I am an expert at nailing my children. I spend a lot of time with them, and I know them pretty well. Often, I can read their expressions, see behind their eyes, and even just get a sense of what’s going on from the way they’re walking.
When something seems “off” to me, particularly if it seems that they’re hiding something from me, if I’m not careful, I nail them. I jump in quickly, and like a hammer, I nail them. But nailing my children is never effective.
Nailing our children is not only ineffective, it’s wrong. Katya describes it as “being rough with her.” Adelyn tells me that I’m being harder on one child than another. Piper asks to call Daddy because he is easier to talk to than I am. Ouch.
Here’s what I’ve discovered as I’ve examined my tendency to nail my children.
Nailing your children:
- Produces fear of punishment rather than freedom to confess.
Regardless of whether an offense is deliberate disobedience or an accident, kids need to be able to approach their parents. If we are a “heavy hammer,” our children will learn to hide mistakes and sin to avoid punishment. Instead, create an atmosphere of open arms and quick forgiveness matched with appropriate consequences. 1 John 1:9
- Creates a critical spirit instead of a generous heart
When our children experience us as hard, they learn to be hard toward others. They become rule- chasers rather than grace-givers. They refuse to see beyond the letter of the law. Rather, be generous toward your children, rather than quick to judge. Luke 13:10-17
- Increases anger rather than honor
I’ve learned that I have the power to diffuse anger or fan the flames. If my tone rises to match that of an angry child, his emotion rises. Instead of being the parent, I have entered the boxing ring and stand toe-to-toe with my child. If I step back from the ring, perhaps even take my own time-out, heat often subsides. Then we can have an honoring conversation about the real issue. Ephesians 4:26-27; Psalm 4:4
- Builds barriers in your relationship rather than bridges
Hammering our children erects walls in their hearts. If they are afraid of being nailed, they are not going to open up tender places to us. They’ll take their deepest concerns to friends, or they’ll just learn to bury them. If we can be tenderhearted toward our children, we will build bridges rather than barriers. Ephesians 4:32
- Stifles communication rather than creating opportunities for sharing concerns
Not only does hammering build barriers in their hearts, but it also stifles our opportunity to share real concerns with our children. God uses parents to shape children’s hearts. If we refrain from nailing them, we will be able to get to the deeper issues of their heart. Ultimately we’ll be able to come alongside our children and teach them to nurture their own hearts. Proverbs 4:23
- Reflects more about the state of your heart than your child’s heart
Honestly, here’s the real deal. When we hammer our children, and worse, delight in hammering them, more is revealed about our heart than about theirs. So, when Katya tells me I’m being “rough” with her, or Adelyn points out than I’m harder on one child than another, or Piper wants to talk to Daddy rather than to me, I need to listen. Most likely I need a bit of “Mommy-Time-Out.” I’d be wise to take a walk, read my Bible, pray, even if it means putting everyone in front of a video for thirty minutes. Mothering is hard work, and I need to tend my own heart to be up to the task. Proverbs 4:23
No matter how well we know our children, how accurately we can name their offenses, and honestly, how good it feels, nailing our children is never right.
What about you? Are you, like me, an expert at nailing your children? Does your child ever call you on it like mine do? Maybe you’re thinking, “If I shouldn’t nail my children, how should I handle disobedience?” I have an answer for you, but you’ll have to come back on Wednesday.