“The wise in heart are called discerning, and pleasant words promote instruction (Prov. 16:21).” This is one of my favorite verses in regards to home schooling and to raising children. It is a verse I need to remind myself of daily. I also have to ask the Lord to help me see the value of pleasant words and to let me be aware of when they can be used. It is easy for me to spot a child’s infraction; that comes naturally. It takes the Lord’s help to be as conscious of when to use those pleasant words.
Pleasant words are appropriate in discipline situations. Sometimes I wonder what our children must think of us when we have our stern face and stern words on. Have you ever watched and listened to another mother in this mode and thought to yourself, “Look how hard and harsh she is!” Would our children have an easier time responding to our discipline if we had the same discipline but a sweet disposition while doing it? This is not the purpose of this Mom’s Corner, though. Rather I want us to consider the value of practicing pleasant words to praise and encourage our children.
Sometimes I am absolutely amazed, at what sounds very “syrupy” sweet to me when I say it, but will bring the biggest, brightest smile to my child. Right now Anna, age six, is diligently working on learning to read and write. When she makes a particular letter well, perhaps a ‘p,’ I will say, “What a great ‘p’ that was, Anna!” Her face immediately lights up with pleasure! I can assure you that there are many, many letters on her page that are not made nicely and even this one I am praising is probably not perfect. I feel certain, though, that she is much more motivated to continue working to make her letters nicely by my “pleasant words” than she would be by my criticism of her poorly formed ones.
When we brought our oldest son, now 22, home to school fifteen years ago, he was struggling with his newly acquired reading skills. I had no experience teaching reading and few resources to draw upon for the remedial help he needed. I decided that I would have him read out loud to me for ten minutes a day. I also purposed to praise him highly for the words he read correctly and to patiently help him sound out the words he struggled with, not allowing any criticism or irritation on my lips as I did so.
Unbelievably to me, within just a few short weeks, his reading skills had improved to where he could read almost anything put in front of him. He no longer dreaded reading time as he had before, but he was actually enjoying the stories he could now read for himself.
Pleasant words promote instruction. Isn’t instruction our goal in home schooling? We want our children to learn to be Christ-like; we want them to develop godly character, and we desire that they excel educationally as much as possible. Scripture says that pleasant words will help us to these goals because they promote instruction. We can say the exact same words with a sweet voice or with a hard voice, pleasant words or harsh words. What will be the outcome of each? We can also use pleasant words or critical words in most situations. Which will promote the instruction that is the prayer of our hearts for our children?
Gratitude comes under the heading of “pleasant words” in my mind. How I delight in expressions of gratefulness to me and how difficult it can be for me to receive criticism. I am finding this is just as true for my children. My seventeen-year-old daughter thrives on praise and gratitude, being highly motivated by it. Our children need to learn to receive criticism with a proper spirit, and I expect they will have plenty of opportunities for just that. I want to push that unnatural tendency in myself, learning to major on gratitude and praise while “minoring” on the reprimands that do come naturally.
“Whose adorning let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel; But let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price (1 Pet 3:3-6).” I wonder how much of this meek and quiet spirit is evidenced by our pleasant words. No matter how hard I try for pleasant words, it is a matter of the Lord changing my heart. “For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks (Matthew 12:34b).” I must make this heart change issue an area that I am constantly bringing before my Lord Jesus Christ in prayer and petition. Also, I want to not be satisfied with having a spirit that easily criticizes my children but has difficulty praising them. “For it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose (Phil. 2:13).” I desire to see these negative heart attitudes as sin, confessing them to my children and to my Lord. “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness (I John 1:9).”
Yes, I have a responsibility to teach and train my children which will involve plenty of opportunities to correct them, but may the joy of my heart be to praise, encourage, and express gratitude to them. May I see the value in these “pleasant words.” I challenge you to evaluate your day-to-day interactions with your children. Are they lop-sided on the critical, hard side or do you find frequent occasions to verbally express your pleasure with those precious children? Pleasant words promote instruction!