It wasn’t just the melody—or even Josh Groban’s marvelous voice; it was the words. They reached out and grabbed my heart, because they were true:
Careful the things you say, children will listen
Careful the things you do, children will see and learn
Children may not obey, but children will listen
Children will look to you for which way to turn, to learn what to be
Careful before you say, ‘listen to me’
Children will listen . . .
Those words take me back more than 10 years ago to a small bakery in Singapore. The shop was located in the bottom of a nice department store, and at 5:00 p.m. it was packed. I noticed a little 2-year-old Singaporean girl wandering around, but I couldn’t tell who she belonged to. No one seemed to notice what she was doing.
She had a pair of tongs in one hand and was trying to manage a tray in the other. I noticed that right there on the bottom shelf, just at her eye level, was a large tray of beautifully frosted, pink doughnuts with sprinkles.
She leaned forward and reached out with the tongs to get one. At that moment, I saw her dad. He looked up just in time to see the doughnut hit the floor frosting-side down. She looked up at him, and he looked at her. But I was amazed at the expression that came over his face: it was not an expression of anger or impatience over a wasted doughnut and a lost dollar. Instead, he broke into a smile—a big smile of pride. He was clearly very impressed that his little 2-year-old daughter was trying to put a doughnut on a tray with the tongs by herself, just like all the adults were doing.
He walked over and very sweetly got down to her level. He then took her hand with the tongs in it and together they picked up the fallen doughnut and put it on her tray. Then he held the tray close to all the other doughnuts and said with a smile, “Shall we get one for Daddy too?”
Now, here is the power of patience. What did that child gain from that experience? She would never be afraid to try new things in the future. She learned that if you make a mistake, you don’t have to fall apart and get upset, just figure out how to do it a better way the next time. She learned that things just take practice. She learned that her parents would never be far away if she found herself in trouble in life, and they would correct her with love and understanding. She learned that her Daddy thought more of her than what others might think.
These are powerful gifts. What a lucky little girl. Best of all, she will likely pass those same lessons to her children.
Patience is not passive. Patience has a power that can propel us forward in our relationships, sweeten our interactions with our children and significantly reduce the stress in our daily lives. This kind of patience can teach a child more about life and love in one glance and one sentence than we can ever imagine. Children do listen. How beautiful it is when what they hear is the language of unconditional love.