James 4:9-10 "With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God's likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be."
The tongue, although one of the smallest parts of the body, possesses some of the greatest power. James chapter 4 speaks of it's power and how it can be such an evil tool if not used well. We've chosen to commit the verses above to memory in our family.
We were asking our children tonight to give examples of how the tongue can be misused. One of them had a recent example of being so angry at one of their parents (remember, we are a blended family), that they ended a phone conversation by hanging up on them. In that moment, we had two choices. We could either rejoice in the fact that we hadn't been on the other side of that conversation, feeling some sense of parental superiority. Or, we could be disappointed in our child's behavior and use that moment as an opportunity to teach a lesson in respect. We chose the latter.
I've had a few conversations with other parents recently and have shared a bit about our family circumstances. And more than once, I've received a response of, "Well, we never had that problem...". My goodness, that is a condescending statement. Unless you are willing to share the problems that you do have, that is never the appropriate response. When I'm sharing my struggles, those words only leave me feeling judged and defensive, like I'm only the only parent in the world struggling with a defiant child. Judging from the number of parenting books that are published each year, I feel fairly certain that is not the case.
I bring this up because my husband and I have both done that, uttered those exact words. Didn't we think we were parents of the year... I'm embarrassed to admit this. How dare we ever claim superiority over another set of parents. Yes, we have issues with our children that are different than the ones experienced in their other homes. However, we still have issues with our children and must do our very best to support parenting decisions in both homes.
What I've learned in my roles as both a step-child and a step-parent, is that there are a couple of things that will benefit not only your children but also you and their other parent(s). One of them is to develop some sort of mutual respect. You may not like your ex-spouse or even agree with how they parent your child(ren). However if you do not have some sort of level of respect for that person, it will become quite obvious to your child(ren). That leads me to my second thought. Never, ever - under any circumstances - speak poorly of your child's other parent in front of them. Regardless of your opinion of that person, keep in mind that they are your son or daughter's mommy or daddy. For that matter, it doesn't matter if your son or daughter is young or old. That is still their mommy or daddy.
I have to tell you that I'm writing all of this from my own experience. I've made most of these mistakes. It is an area that will probably always be a work in progress. I will always need to ask for grace from not only God, but from my children. It's okay to make mistakes in front of your children. It lets them know that you are human. Own up to them! If you want them to apologize when they are sorry, they should see that coming from you first.
The bottom line is that when we've been the most successful parents, we are working well as a unified parenting team. Always keep in mind, just as it is with everything else in life, these children aren't really ours. They are God's. He has entrusted them to us while we are all in this world. There is no better way to honor Him than to be honorable as your raise His children.
I will end with what will most likely be our family's next memory verse.
Ephesians 4:29 "Let no unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen."