This blog post was written by my daughter Anna. I felt it was very helpful for moms who are also striving to increase the art of encouragement in their families. Thanks Anna!
Advocate or Adversary
He stood at the edge of the stage, next in the lineup of children, watching his little sister enthusiastically recite.
He stepped to the center of the open stage and stood before the microphone to share his well-loved and well-rehearsed poem about trains.
But no words came.
He swung his arms nervously and someone in the audience chuckled.
After hearing the chuckle, he grew more embarrassed and could not speak. Someone else in the audience whispered, “He’s just not ready.” After a few (long) seconds of silence, one of his sisters helped him off to the side. Another sister stepped up to recite as the one on the side tried to encourage him to try again.
His second chance up to the microphone.
And again, fear and shyness took over. Meanwhile, I sat at the piano, whispering encouraging words across the stage. Finally, seeing that he was not going to be able to continue, I whispered “It’s OK” and beckoned him to me, while the last sister began to recite.
His face was full of shame.
I gently questioned my son and reassured him that everything was going to be OK.
And as his sister wrapped up her recitation, I encouraged him to rejoin his sisters on stage for the next act, which was their group song. He did, and the show went on.
After the show, when audience members commented to me about him, I simply smiled and replied, “It happens to everyone sometimes.”
On the long drive home, I shared with my children a few stories from my performing days. Of how one time I got up to the piano during a competition and completely blanked out as to how my piece began. I had to leave the stage to check my music. Of how another time, as a young adult, I had to apologize to the audience and start a piece over again after only 4 measures because I totally lost my memory. And I told them how life went on and about how I tried again and about how I did better the next time.
I told my son that I was proud of him for going back on stage and how I was sure that next time he is going to do great.
I tell you all of this because my words and actions that night were a total surprise – to me.
They are not my usual ones.
My usual responses when my children mess up, on stage or at home, are more like this:
“What’s the matter with you?”
“Ummm….NO. You WILL get back up there and not embarrass me and yourself.”
“Augh! I shouldn’t have even asked you to perform. You just weren’t ready.”
“How many times do I have to tell you to stop arguing with your sister? When are you EVER going to get it right?”
Anger. Frustration. Embarrassment. A hard word. A sigh or even just a LOOK. (If I’m honest, these responses often come from anger and frustration with myself for my lack of parenting abilities.)
So, why was my response different this time? I really wasn’t sure, so I had to stop and think about it that night after my children were tucked into their beds.
As you know, for several months now, I’ve been meditating on compassion. I’ve desired more of it and prayed earnestly for it. Slowly, my heart has been experiencing a change in this area, especially in regards to my relationship with my children.
I can sense a shift starting to occur, as I move from the role of an adversarial parent to one of an advocate. An advocate supports you and is on your side – a person who has your best interest in mind! As Sarah Mae says in Desperate:
An advocate is someone who goes to bat for you, who watches out for you and protects you.
Similarly, when my children mess up and sin, I’m learning how to sympathize with their weaknesses. After all, that’s what God does for me!
“As a father pities his children,
So the Lord pities those who fear Him.
For He knows our frame;
He remembers that we are dust.”
In the book of Hebrews, it says:
“For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses,
but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.
“Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace,
that we may obtain mercy
and find grace to help in time of need.”
Are there still consequences? Yes.
Is there still punishment for disobeying Mom and Dad? Of course.
But I’m starting to realize that it’s OK to be on their side – that it’s not them against me and my ideals, but rather, it’s about us together against their sin.
Because this isn’t just about me and my parenting abilities or how “good” my children appear to be to others. This is about introducing my children to God and His ways – showing them the way to go so that when they are older, they will continue on that path and in a relationship with Him.
I’m learning to say things like ~
“I’m sorry that I need to punish you, but screaming at your sister is wrong and not acceptable in our family. We need to love each other and use kind words. There must be a consequence for what you’ve done.
I know that it’s HARD to always think of others before yourself. I get mad at people too, sometimes! But I know that you CAN do the right thing! We’re going to keep working on this together, OK? Let’s pray that God will help us both to grow.”
At first glance, this may appear to be a very minor tweak in child training.
However, I see that it’s making a big difference in my family because my children are beginning to accept the consequences of their wrong-doings with less anger toward me. I can sense that they feel they are being treated justly, rather than being punished on Mom’s whim. They are starting to sense that “Mom’s on MY side! She has to mete out the consequence because she really wants to see me succeed.”
I’m learning how important it is that I recognize that I can be their advocate instead of their adversary, and that I demonstrate that truth to them.
When Jesus told Peter that he would betray Him, He didn’t say something like, “Why are you even trying to follow me, Peter? What’s the point? Forget it -I’m just going to choose someone else. You’re not good enough for me. You’re going to mess up anyways!”
No. Instead He said “…when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren.” (Luke 22:32) Jesus knew that Peter would falter and stumble, but He knew that Peter would return to Him and do great things in His name.
He was on Peter’s side! He wanted him to succeed!
I know the powerful effect that God’s encouraging words have on me and I’m learning what a powerful effect encouraging words can have on my children. After all, as a Christian, I am called to love others how I want to be loved.
That includes my children, too.
This post was written by my daughter Anna. Please visit her site at wheremytreasureis.wordpress.com for many insighteful posts on motherhood.
Message from Anna: Next Monday, I plan to delve deeper into this subject of using words of encouragement in mothering.
Don’t forget to join us on Wednesday for our book discussion on Chapter 3 of Desperate: Hope for the Mom Who Needs to Breathe!