Slow to speak

The importance of developing our listening ability is directly affirmed by James, a man who knew Jesus intimately: “Let every man be quick to hear, slow to speak.” The two terse commands contained in the beginning of this verse fit nicely together. When we take time to listen responsively—and avoid the error of answering with authoritative pronouncements—the messages given back to us by our children are far less likely to be obnoxiously defensive. This, in turn, reduces the tension and may well help us avoid angry exchanges.—Dr. Bob Pedrick


How would you feel if someone who was [in a position of authority over you] got angry and screamed at you? You’d probably feel like shriveling up and blowing away. Add an audience, and you’d feel verbally tarred and feathered. Now, you might quickly do what that authority figure wanted you to do, but you’d despise that person for embarrassing you.

Children aren’t that much different from grown-ups in this respect. They don’t like being belittled or demeaned, especially in front of an audience.

It would be best if you could catch yourself before you got so upset that you felt like screaming. Here are some ideas:

If your child isn’t paying attention the first or second time you speak, try lowering your voice instead of raising it. Go over to your child, look him in the eyes and whisper your message.

Or you might want to go one step further and try the silent method. Just go and stand next to your child and don’t say anything until he or she turns and looks at you. When you have her full attention, make your request. Sometimes just placing your hand softly against the child’s back and waiting will get her attention.

Once you have your child’s attention, make your request clearly and firmly. Then make sure you follow up so you are certain she is doing what you want. When you do this, you’ll find a significant increase in your child’s compliance without any harmful side effects. And, you’ll feel a whole lot better by having tempered your temper!—Dr. Kay Kuzma

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