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As my kids were going off to bed recently, I found myself speaking plainly to them:
“I’m sorry for being grumpy today. I was really grumpy. But you were also really annoying.“
Find me a parent whose own kids don’t irritate the hell out of them on a fairly regular basis, and I’ll give them a lifetime’s supply of chocolate.
No, scrap that. I’ll give them my kids. Then they’ll see.
I know I can’t be alone in the cycle of irritating kids –> shouty parent –> more irritating kids –> more shouty parent, because several of you have emailed me recently to say you too struggle with how to talk to kids with words of grace. You can read more about how tough I find this right here.
If anyone knows how to push our buttons, it’s those who live with us, those who know our pet gripes, those who are secure enough in our love to know they can behave appallingly – in other words, our kids and our spouse. But at least our spouse (usually) has grown-up standards of what is socially acceptable, whereas our kids are still in the zone of being able to kick and shout and interrupt and draw on the banister and whatever else they’ve dreamt up in all the hours they didn’t sleep last night.
So you can imagine it was with a huge sigh of relief and thankfulness that I received Parenting with Words of Grace in the post recently. (Not that I was on my knees clawing at the package like a mad woman or anything. Not at all.)
And don’t anyone say that my husband’s not a lucky guy: I decided a Fun Bedroom Activity would be for us to read this book together, a chapter a night. Yep, I can feel your envy right now.
Actually, we were both struggling with knowing how to communicate graciously with our kids, how to stay patient and hold on to our tempers when we’re onto the fourth toileting accident that day, or when someone’s just blatantly disobeyed a rule they were reminded about just seconds ago. (This is particularly hard with adopted kids – check out Does Being Adopted Affect a Child? for more on this.)
So we were keen to read the wisdom of William P Smith.
Parenting with Words of Grace
Parenting with Words of Grace looks a little hefty when you first hold it in your hand (tip: read it on your Kindle then you’ll never know) but actually it’s divided into 32 short chapters, so it’s more than easy to digest nightly over a month or so. It took us much longer, but we were less regular in our reading habits.
And it’s full of good stuff.
In the first two sections, Smith paints a picture of us representing our Father God as we talk to kids, and with this broad background in our minds, he expertly guides us through Biblical reflection on the language we use – not only in our relationships with our children, but with everyone.
The third and fourth sections of the book are much more practical, focusing on how we can talk to kids with both encouragement and honesty (words of grace!). These sections were full of personal anecdotes from Smith’s family life, and I related much better to them. Even though the language I would use with my kids would be different, I could easily see the point he was making in how he approached difficult confrontations with his kids.
Interestingly, a lot of what he said in the honesty section about seeing the heart behind the behaviour reminded me of the therapeutic parenting we use with our blended family. Jesus totally used this technique too – it’s not new! (See my article for Home for Good: How does God parent us therapeutically?)
How to Talk to Kids
The book made us think and, more to the point, it has actually affected how we talk to our kids. I’ve noticed this in myself, but I’ve also noticed it in my husband.
The idea that the conversations we have now affect the relationship we’ll have with our children in the future is a powerful – if sobering – one.
And, as a classic perfectionist, I was given much to ponder over the idea that just because something is true doesn’t mean it has to be said. Sometimes saying the truth (“I told you so!”) is unhelpful and unloving, and our only motivation is scoring one over our children. This is a really helpful thought for any relationship, not just the one we have with our kids.
We really enjoyed this book and got loads from it – I have no hesitation in recommending it to any Christian parent who’d like to think more about communication. The chapters are short and readable, and the content is great.
We found the first half of the book quite repetitive and occasionally it felt like wading through treacle. We made slow progress on these sections, and then I actually had to hurry up and read the rest of the book on my own, otherwise this review would never have got written! Having done so now, and found much practical wisdom in the second half of the book, I plan to go back and read particular chapters with my husband, as I know he’d appreciate these nuggets as I have done.
This is only one criticism, and of course is entirely subjective. For others, the theology laid out in the first half might be totally new and fresh, and therefore not as difficult to wade through.
The most important thing is that I know we will go on mulling over the essence of the book for many years.
Pippa Elmes says
Definitely interested in this one! Been talking recently about how we can so easily communicate unhelpful emotions in our automatic reactions even at the moment and wary of getting into patterns of how we respond that might stick and then need breaking later. Trying to practice speaking how we want to speak but guidance as to what that is would be great!!
