He who has knowledge spares his words,
And a man of understanding is of a calm spirit.
It is a sort of standing joke in our house that we can tell we need to tighten up on discipline when we find ourselves talking way too much. Of course all discipline should start with self discipline. And the words in question of course are not words of a story, or words of pleasant conversation. We are talking about words of correction. Whenever we find ourselves being wordy, it is usually because we have not been following through. So beginning with ourselves, we need to tighten things up. A non- biblical proverb that applies to this is the old “a stitch in time saves nine.” So also, a calm word in advance saves nine hasty ones in the future. And one moment of self discipline saves a great wave of discipline problems.
When we are tempted as parents to bribe our children, to pacify them while they are sinning, or to postpone the inevitable manifestation of sin, what we are doing is not indulging the children. That is the common assumption. Giving them M& M’s instead of dealing with the refusal to get in the car is an example of a parent being self-indulgent. Forget the children being pacified – you are trying to pacify yourself.
Sometimes as parents, we start to get wound up. Our spirit is not calm, and so we start barking out commands, running past a child while we try to explain to them what they are doing wrong. Looking at our phones while we tell them that they are being bad.
People who are calm in spirit are people who are delightful to be around. The calmness of their spirit assures you that they are reasonable. Someone who is calm of spirit is not a person who has a fast inner dialogue going on. They have understanding. You are confident that they are not hastily taking offense, trying you, convicting you, all before you even know that something is happening. You can discuss a problem with a person who is calm in spirit, because they will take the time to hear you. They will listen all the way through, not just jump hastily into response.
When it comes to mothers with children – it is easy to become anxious in spirit. There are a million things that can unsettle your spirit. You might be giving into anxiety, into worry, into envy, into guilt without repentance. You might be stressing out about the very simple things in life- like what you will make for dinner, or whether or not your child has pink eye. And then, having gathered up a lot of unsettled spirit, you are primed to spring into an overreaction. You are primed for an unreasonably wordy rebuke. You are primed to communicate the state of your heart rather than any wisdom.
Part of the reason that we try to avoid getting really wordy with our children is that it only happens when we are being inaccessible. Has it ever happened to you that you are mid wordy rebuke when it is revealed that the object of all your words was actually not the one at fault after all? And yet this doesn’t come up until you have already saddled the horse of rebuke and ridden off after one of your children.
Proverbs 18:2 says, “A fool has no delight in understanding, But in expressing his own heart.”
When you allow your heart to become unsettled, when you let anxiety or annoyance build, you are setting yourself up for foolish parenting. Because when your spirit is calm, you can use your words to communicate clearly. When you are communicating clearly with your children, and what you are communicating is coming from a calm spirit, you are parenting in wisdom.
This is why, at a fundamental level, being a wise parent starts with having a calm heart. Of course the state of our heart is always our relationship to our Savior. Listen to Him. Repent. Pray. Give thanks. Rejoice. Laugh. Then, after all of that, you will be ready to speak.