Recently I was reading in Proverbs and this short verse stood out to me. ‘Her mouth speaks wisdom, and loving instruction is on her tongue.’ (Prov. 31:26 CSB) Chapter 31 on the virtuous woman is not a new passage for me but I was reading in a different translation than I usually do and the words ‘loving instruction’ stood out to me. The English Standard Version translates it ‘the teaching of kindness.’
As a stay at home, homeschooling mom, my days are full of instructing others. My children are lower elementary age so basic facts about phonics, math, writing, and the alphabet are usual topics of teaching. We're also learning manners, how to get along and solve disputes between siblings, how to do chores. It seems as if my days are one long teaching session.
If I'm honest I would have to admit that what I teach is not always done in love or patience or kindness. Sometimes it's a frustrated nails-digging-into-my-palm kind of teaching. When I've explained the same thing 20 times and they still look doubtful. When I correct and deal with the same attitude issues and see no proof they've listened. When I struggle to not raise my voice and retreat to my room for a long cry, wondering if I'll ever arrive as a good mom.
Maybe that's why verse 26 leaped off the page at me. Because I've lived the opposite of teaching my children with loving instruction and I didn't like it.
Proverbs isn't the only guide we have for how to use our mouths. Consider what James says when he writes, ‘Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger.’ (James 1:19) A few chapters later we read, ‘So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things.’ (3:5) We can use words with love and kindness or in anger and selfishness. And how we speak shows others what is in our hearts. (Matt. 15:18)
So where does that put us with speaking loving instruction? Or rather we should ask what does loving instruction look like practically lived out?
To me it means having an attitude of love for who we are teaching before the teaching ever begins. If my response and attitude don't show my kids I love them, anything I say or try to teach will fall on unresponsive ears. I will look like a hypocrite - instructing them to love others and serve God while failing to do it myself.
Teaching includes a large percentage of ‘do what I do.’ And children are notorious mimics. They will copy what we do whether we tell them to or not.
When I look back on my day with my kids, I don't want to regret what I taught with my own attitude. I don't want my kids to grow up thinking I don't enjoy my time with them or I regret my decision to homeschool. I want our everyday interactions to be brimming with love.
My desire is to do all with kindness.
Whether you homeschool or not, you are primarily responsible for teaching your children the ways of the Lord. And it begins with the attitude in how we teach.
photo by Laith Abdulkareem on Unsplash