Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry. – James 1:19 (NIV)
When our youngest son played baseball, I learned a lot about sitting on the sidelines and watching my child struggle—knowing, outside of cheering encouragement from the stands, there was nothing I could do to help him.
That’s hard for a parent. We want to help our children any way we can. We want to fix what’s broken in their lives, kiss the boo-boos, take away the hurt—and we’ll move heaven and earth to accomplish it.
When they’re little and still living at home, we can do that. Then they grow up, and learning to be a (good) parent moves up to another level. A whole new set of skills waits to be learned, new behaviors to be adapted, if we want to maintain a healthy, thriving relationship with them and continue to influence them in a positive way.
Watching our son struggle on the mound during his baseball years was but a prelude to watching a grownup child grapple with the curve balls of life. What’s a parent to do?
What the apostle James wrote in the first-century is excellent parenting advice in the twenty-first.
First, be quick to listen. Be a good listener. That means listen with your ears and with your heart. Listen without judging. Listen without trying to come up with an answer, a solution. Just let them talk. Listen without thinking of your demanding to-do list. Thank God your child wants to confide in you. Be a careful, thoughtful listener (Amplified version of James 1:19).
Second, be slow to speak. The writer of Ecclesiastes gives good advice when he advises, “Do not be quick with your mouth. Do not be hasty in your heart . . . let your words be few” (Ecclesiastes 5:2). Pray for wisdom before you speak. Don’t give advice unless asked for it, and when you do, let your words be few. Be “a speaker of carefully chosen words” (Amplified). Ask questions to help them figure it out for themselves, see things that they don’t see, understand things a little bit better. “Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them” (Ephesians 4:29).
Third, be slow to become angry. Keeping emotions in check is difficult when your child is hurting. The Mama Bear is roaring at her cage doors. You’ve got to keep her locked up. Know when to intervene and how. Be patient, reflective, forgiving (Amplified). Sometimes—most times—you don’t know when or how to intervene—or even if you should. That’s where prayer comes in. Ask God for His wisdom: “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him” (James 1:5).
And finally, love unconditionally. Our children respond to our love more than to our words. Read 1 Corinthians 13 over and over. Model that kind of love, and keep the doors open and the coffee pot ready.
Being a parent doesn’t come with an expiration date—it’s a lifetime commitment. Being a good parent means you never stop learning how.
With the grace of God, the wisdom of His Word, and persistant prayer, I can be the parent my child needs, even when—especially when—I’m sitting on the sidelines.
Help me, Lord, to be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry when I’m on the sidelines watching my children struggle with life. Amen.
Extra tea: Read and meditate on James 3:17–18
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