That’s so perceptive of you Pippa (as always!) – so interesting, isn’t it, the way we speak to babies, and how important it is!
Jane Stewart says
I feel guilty trying for yet another of your book giveaways! But it sounds like an awesome book.
I’ve been working on my tone of voice with little one. Plus the parent reward chart, where I get a gold star if I get her out the door to school without raising my voice or using a not-nice tone, or (like yesterday) I get a red angry face if I fail! As a fellow perfectionist I work really hard for those gold stars!!
Ooh, I love the reverse reward chart – marvellous stuff! We’ll have to pinch that idea for Famille Desert!
Louisa King says
Yes please 🙂
Laura Newberry says
Love the sound of this book. I have been meaning to read it, having 3 kids I definitely need words of grace to get out of the house in the morning!
Jenni Stone says
This is so timely for us, struggling to stay patient with our 3yo at the mo and really need some encouragement to snap out of it!
Christine Taylor says
Definitely sounds like a book I need to read!
Alice Wright says
This sounds really great, will be getting hold of it even if I don’t win ?
Mary Dixon says
I really need to read this book!
Sally Snelson says
Would definitely be interested in a copy of this.
Katherine Lowry says
This would be great to compliment our positive parenting journey!
A biblical version of therapeutic parenting? Sounds exactly what I need!
Debbie Ledgerton says
I need to read this – will be getting a copy even if I don’t win!
Thanks for the review. I am looking forward to reading this one along side our a-z.
Emily Townsend says
Would love a copy of this for support with our birth children and foster teen. Thanks for sharing your review ?
Penny Feltham says
Looks great. I’m always on the look out for practical tips as a mum, and especially ones that are Faith based 🙂
Annie Willmot says
Interesting – looking forward to reading this and recommending to me brother and sister-in-law who are expecting and looking for book recommendations!
Nikki Tomkins says
Definitely sounds like one for me x
Kate Bryans says
Sounds like an interesting read – v topical
Mary-Ann Johnson says
Sounds like a very useful book!
So need more grace in my life for my kids. I love them but oh my do they drive me crazy… Any help that this book can offer/suggest, then great.
Yes please! Totally what we are in need of with the kids. Sounds very helpful
This sounds great!
Rebecca Taylor says
Would love to read this, especially for free!
Alison Blake says
Sounds really interesting. I often hear my five year old using phrases I say (often quite amusing/embarrassing). It would be so much better for my children to pick up on positive grace-filled language!
Hayley Smith says
Samantha Lomath says
“And, as a classic perfectionist, I was given much to ponder over the idea that just because something is true doesn’t mean it has to be said.” Would love to read this book sounds so helpful but will take this pearl of wisdom to ponder for right now!
I have to say, that was the first nugget from the book which hit me hard…I haven’t stopped mulling over it since I read it! Happy pondering! 🙂
Yes please! X
Sophie W says
Sounds like a helpful read!
Jen Horne says
Sounds ace! And definitely better to have a hard going first half than a hard going second half in my opinion! ?
Sharon Thompson says
Need all the help I can get!
Vanda Clayton says
A really useful and honest review.over the last 25 years we have tried to demonstrate Grace and it is an ongoing battle!
Johanna Baldwin says
Sounds like a really good book!
Caroline Taylor says
Looks like a great book to read as we enter the early days of parenting..better to start as we mean to go on!
Becca H says
Sounds great! 🙂
Sounds like a great resource. For our family that grew through adoption (currently parents to Mr 8 and Miss 7) and for us as we try and encourage and support families in our community – church, school, work etc.
Heather Moger says
Looking forward to reading this as I am expecting my first grandchild in October. I’m eager to get it right as a grandparent – sub-consciously no doubt because I want to make up for all the times when I got it wrong as a parent! Hoping this book might give me some wisdom to help me on my way.
Sarah Hansford says
Sounds like a helpful one!
Emma Criddle says
Also feeling guilty entering another book giveaway, but I couldn’t resist- this book sounds great! Really feeling the need to be encouraged to use words of grace at the moment.
Lee-anne Bell says
Yes please! Great timing for me, have been thinking about this a bit lately.
Lee-anne Bell says
Yes please! Great timing for me!
Fiona Lloyd says
This sounds really interesting – I’d definitely like a copy!
Ruth Hart says
Definitely need a copy of this. More sleep in the ast has meant I’m a little less shouty, but hearing my children speak to each other is a continual reminder of how I really need to communicate better with them myself.