Have you ever had a verse smack you upside the head? It doesn’t matter how many times I study the book of James, these verses about being quick to listen and slow to anger always hit me right between the eyes. Today, they are confronting some not-so-desirable aspects of my parenting.
And it hasn’t been pretty.
I’ve been short-tempered, snapping at my daughter over the slightest infractions, and not surprisingly, her behavior has only gotten uglier as my attitude and ability to “hold it together” have deteriorated.
Today, I NEED these verses to speak some truth into my attitude and my parenting style.
“My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.”
Man… I am so not good about being quick to listen and slow to anger, especially when it comes to my child. I expect her to obey the first time, and I have a tendency to become immediately annoyed or fly off the handle if she disobeys. (We’re getting real today, folks!)
So, these verses from James are some of the hardest for my hot-headed, Choleric side to get a grip on. If I had to paraphrase them, they would go something like this:
“Friends, stamp this lesson on your forehead so you won’t be tempted to forget it: Always listen first, don’t rush in with your own opinions, and always keep a cool head with patience. Getting angry isn’t going to help the situation, and it definitely doesn’t make you into the person God designed you to be.”
My Problem Area
Being quick to anger has always been a problem for me, but a few years ago, I realized I have a pretty major issue with listening, too. When communicating with my daughter (or anyone, really!), I try to be as clear and detailed as I can be at each step, so she doesn’t have to ask me a bunch of questions.
The frustrating part — for both of us — is I tend to expect my daughter to communicate the same way. When she comes to me with a problem, I don’t always think to ask questions to draw out the back-story. I figure if it were important, she would have told me. (As much as I’ve studied personalities, you’d think I would remember that not everyone thinks and acts like I do — especially not a preschooler!)
In processing these verses and how I need to incorporate some very needed changes into my parenting style, I was reminded of a lesson I learned from the world of alternative medicine.
The Difference a Naturopath Makes
Several years ago, out of desperation, I began seeing a naturopathic doctor. Nothing my conventionally-trained doctors tried was doing a bit of good, so I figured I had nothing to lose.
That first visit was INTENSE! The naturopath asked a TON of questions related to my history, symptoms, issues — even my dreams (which turned out to be strangely helpful). That first visit took nearly two hours! Definitely not what I was used to in the allopathic medicine world. Who has ever heard of a doctor taking TWO HOURS to talk with a patient?!
This naturopath LISTENED. He wasn’t quick to prescribe something and “just see if it helped.” Because he was quick to listen and slow to prescribe, I got MUCH better results than I ever did with traditional doctors.
I want that kind of effectiveness in communication and problem-solving with my family!
My Natural Tendency
However, in most cases, my first instinct is to behave like a traditional medical doctor. I ask for the presenting problem, “diagnose” the issue, and assign the requisite “treatment.” Problem solved!
Oh, you’re screaming at bath time? Great, let’s just throw you in the tub, dump in some calming bath salts, so you’ll stop screaming, and move on to bedtime. I need a break!
Except it’s not usually SOLVED. It’s covered up. Swept under the rug. Relegated to the past and ignored. Until it comes back, rearing its ugly head with a vengeance…
Bath time will still be a nightmare again tomorrow night.
What I Really Need
What I’m learning is I need to be more like a naturopathic doctor. I need to spend time thinking and talking through the history, asking a myriad of questions about the presenting problem, studying the issue from every possible angle, and eventually putting all the pieces together. Only then do I have a complete picture before me from which to make a “diagnosis” and get to the true root cause of the problem.
To keep with the doctor analogy, I’m not really helping anyone if I prescribe an antibiotic for their frequent sinus infections, but never take the time to learn of their allergy to dairy, which is causing the sinus issues in the first place. I may be suppressing the immediate problem, but in the long run, they are no better off than when they first came to me — and sometimes, they’re even worst after my “treatment!”
I need to take the time to see that my child is overtired and overstimulated by 8pm. Oh, and she ate something with food coloring in it earlier in the evening. So, let’s move bath time up by 15-30 minutes tomorrow and be super vigilant with her snacks, and see how things improve at bath time tomorrow night!
I don’t want my child to leave an encounter with me just as “sick” as when she came.
If I want to have any hope of truly helping her learn, grow, and develop into the woman God created her to be, I have to ask questions. I have to be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry.
My husband once told me, “I learned pretty quickly that if I got angry and didn’t listen, no one would talk to me.” Especially as a parent, I NEED to keep those lines of communication open, and the only way I can do that is to take James’ advice and train myself to become quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry.
I need to parent like a naturopath.
We ALL do!
Our families desperately need to know they can talk to us, without fear that we’ll get angry and not listen to them. Let’s become moms who listen first, ask questions second, get to the root of the problem, and truly make a difference in our homes.
You’re not alone in this parenting journey.
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