A few semesters ago while studying the book of Proverbs in my women's bible study group, our teacher set forth a challenge to us. The challenge was to be a mom whose children could one day say: "My mother never spoke a harsh word to me."
Over the past 1 1/2 years since this challenge was posed it has always stuck with me - I think because it is such a struggle for me to carry it out. When I first heard the challenge I was quite taken aback. I thought, how can I discipline my children without taking up a forceful tone, and showing them through my voice that I am upset with them? In fact, I thought, if I don't raise my voice, how will they know I am angry with what they have done? But, I soon learned that the challenge wasn't to imply that I should avoid rebuking my children. God demands me to discipline "The rod of correction imparts wisdom, but a child left to himself disgraces his mother" (Proverbs 29:15). The challenge was to show me the importance of monitoring the manner in which I rebuke. It wasn't implying that I should be a push over. God demands me to teach and instruct as a mother "She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue" (Proverbs 31:26). The challenge was to remind me that as a wife, as a mother, and as a friend, I have the power in my words and in my tone to either kill and destroy, or to lift up and encourage. "Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing" (Proverbs 12:18). Speaking angry words and yelling are weapons that leave victims with sad, sullen, guilty, and ashamed faces. And harsh words are often remembered long after the offense or situation, sometimes even years later. Over the past year I've been learning that there is a way to instruct, discipline, and guide my children with a controlled tone that still gets the point across. "A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger" (Proverbs 15:1).
I love this challenge, because it is still just that, a challenge. I haven't quite got a full grasp on it yet. But, in general I was thankful to learn the wisdom in these Proverbs early on in my parenting, so that I can work at it and ask God to help me to put it into action. If I hadn't ever read these Proverbs, I don't think I would have understood the seriousness of my words. If you struggle with this too, take a trip through the Proverbs and it will give you some great food for thought. There are 31 Proverbs, so you can just read one a day for a month and you will be through it.
I'll end with this amazing and bold note on this subject written by H. Clay Trumbull. This is included in the book "Don't Make Me Count to Three!" by Ginger Plowman:
Scolding is, in fact, never in order, in dealing with a child, or any other duty in life. To "scold" is to assail or revile with boisterous speech.....Scolding is always an expression of a bad spirit and of a loss of temper...
If a child has done wrong, a child needs talking to; but no parent ought to talk to a child while that parent is unable to talk in a natural tone of voice, and with carefully measured words. If the parent is tempted to speak rapidly, or to multiply words without stopping to weigh them, or to show an excited state of feeling, the parent's first duty is to gain entire self-control. Until that control is secured, there is no use of the parent's trying to attempt any measure of child training. The loss of self-control is for the time being an utter loss of the power for the control of others.....
If, indeed, scolding has any good effect at all, that effect is on the scolder, and not the scolded. Scolding is the outburst of strong feeling that struggles for the mastery under the pressure of some outside provacation. It never benefits the one against whom it is directed, nor yet those who are its outside observers, however, it may give physical relief to the one who indulges in it. If, therefore, scolding is an unavoidable necessity on the part of any parent, let that parent at once shut himself, or herself, up, all alone, in a room where the scolding can be indulged in without harming anyone. But let it be remembered that, as an element in child training, scolding is never, never in order.
Pretty challenging, huh? It caught my attention!