The image above is from the most disgusting video I’ve ever seen in my life. I thought about posting the video, but couldn’t stomach it. I came across it on Facebook. I don’t know why I clicked play, but I wish to God I hadn’t. The video is of this lady abusing her small child. It starts with hitting her with a pillow, moves on to slapping her face, then pinching her legs, and at one point even kicking her. And all throughout, this little girl is trying to get close to her mother. To touch her, as you can see above. To crawl on her lap. To be comforted by her. And the mother just turns her away, only to hurt her more. This video absolutely wrecked me. I couldn’t stop seeing it in my head. I couldn’t stop praying that God would do something for this little girl. It’s unbelievable that this child wanted so badly to be comforted by the one doing the hurting.
But that’s how kids are. They love their parents with a love that doesn’t make sense. Need proof? Just start talking to people. You’ll hear stories of grown adults trying to win their parents approval their whole lives. Of physically or emotionally abused kids, who grown to adulthood, still make excuses for what was done to them.
That’s why I hate it when I hear parents say things like, “Well my kid loves me. I must be doing something right.” Sadly, that is not the case. We can put our kids through hell and they’ll still love us and seek our attention and approval. And it’s got nothing to do with how you treat them. It has everything to do with the love God puts in our hearts for the people raising us.
So we must pay very close attention to our words and actions.
First things first: If you have ever struck your child out of anger, stop everything and talk to someone. Find a counselor that can help you with your anger and how you project that on your kids. I’m not talking about spanking. I’m not that guy. But when you seek to hurt your kids, something is off. So if that’s you, don’t even bother reading on. Take action to end this action.
I want to ask the question of how guarded we are with our words. Our words can be so damaging when we choose to just throw them around. And these words we throw around so carelessly aren’t received nearly as lightly as how we use them.
Last week, I was convicted of this very thing. Owen absolutely loves me. He always wants to be with me, doing what I’m doing, saying what I’m saying. So on this particular night, I was watching him ride his bike. We live in a neighborhood, but the road itself is considered a county road, even though there are probably close to a hundred houses in a series of cul-de-sacs, which means the speed limit on our road is 50mph. Add to that the fact that so many people live there, there’s always cars flying by. So we watch carefully. And Owen has been taught… maybe it’s more accurate to say that we’ve beat into his head… to watch for cars. Anyway, Owen is in the driveway and I’m on the porch and little OZ man just goes right into the street. Didn’t even look around. Not once. Well nothing happened, because there were no cars around. But that scared me and I was seeing red. So I call Owen over to me, asked what he was thinking, and then uttered the words “you acted so stupid!” Immediately, I felt bad. I tried to cover it by telling him that he was a smart kid, but still found myself saying he acted very stupid. In my adult mind, I told myself that I wasn’t calling him stupid, just his actions. But what did his 6 year old brain hear? I’m willing to bet the farm, he heard one word: stupid. And that’s what I said to him. This man that is supposed to love him, guide him, cherish him, and lead him. I can try to kid myself and play the whole “Well I actually said” game, but the only thing that matters is what he heard. And I saw firsthand what he heard. As his head bowed, his shoulders slumped, and I watched the joy leave his face. He heard “stupid”. And that’s all.
I had such a check in my spirit. That’s not the dad I want to be. That’s not the word I want him to hear. There are a hundred ways I could have handled the situation, but my fear and anger led me to saying words that hurt him, not guide him.
But how often do we, as parents, play this game? We are angry or afraid. And we convey that with hurtful words, but we mask them. “You dress like a slut”. “You’re acting like an ass-hole”. “You don’t care about anyone but yourself”. And we get our point across loud and clear. All the while damaging the ones we love most.
James, the brother of Christ, talks about the tongue in the third chapter of his book. He says it is untamed. That it is full of deadly poison. That it is a fire, capable of doing great damage. This mouth that is made to honor God and bless others, instead is often used to curse God and tear down others. And though it should always be used to love, guide, and encourage our children, so often it is the source of hurt.
Am I saying that we shouldn’t call our kids out for bad behavior? Of course not! But there are ways to correct our children without tearing them down. Harsh words when spoken can’t be taken back. It’s like trying to get toothpaste back in the tube once it’s been squeezed. Once it’s out there, it’s out there. And even immediate apologies can’t pull the sting out from the wound.
So use my failure as an opportunity to reflect. How can we communicate a lesson without using harsh words. How do we speak correction without speaking anger? How do we lead them and build them? Redeeming a situation and restoring our kids never involves tearing them down. How do we balance discouraging the action with encouraging the child?
I want Oz and Jax to hear words of affirmation from me. I want to be a source of love, encouragement, and empowerment. If I’m half the man I should be, I can figure out how to do that without bullying and hurting a child.