Leading your children with love is a not a lofty goal that should you hope someday to possibly achieve. Rather it is a command of God. Stealing is not something that we hope one day to leave behind. You won’t find someone at church happily announcing to others that they were making real progress with learning not to steal; why yesterday they only stole twice. But when it comes to raising voices or speaking sharply with children, this is exactly the sort of logic that is used. “I used to yell all the time, now I hardly ever do it; well almost hardly ever.” This is thought of as progress. Well in one sense, I suppose it is. But this sort of progress should be looked upon with repentance, not something to share as an accomplishment.
Going back to Deuteronomy 6:5-7, we see that we are to love God and his commands with all of our hearts. This love is to overflow from our hearts into the lives of our children. This is not an optional performance package to go along with basic parenting. This is basic biblical parenting. God and his word are special, precious treasure. Nothing else that we possess can begin to compare in value to knowing God and his word. (Psalm 119:72; Proverbs 3:15)
Proverbs 1:8&9, teach that instructing children is like placing fine jewelry around their necks. Children are to be adorned with the word of God. Again, adorning children is not an extra credit, optional assignment. Adorning children is what sets biblical parenting apart from the controlling parenting of the world. As Deuteronomy 6:5-7 and Ephesians 6:4 teach, adorning children with gospel centered, biblical truth is what God commands parents to do.
As always, when God commands that something be done, he also supplies the means for carrying out his commands. In this case the means of adornment is pleasant words. Notice Proverbs 16:20-24 in this light. Pleasant words will promote or enhance instruction. Pleasant words as defined in these verses are words of weight, pleasantly showing the path of peace. Pleasant words point to peace, wisdom and understanding. Lack of understanding leads to folly and punishment. Pleasant words are not idle, fine sounding words of sophistication. They are the words of life to be embraced with all of our heart.
Pushing children is not done with pleasant words. Pushing children to obey is done with speech that rotates between cajoling, self pity, pleading, harshness and angry tones. Pushing children does just what the name describes, children are pushed away. The language of pushing is often cool, detached and stern.
Leading your children to the cross, the same destination that you long for, is most effectively done with pleasant words of hope and compassion. You sin, just as your children do. Christ intercedes for you before you even know that you need his intercession. He calls to you when you are weary and burdened to come to him and find rest and refreshment. Jesus does not push you to obedience. He leads you with kindness and compassion. He endured every temptation you will ever face so he could help you in your time of need. Jesus is a shepherd that we can follow. Your children need no less. Use pleasant words to lead your children to Christ.
For more on the use of pleasant words see the appropriate sections of Instructing a Child’s Heart & Everyday Talk.