It seems like I've been teaching the concept of gentleness to my daughter since she first found her fingers. I read somewhere in those early days to not say "No" too often because young children eventually tune it out. I came up with a couple of alternatives. When the little lady was about to leap before looking I would say, "Careful!" as a cue to her to rethink what she was about to do. When she was being too rough with a toy, a book, my hair, whatever, I would say, "Gentle!" and try to model for her how to properly treat that object. Sometimes it worked. I still use this one word reminder for her when she is hugging her brother a little too tight or patting Grandma's dog excitedly, and therefore a little too hard.
There are so many things that we need to be gentle with. It seems that we mostly focus on the physical and external, the material and the personal. We strive to teach our children early that hitting is wrong, that we need to use gentle hands. We need to remember that there are tender hearts and feelings as well. We have noticed with our son that he is much more sensitive to scolding than the girls are. Often if I say no to him even in a conversational tone his little feelings are crushed. Although I still must train and discipline him I will need to remember his soft heart in this area.
I recently heard a speaker say that gentleness is the quality of knowing when to be angry and handling your anger appropriately. If there are two unhealthy extremes: being angry all the time and never being angry, gentleness is the pivot point of perfect balance. It stuck in my brain because I've been asking God to work on my anger for the last year or so. Amazingly He has, although there's definitely still stuff to work on. What is real and true is that my daughter and her needs are the tools that He is using to make this area of my character what He wants it to be.
So who is teaching whom about gentleness, anyway?