The older my boys get, the better homeschooling becomes. My boys who always used to feel like their arms would break if they had to write anything down are suddenly writing novels. My son who has been so frustrated with math that he would often break down in tears while trying to complete a simple problem has found a curriculum he clicks with and math has become much less of a struggle.
As most homeschool moms, however, I continually try to reevaluate and determine what is working, what isn’t working, or what could be better. And I’ve learned lots of lessons over the years. One lesson that hit me especially hard happened as our pastor was preaching about taming the tongue a few years back. As I listened to his words, I remember feeling like I’d been hit by a ton of bricks. The entire sermon was very convicting; however, the statement that transformed our homeschool, as well as our family life, was this:
“Are your children inspired or demoralized by your words?”
Are my children inspired by my words? Not do they obey my words, do they listen to my words, do they understand my words but are they inspired by them. Wow, that statement blew my mind.
When I first heard these words, I remember feeling convicted. I hadn’t thought about inspiring my boys by the words I was speaking in a long time. I had thought of inspiring them, of course. I would research for hours to find the best curriculum for them. I poured over resources to determine the best books to inspire their minds. I knew how powerful words could be. But my actual words? The way I was saying things? I definitely didn’t give it as much thought as I should have.
Obviously, homeschooled kids spend an inordinate amount of time with the parent who is teaching them, which is usually their mom. And homeschool moms are notoriously busy. Not only do we have to run a household but we also have to teach our children of various ages at the same time. At times, it can be a stressful process. We don’t get much time to ourselves and sometimes when we are just about to get a few minutes to work on something we’d like to do, one of our children inevitably comes up and needs our attention.
At that moment, we have a choice. We can either talk to our child in a kind, patient way or we can answer them with frustration in our voice. That type of tone can be demoralizing to our children. Do we want them to feel that we are there for them whenever they need us? Or do we want them to feel that they are a burden to us? Or that a clean house is more important than they are?
Even more than this, are we speaking in a way that is actually inspiring to our children? Do we ask them to do things in a lackluster manner or do we phrase things in such a way that they actually want to do them? Do we ignite their individual passions? Do we engage them with the material we are presenting?
This is true whether we are teaching a subject or simply trying to maintain order in the house. I decided to test out this theory when my boys were younger. I had told my sons hundreds of times that when they come inside they need to neatly put their shoes on their designated shoe rack not just to kick them off anywhere on the floor and race inside. I remember walking into our mudroom one day and saw shoes scattered all over the floor. Not only that, the mudroom bench was full of various backpacks, books, and other paraphernalia that had been tossed there as my eager boys entered the house.
I instantly felt my blood pressure rise as thoughts of, “How many times do I have to tell these boys?” raced through my head. As I whirled around to find my sons, I realized that the next words to leave my mouth could be inspiring or demoralizing. What was I going to choose?
As I neared my sons, I decided to try the inspiring route. Instead of chastising them yet again, I changed my tone to one of eagerness and excitement and said, “Hey, guys, Dad’s going to be home, soon, and can you imagine how excited he would be if he came inside and the mudroom was spotless?!? Why don’t you go clean up your stuff real quick? Then we can watch when he comes inside and see his reaction. I’ll bet he’ll be amazed!”
My boys looked at me in surprise. Then they looked at each other. It took them about 5 seconds before they jumped up and raced to the mudroom. I watched in disbelief as they cleaned that mud room until it was spic and span. No more direction was needed from me. They did a spectacular job and they did it with excitement.
That was a huge lesson for me. Our boys are waiting to be inspired. Sure, there are plenty of times that we can get after them. They all have areas in which they struggle, just as we do. However, if we take the time to approach our sons with encouragement versus discouragement, we will all come away from the experience with a better attitude.
This is also important to remember when we are teaching our children especially if it is a subject we dislike or with which we struggle. The way we approach the material will either light a passion in our children or it could cause them to dislike the material.
For example, history can be seen as dry, boring and irrelevant or it can be an exciting adventure filled with emotional stories of real people who struggled just as we do. We need to give our children every chance to feel passionate about learning.
There are many things in life that we can’t control. However, we are in complete control of what we say and how we say it. We have such a powerful influence on our children. Do our words inspire them? We need to be more mindful of the words we speak.
More than any curriculum change, any books read, or any field trips that were taken I believe this will have an even greater impact on our kids. This coming year, I challenge us all to ponder the impact of our words before we say them.
Question: Are your words to your children inspirational or demoralizing? What lessons have you learned in this area? Please leave a comment below.