Of Words and Actions

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Loving parents require obedience from their children. It’s one of the best ways I know to teach children that God’s rules matter.

Back when Ray and I had children at home, we learned from various parenting classes. I remember one teacher contrasting nurture and discipline in rearing children. He told us that children need a balance of both. Discipline alone results in resentment.

Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger,
but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.
Ephesians 6:4

Nurture alone results in uncertainty. Sounds like a biblical idea doesn’t it?

When Ray and I were a young couple in ministry, our preacher took Ray under his wing and his wife took me. Joyce and I talked on the phone almost every day. John, Bethany, and Mary Evelyn were all born while Ray was working with that congregation. While I was a mother of young children, Joyce was the mother of teenagers.

At the same time, Joyce’s own mother was taking care of her mother and her mother-in-law. One of them lived with Joyce’s mother and the other one lived next door.

With tongue in cheek, Joyce’s mother told Joyce that the only difference between taking care of parents and taking care of young children is that with young children, you can say, “Get in the car! We’re going!”

I have remembered that story for more than thirty years now and it has given me many laughs during some of the challenges that come along with the blessings of being first a daughter-in-law and then a daughter helping elderly parents.

My experience as a mother taught me that there is actually another difference. With young children, you can also pick them up kindly and put them in the car, in addition to saying, “Get in the car! We’re going!”

Child in a toy car in the early 1900s, courtesy Library of Congress
Child in a toy car in the early 1900s, courtesy Library of Congress.

I have seen many parents use their voices to try to get their young children to do what they say. Sometimes those voices say the same command over and over again. Sometimes those voices get louder and louder and more emphatic.

Certainly the goal is for a parent to give a child a verbal instruction one time and then see the child quickly obey. However, sometimes the most loving thing to do, while training a child for that ultimate goal, is to combine a kind action with an instruction. Sometimes a parent’s word or tongue needs a loving deed to go along with it.

Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue,
but in deed and truth.
1 John 3:18

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