She liked to play quietly and she went to sleep without any problems. She was an easy-going three-year-old for the most part…
Except for twice a day, when it was time to brush her teeth.
For some reason, she hated teeth-brushing. It wasn’t the paste (designed for kids). It wasn’t the bristles on the brush (extra soft). It wasn’t the brushing (very, very gentle). It wasn’t my attitude…at least at first. Nevertheless, when she saw me squeeze the paste onto the toothbrush, she inevitably started squirming. She would wiggle and refuse to open her mouth. I would raise my voice. She would start crying. I would grip her jaw more tightly and hope her Dad could be home for the next session. By the time we finished, she and I both needed a time out.
I tried logic: “Brushing your teeth keeps your mouth from getting sick and helps your teeth be strong. You want strong teeth, don’t you?”
I tried identifying with her: “We all have to do things we don’t like to do. Mommy doesn’t like washing dishes, yet she does it every day. It’s just part of life.”
I tried bribery (but not with candy because would have been just too hypocritical): “When we finish here, you can watch a video!”
Nothing worked. This happened twice every day, but we had to brush her teeth. Such things aren’t optional. Still, she and I both dreaded it.
I felt silly, but I took our problem to the Lord. We had awkwardly prayed through potty training, and this felt similar. Like most of us, some of my prayers were of the “change her” variety and only a few were of the “change me” variety. (Just by the way, “change me” invariably works better.)
Not immediately but rather quickly, the most commonplace of verses came to mind:
A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. -Proverbs 15:1 NKJV
Really, Lord? Is that all I get?
I tried it at our next teeth-brushing session. Even when she protested, I stayed calm. I kept my voice soft and gentle. Then, instead of crying and becoming more difficult, my child responded to my gentleness and calmed down too. We made it through the process without tears or harsh words or threats!
It’s been ten years since those terrible teeth-brushing days, but I’m still thankful God sent us through them. I learned something about my child—about most children who haven’t been conditioned otherwise—that remains true. She doesn’t respond well to raised voices, yelling, or harsh tones. I wish I could say I’ve never yelled at her since those days in the yellow-and-white-striped bathroom, but I can say this: Raising my voice has never been effective with this one.
Reading recently, we came upon this:
Her face was pure, furious, madder-than-mad human. “Did you hear me, boy?”
I didn’t say anything. I wasn’t good at quick answers when people yelled.
-Joy Cowley in Stories of the Wild West Gang
Looks like my child is not alone.
Two things here. I pray they help you with whatever parent-child struggle you are currently facing.
- God hears our parenting prayers and often answers them through His Word. (click to tweet) Just pay attention.
- In Intentional Parenting, it’s the parent’s responsibility to pay attention to the child’s responses and learn how best to discipline each individual child.
What about you? Use the comment section to tell us how God has guided your parenting though His Word!