Our oldest daughter was the first to leave home for college. A thousand miles away she called us. “Mom, dad,” she said, “My professor is 180 degrees diametrically opposed to everything you’ve ever taught me.” We had to think quickly. If we over-reacted she might never feel safe in sharing the truth with us again. If we didn’t react at all, she might think we actually agreed with her professor. It was time to practice what we’d always preached.
When Ephesians 4 speaks of growing mature in every way it says we must, “speak the truth in love.” But manytimes one or the other pulls for our affection. If we’ve been hurt, we want truth. We want the hammer of justice to come down hard on the person who has wronged us. If we’ve done the hurting then we say, “God is love. You have to forgive me.” Which is right? And the answer is… yes!
Teaching our kids to be HONEST and KIND isn’t done overnight. Here are six keys:
- You must model it. You knew that was coming. If you two are screaming at each don’t expect your kids to be nice to each other. Or how about this one. Have you ever said seriously, “don’t tell your father”?
- Be HONEST. This is like the first one. You must practice being truthful to your kids. When they are young do you tell them little “white lies” because it’s easier than the truth? It’s ok to say, I’ll tell you more when the time is right. But to say, “I don’t know” if you do, or “they were out,” when they weren’t, eventually catches up to you. Tell them the truth, even when it’s hard.
- Be KIND. I remember the days of yelling at my kids. Most of the time, I was probably right. They should have listened or stopped or done what I asked. But as we learned to parent with a gently and loving voice we began teaching our kids kindness. Because true kindness isn’t just when everything is great. In fact you can discipline nicely. “I’m so sorry you chose to do that. We really wanted you to be able to be with us, but now you are going to have to stay home.”
- Place value in HONESTY and KINDNESS. If you’re like me you’re going to mess up with your spouse or your kids. If it’s important, then it’s important enough to say I’m sorry, please forgive me.
- Teach them what to say and how to say it. Teach your kids phrases for how they might approach a hard conversation. If they need to tell someone something truthful but hard, coach them up.
- Use family meetings and after dinner conversation to cast vision. Family meetings are great opportunities to ask, “What kind of a family do we want to be.” It’s hard to always be honest, but if you’ve decided together as a family, “We are going to do this,” it’s way more likely to happen.
It’s almost a lost art to speak truth in love. As a culture we are angry. So when we speak truth we feel justified to do so in anger. Ephesians 4 doesn’t give you license to be “brutally” honest with those closest to you. On the other hand if we choose to be kind we assume it means we can’t be honest. Instead let’s teach our kids to be HONEST with each other and to do it with KINDNESS! How have you seen this lived out in your home? What helped your kids live out Ephesians 4?