When you dish out as many commands an hour as I do, your bound to make some verbal mistakes. I am not sure if it is out of chaos, confusion, or sleep deprivation…but I have said some doozies.
“Wash your hands with salt and pepper.” (Meant to say soap and water…)
“When you go get ready for bed, go to the bathroom, and don’t forget to brush your bottom and wipe your teeth!” (Meant to say wipe your bottom and brush your teeth!!)
And then of course there’s the scores of times that I call a child by the wrong name, tell someone to go do a job that is actually someone else’s responsibility, or plain forget what I was going to say mid-sentence. In general, I make plenty of verbal mistakes…
And while we all laugh and have a good time about it, my children don’t mock me for it. They don’t point out, “Mom, I’m Ransom, not Judson!” They wouldn’t say, “But I’m not on laundry duty, that’s Glory’s job!”
Parents, we must listen carefully to the tone that our children use when they speak to us. Are they laughing with us, or at us? Do they point out the mistakes we make when speaking or giving instructions, and use it as a way to make fun of us or derail our commands? Do they bring it up later in an endearing way, or is there a sting to their tone and a glint in their eye? Does it become a sweet inside-the-family joke, or do they blab about our faltering to friends, family and neighbors? The difference is huge, and the implications are even bigger.
We need to build a family culture that is accepting of mistakes, encouraging with laughter, and full of loving humility. The child that openly mocks a parent’s (or coach, or teacher…any authority really) verbal falterings or mistakes is a prideful arrogant little tyrant and has absolutely no respect for those above or around them. They will upbraid classmates, mock their peers, and jeer at coworkers. People around them won’t feel safe to open up to this person. As an adult, this child’s friends and family will have the constant tension and fear of being mocked openly. Hard to succeed at friendship, in marriage, and professionally with that kind of baggage. And it all starts with us, moms and dads, catching it and squelching it as a child.
So what do we do if you have one child who is a bit mouthy in this way? A child who points out our mistakes? Begin by explaining, calmly, WHY this is unacceptable and rude. Find a verse. A simple one is “Love is not rude.” (1 Cor. 13). Have them memorize it, write it out…encourage the child to work on kindness. If after a few days, the problem persists, there will have to be a consequence. It may be a chore that involves humility and serving…cleaning up Fido’s messes in the yard or scrubbing toilets. For some children, this is a habit they have picked up from classmates or friends and it is easily repaired. Then there are others that have this as a real character struggle or developed this over a long period of time. We may be working on this for a long time. We may run out of Fido messes or toilets. But consistency in calling the child’s attention to the challenge and encouraging the heck out of them when we see improvement and kindness is vital to bringing about a change of heart. Keep at it. It’s a true joy when our children lovingly laugh WITH us and not AT us.