Tonight is my daughter's hockey team party to celebrate their season. As happy as I am to have a little break from hockey (she's playing lacrosse this spring), I am sad to see the season end, mainly because her coaches are moving up an age bracket, and we are not.
When my daughter moved up to the 9- and 10-year-old age bracket last spring, nearly her entire team she had played with for two years, including her coaches, decided to play travel hockey. We chose not to, which left my daughter without a familiar team to play on. She was anxious about the season because she didn't know any of the coaches.
We prayed about the situation, and I assured my daughter that she would make new friends and get new coaches that she loved. Well, God answered our prayers big time. She's had a fantastic season with great kids and especially great coaches. While her coaches are passionate about the game, they always remember that these are 9- and 10-year-old kids on the ice. They clearly want to teach them as much as they want to win. About mid-season, there was one moment of one game that I wish I could have frozen in time because it was such a great picture of who her coaches are -- and a great reminder to me of the best way to teach my kids.
My daughter and her linemate had done something wrong on the ice. When they came off the ice, one of her coaches sat down between them, put an arm around each of them and calmly explained what they had done wrong and what he wanted them to do differently the next time. I've carried that picture in my head since mid-season because not only is that kind of gentle teaching what I want for my daughter in a coach, it's what I want to be like when I teach my daughters. It's what God is like when He teaches us.
If we're going to effectively reach our children with the things that we want to teach them, then we need to be like my daughters' coaches. We need to draw our children close and gently correct them. We need to offer them patience. We need to offer them understanding. And we need to understand that our kids don't always misbehave on purpose. Sometimes, they just need to be taught the right thing to do.
Ephesians 4:2 says "Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love." That doesn't just apply to our dealings with other adults. It especially applies to the way we deal with our kids. When we teach and discipline our kids with a gentle spirit, our kids are more likely to respond to the teaching. When we teach and discipline out of anger or frustration, we simply turn our kids off or make them angry in return.
So, the next time you want to teach your kids, take a page out of my daughter's coach's book: bring them close, wrap your arm around them, and gently explain what you want them to do. Because that's what God does with us.