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Just Be Nice!
Photo: Tory Byrne
It’s amazing the life lessons a parent can learn from his/her children. One lasting lesson that I learned was from my son when he was very young. I had become upset about something and ended up yelling at him. Afterward, I regretted losing my cool and apologized to him for it. He listened intently to my apology and then graciously replied, “That’s okay, Mama, but you know we really get farther with people when we’re nice.”

So true! I have to admit that I’m not always nice, but I have been nice more often because of my son’s wise counsel than I would have been without it.

For example, recently I was called to substitute teach a rowdy bunch of high school students who had been demoted to “restrictive study hall.” In a nutshell, this means that they are in a solitary confinement, of sorts. No hall passes, no library privileges, no talking, no ear phones, no leaving the room for any reason.

Crabby, Finger-pointing Witch

The first day, I found myself being constantly challenged and argued with, ignored, and basically disrespected. No surprise, really, but I just didn’t like the fact that I was watching myself morph into a crabby, finger-pointing, threatening witch just to keep some sort of civility. 

The next day, I got some bad news first thing. As a result, I knew that I just didn’t have it in me to tackle that bunch in restrictive study hall. With a lump burning in my throat and tears begging to spill, I entered the room. As usual, they were ready to rumble, but instead of threatening them, I simply said in a calm tone, “Hey, you guys, I’m having a bad day. So I’m asking you to please be considerate and help me by working quietly. I would appreciate it so much.” And I meant it.

For the next 30 minutes, you could have heard a pin drop. I looked around the room in awe and wonder. These were the unmanageable. These were America’s Most Wanted! And there they sat in peaceful, unselfish silence. Not only was I amazed, I was sincerely appreciative. They truly had helped me gather myself together by allowing me some quiet time.

When the last ten minutes of the class time arrived, I am happy to say that I broke the rule of not allowing the students to talk in restrictive study hall. Rather, I took that teachable moment, breaking the silence to tell them thank you for their consideration. I told them I would be telling their regular teacher how well they had behaved and I also told them they could visit with each other for the rest of the period. They earned it! They had respected me, so why shouldn’t I respect them?

I’m still amazed when I review in my mind the silence in that room. I imagine the walls were quite in shock! But as I think about it now, I remember the counsel of my little boy who had said, “We get farther with people when we’re nice.” Yes, some mutual respect goes a long way.

I’m so glad that our Heavenly Father also uses this method. Certainly, he could yell at us and threaten us and send fire down from heaven on us when we misbehave if he wanted to. And we’d deserve it. But instead, God keeps believing in us and expecting the best from us. But this should be no surprise.  After all, God is the One who invented nice!

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Gwen Simmons. Copyright © 2007 by GraceNotes. All rights reserved. Use of this material is subject to usage guidelines.

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