For many years now my wife and I have disagreed about how to discipline our children. I think she’s too easy and she thinks I’m too hard. She says she’s being loving and I say that I’m just speaking the truth. I think she’s too nice and she thinks I’m not being very kind. Any suggestions?
Andy Crouch, in Strong and Weak, makes the helpful observation that “There is a difference, it turns out, between being nice and being kind.”
“Nice” parents don’t want to make waves. They avoid confrontations and disagreements. They would rather be “loving” than have to “speak the truth” and risk a temper-tantrum. They have a hard time with confrontation and conflict and will do almost anything to maintain peace. The problem is that “peace at any price” is rarely worth the price.
“Kind” parents are also nice and they don’t enjoy conflict, but they understand that parents have to be parents and not just pals. They believe that the ultimate expression of kindness is to give their kids what they need and not just what they want. They know how to be clear and firm while also being tender and affectionate.
Maybe it’s about being both nice and kind. In Ephesians 4:15, Paul writes, “But speaking the truth in love, let us grow in every way into Him who is the head—Christ.” Parents who are both nice and kind understand that a parent can be authoritative without being authoritarian. There is a big difference between the two. They know how to speak the truth but do it in loving ways.
Some parents pride themselves on being “truth-tellers,” but they didn’t realize how harsh, unkind and unloving they sound. They don’t realize that they are building walls rather than bridges. They are more of an enforcer than an encourager. They are more concerned with making their point than connecting with the mind and heart of their child.
Because we love our kids we speak the truth to them. We both compliment and correct. We say the pleasant and unpleasant things. But whatever we say we do it in kind, thoughtful ways. We err on the side of being tender. We listen to them. We remind ourselves that the book of Proverbs exhorts us to “seek understanding.” We pray with them and we pray for them.
Parents have to be parents. Our kids can find another friend easier than they can find another parent. Being kind and nice by speaking the truth in love is an absolutely essential part of the growth and maturity of our children.