One day, I was standing in the kitchen at my mom’s house, and for the first time, it occurred to me that my favorite music was the sound of tinkering high notes on a piano. So I rhetorically asked my mom, “Do you know what my absolute favorite music is?”
“I’ll bet I can guess,” she said. “Is it the sound of a piano tinkering on the high notes?”
I was flabbergasted.
“How did you know that?” I asked.
“Because when you were little, I would sit at the piano while you were going to sleep and play little songs on the high notes of the piano. I just figured you probably still loved it.”
All these years my ears had been perking up every time I heard a melody that sounded like my mother’s fingers on the piano keys, but I had no idea why. She was the reason I always liked sentimental movie scores like “The Crisis” and the quiet interludes the pianist played during prayer time at our charismatic church. And when the other kids were listening to heavy metal back in the 1980s, she was probably the reason Metallica and AC/DC never appealed to me.
If the notes on a piano can do that when they’re played to a sleepy child, imagine what our words and tone of voice can do to a child who is alert. When we speak to them with kindness, we train them to think that’s the normal tone to use when talking to others. When we use loving words, we teach them to avoid unsafe, hurtful people.
Believe me, I know how hard it is to use self-control with kids in the midst of messy houses and disobedience and issues that have nothing to do with them. But the way we communicate is a song they’re memorizing, and whether we like it or not, it’s going to be stuck in their heads for the rest of their lives.
God help us.