Arguing before your children can hurt themMonday, June 29, 2020
BECAUSE he said it, we knew he had heard it — every word of our exchange he had heard, and it was obvious that he was hurt by what had happened. Furthermore, his reciting of what we had said was at a terrible time too — in the middle of our conversation with our guest. Well, we were trying to be cute as we sought to silence his quoting us in front of our guest. Then later, the frequency of his repeated questions about our argument made my wife and I realise that our son had been reeling from the experience of hearing us go at it. I now know that we would never understand the full impact of that experience on his mind and heart; the battles he would face alone trying to understand it, we would never grasp.
Whoever came up with “sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me”? They must have been some hermit in the boondocks, without kin, friend or foe. Certainly words can cause the deepest levels of injury! How many of us can quote some painful thing once said about us or to us, or simply said in our presence, and statements that stuck with us like landmarks or mile posts? I know of words from teachers that have limited the performance and development of their students. “All like-a-yuh will never come to nutten”. Such words echo in them for years, challenging their right to achieve anything significant.
Every thinking adult should realise that, especially with children, words are like seeds sown in good soil. They will all germinate, showing up exactly what was sown in the field of their little minds. And the 'weeds' from those 'seeds' sown, you can't uproot them as easily as the ones in the back garden.
For my wife and I, it is 'all hands on deck' to undo whatever damage we caused our son and daughter when they heard our heated argument. And, it is not only to spare us from the embarrassment of another recital in front of someone. More importantly, we sought to do damage control to spare us the trouble of dealing with an angry duo who think shouting and a heated argument are the order of the day; lest they think that is the way to deal with family, friends and foe alike.
Home should be a safe place, especially for the children. It should be the 'cool greenhouse' where growing up and nurturing are most easy; where careful cultivation of the best things is done.
Our children are like blank canvases waiting for paint. They wait for the application of paint by caring, creative and experienced leaders. And they want to believe that every application to their soul is right. And whatever is dabbed on is what is meant to be there. Because whatever is dabbed on indeed, will be a part of the future of 'the canvas' and it will determine the worth of the final piece. The relationship between the artist and his canvas is tantamount to the relationship between parents and children.
“Train up a child in the way that he should go and when he is old, he will not depart from it” — (Proverbs 22:6). The Bible confirms that the path we set these children on is the path they'll follow when they are older. Well, the text is more of a command than a confirmation. It commands us to “train” them. To train means to cause development by useful structure, routine and practices.
There are just some things that children are not ready for. Probably when they are older they can understand the 'why' and the 'what', but the younger they are, the less capable they are to handle the back and forth 'bullets' between moms and dads. Some are too young to restrict the power of those negative experiences on their own consciousness; they can't filter it through their own reasoning. They hear it and simply wonder, and internalise, asking “why?!”
Since the good book says, “Let your speech be always with grace, seasoned with salt” (Colossians 4:6), let's pay attention to that. And if your speech needs to be “seasoned with salt”, which means that it is carefully prepared to be fitting for the hearers, if that is so for the public, it is more so for our children.
It is a disturbing experience to hear a child 'carrying on' and cussing like an adult. Yet I hear it so often. Often times the cussing is not only loud but lewd, with expletives — local and otherwise. Then you wonder, “where did this likkle pickney get that filthy mouth from?” And most of the times it is right at home, often hearing their parents go at it. Thank God that's not us!
My intention is not to raise disrespectful, contentious and cussing ogres, so I know that I cannot allow myself to portray that to them. I'm glad my wife and I got that lesson early, so that we have adjusted how we talk to each other generally, but particularly in front of them. Their lives are too valuable to scar with momentary tiffs. I still figure though that we will be answering some of those “what is an eidiat?” type questions for a while, because they still come up, just from that one argument. God forbid there be anymore.
So today my wife and I now have our debates when the children are away or when we are in the privacy of our bedroom. We have adult discussions among the adults. If the children are in earshot of our conversation, then we won't discuss the testy topics at that time. They expect us to be responsible. That's exactly what we will hold ourselves to. We are not perfect, but we know that their futures can be jeopardised by the present use of our tongues.
Pastor Christopher Brodber is married with two children. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
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