This one’s for the kids

I have been alarmed of late by some ways I’ve heard parents speak to their kids. The incidents have been within public earshot. I cringe to imagine what transpires in private.


I have low tolerance for belittling little ones, though I admit my own patience runs short at times. The one who said, “Let the little children come to me,” had compassion at the bottom of his patience bucket. Jesus knew for certain the kingdom of heaven belonged to such as them.


The rest of us need frequent reminding, particularly the man at the sit-down restaurant I patronized recently.


Surrounded by his wife and three teenage children, he took a cell phone call in which he colorfully demanded that the person on the other end return an item that had been taken. The call lasted five minutes or more, included various profanities and attracted the attention of tables around.


After the phone call concluded and the family rose to leave, the man’s son expressed disapproval of the scene his old man had made. With fervor near equal to his performance on the phone, the father loudly disparaged the boy for questioning his authority.


“You’re so ungrateful! I take care of you and this is how you treat me? I can quit taking care of you. You think you’re such a know-it-all. Get out of here.”


It was enough to get me out of my chair. I stood up and followed them toward the door but didn’t say anything. Perhaps I should have.


A few weeks later, on Valentine’s Day, I did say something. This time, I overheard a father (or at least a father-figure) deriding his 8-year-old son in the public restroom of a community center.


“Every time we bring you here, you act this way. Every time! What’s wrong with you? You can’t do anything right. Quit your crying or I’ll spank you right here!”


And then, the dagger: “It’s your birthday. You still have cake to eat at home. But if you keep screwing up, you’re not getting any of it! You hear me? You got five seconds to quit your crying or else I’m gonna spank you.”


My heart sank for this child, born on Valentine’s Day, but not always treated with love.


Outside the bathroom, I introduced myself to the father. He was cordial. I complimented the boy for wanting to participate with a group of kids I was working with at the center. He still had tears in his eyes and a shell-shocked look on his face. That night, I prayed for peace in our homes.


My friend, Dr. Terry Smith, says that children are the world’s best recorders but the world’s worst interpreters. Children have no idea how tough it is to make ends meet. They’re unaware of work stress, rising expenses or marital struggles.


They simply record: “The man whom I instinctively know is supposed to protect me from threats is somehow threatening me.”


And interpret, poorly: “There must be something wrong with me. I must have a dark heart.”


Enough wrong interpretations and the weeds of hopelessness, recklessness, addiction and promiscuity sprout from the perceived dark heart. When they do, it is certainly possible for the light of truth to scatter the darkness before it’s too late.


But how much better when the lights of love, patience and compassion shine brightly from the beginning?


Kevin Thompson writes weekly for The Boerne Star in the Texas hill country. Follow him at


4 Responses to “This one’s for the kids”

  1. 1 Tim Davidson March 15, 2013 at 13:30

    Great perspective and reminder, Kevin. Heard a thought the other day that is helping me, “better to give kind advice than scold,” coupled with “foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child” as opposed to evil. Keep up the thoughtful posts!

  2. 2 Bennye Waskom March 18, 2013 at 11:35

    Thanks for addressing this problem. I, too have trouble keeping quiet when I hear adults bullying children. B

  3. 3 Brandi March 19, 2013 at 11:51

    Thanks, Kevin. Well done.

  4. 4 jessestroup April 10, 2013 at 16:53

    Almost I month later I found “This One’s for the Kids,”  Keep standing up for children.  I am proud of you.  I know I need parenting grace and mercy as I look at  my parenting in the rear view mirror. I like what you did when you followed the man with his family to the door. Jesse

    Jesse R. Stroup

    Director of Spiritual Care

    Lifeline Chaplaincy

    2777 Stemmons Place, Ste. 1020

    Dallas, TX 75207


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