As a parent, do you ever feel like you are repeating yourself?
Repeating ourselves is part of a parent’s job description. We are reminded in Deuteronomy 6:7: “Repeat them [the commands] again and again to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up.”
When I see or hear the word “repeat” within the context of parenting, I get exhausted. “Can you please turn off the light? Turn off the light, turn it off, turn it off, turn it off! Can you please take out the trash? Take out the trash, take it out, take it out, take it out! Can you please turn off the game? Turn off the game, turn it off, turn it off, turn it off! Can you please pick up your clothes, pick up your clothes, pick them up, pick them up, pick them up!”
The word “repeat” in Deuteronomy 6:7 is translated from a Hebrew word that actually means “whet.” No, not wet, whet. The best way to understand this word in a modern way is to think about how to sharpen a knife. I don’t know how you sharpen a knife at your house, but in our house we plug in a knife sharpener and run the blade through it a few times and we’re done. That was not the case when Deuteronomy was written.
If you wanted to sharpen your knife while you were walking around with Moses, you needed both your knife and a stone, specifically a whetstone. You would sharpen the blade of your knife by running it over the whetstone at the correct angle with consistent, even pressure and you would keep repeating that movement until your knife was sharp.
Sharpening a knife using a whetstone, takes time, skill, patience and understanding. Ironically you could say the same thing about parenting! When the writer of Deuteronomy penned the words “repeat them again and again to your children,” he was giving us a picture not only of what parenting is like but also of what we need to do which is whet and repeat.
Four Reminders For Parents
When you use a whetstone to sharpen a knife, you must run the blade over the whetstone more than once. It would be great if we could make one pass over the stone and be done. Unfortunately, that isn’t the case. It would also be great if we could tell our children one time to be truthful and have it happen. Or tell them one time to pick up their room or turn out the lights or take out the trash, but that hasn’t been our experience with our kids. What sharpens a knife is consistent, even pressure over time. I hope you caught those two words “consistent” and “even.” In other words, you want to be unchanging and steady (or level), not going to one extreme or another.
Using a whetstone to sharpen a knife requires skill. Skill is usually achieved over time with lots of practice and experience. We have neither when we are first blessed with children. So how do we learn to be better parents? By reading what God’s Word has to say, by reading parenting books written by experts in the field, by talking to other parents and by having open and honest communication with your kids.
Skill to sharpen the blade of a knife on a whetstone also includes maintaining the same angle as you run the blade across the stone, sharpening both sides of the blade evenly. Similarly, maintaining the same angle and approach in our parenting is also necessary; in other words, both parents must be on the same page.
If you pray for patience as a couple, you will probably end up with strong-willed children…or twins! I stopped praying for patience after our twins were born. Of course, that’s a mild attempt at humor, but there also is a grain of truth to that statement. Kids will test the patience of their parents to the point of absolute exhaustion. So, before going any further, let’s all take a deep breath and read Galatians 6:9 out loud, “Let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up.” You may want to highlight that verse or write it out on a card to carry with you or spray paint it on the mirror just to remind you to patiently hang in there!
At some point, every parent faces the “That’s not fair!” conversation. Those words and “Why do they get to and I don’t?” are probably the two most repeated phrases in a home with children.
Child: “Why do I have to be 14 to have a Facebook account? Facebook says I can have one when I am 13!”
Parent: “I know Facebook says you can have an account when you’re 13, but as your parent, I say you need to be 14.”
Child: “That’s not fair.”
Parent: “Life isn’t fair.”
Have you had that conversation? It may not have been about a social media site, but no matter what the subject, the course of the conversation was probably similar. Frustrating to parents? Yes! Necessary conversation? Yes! Will you have to repeat this conversation? Yes! Sharpening requires understanding. How many times will you be able to use your kitchen knife before having to sharpen it again? How often will my kids tell me their lives are unfair? Being aware and mindful of our children’s needs and how they are feeling is an important part of parenting.
Time, skill, patience and understanding. That’s it! Four essentials for each of us as parents. As a matter of fact, these may be four essentials for building a dynamic team or four characteristics of a great boss or 4 ways to build effective leadership. Come to think of it, these four reminders are for all of us to live on a daily basis.
Question: Which reminder do you need to work on today?
I need to work on understanding (Just in case you were asking)
This post was adapted from "Faith and the Modern Family: How to Raise a Healthy Family in a Modern World" by Craig Jutila
Photo Credit: shutterstock.com Image ID: 160610720 © NorGal