do I divide the chocolate? I give each of them 2, and I have 1. Could I use more chocolate? Sure! But I want them to know that I am willing to inconvenience myself so they can have more.
I’m not perfect by any stretch, but by God’s grace, I want to grow in these areas.
This struck home especially because of our recent loss of a beloved animal in our house – a gerbil who outlived any gerbil’s life expectancy and who was held, pampered, loved, cared for and gave in return many hours of entertainment as we watched him scamper about his cage, run in his wheel, and chew on his toilet paper tubes.
Did the girls cry? Oh yes. Some more than others, but definitely they mourned the loss of their friend. But although I didn’t personally shed a tear, I didn’t coldly tell the girls, “Oh, come on now! He’s just a gerbil! Get over it!” it would have been unkind of me to say such things. And the girls would have understandably been upset, not just about their pet’s death, but also my callousness.
Personally, it seems to me that gentleness and kindness go a long way with our children.
Perhaps you’ve been the recipient of harsh words and rough treatment. How did it make you feel? Now that you’re a parent yourself, how do you rise above the way you were raised?