A mistake I make with my boys – one that’s well documented on this blog – is raising my voice when I’m angry. I’ll be on tilt about something, and before I know it, I’m unnecessarily elevating the volume of the conversation. I’ve become quite good at drinking down my own words. If you’re wondering how to talk to your kids so they listen, let’s look at how sometimes that requires us dads to drink our own words.
One time when I did this, my older son said something so profound, so powerful, and so familiar. I just knew I’d heard it before.
We were getting dinner on the table, and I’d just had an argument with one of my sons. I had been raising my voice, so as we sat down, everyone knew I’d been angry about something.
As the food made its way around the table, my seventeen-year-old son Alex casually asked, “Hey Dad, why were you yelling at (*name withheld to protect the guilty*)?”
I replied, “Well, he was griping about what was for dinner. Again!”
Alex spooned something onto his plate as he thought for a second. Then, he said, “Not really, Dad. You yelled at him because you chose to.” There was a moment’s pause as my boys checked for my reaction. I cracked a grin and they started in with the hand motions, “Ooooh! Burn! Dad!” We all laughed.
An Arnold Palmer and drinking down my own words
Have you ever enjoyed an Arnold Palmer? The drink with tea and lemonade mixed? I like mine with slightly sweetened tea. There’s just something about the combination of those two flavors. Mmm, mmm, good.
Alex’s words went down kinda like that drink. A tasty blend of the sweet and the sour.
I have said that same phrase while parenting my boys hundreds of times. It normally goes something like this:
“No, the reason you hit him was not because he hit you. You hit him because you chose to. Now, we’re dealing with two separate sin issues. They’re not connected. He made a sinful choice, then you made a sinful choice. His didn’t cause yours. You always own your response.”
I feel amazing as a Dad when I dole out wisdom this rich. I usually say, “You’re welcome,” even before my boys can thank me. Then I drop the mic. It’s the least I can do.
Of course, serving it up is one thing. Choking it down is another.
But really, I was thrilled! Alex was spot-on. I’d given in to the temptation of blaming my behavior on someone else. And, he called me on it – respectfully, even with a dose of humor. I love it when my (aptly said) words come flying back at me!
Regardless of how we’re treated, we own our response. Even when we’re punched in the face, we choose whether to strike back, turn the cheek, or run away. As a guy who wants to be an engaged father, I need to model this behavior and set a good example for my boys.
If you think you don’t have this capacity, consider our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. He was treated much worse than you or I ever will be, yet, he extended grace and love. Romans 5:8
Through the power of God’s Holy Spirit, we can do the same.