I am sure you’ve never been out in public with young children and been embarrassed by their behavior. Never, not you. Not your kids. But just…
I suspect we want our children to respond calmly when things don’t go as they’d hope. We’d also like it if our kids didn’t snap at each other. And we certainly want them to have self-control even when they’re mad.
Yet, the one who “snaps” is often…mom.
Sadly, we respond to our children (when they push our buttons) in the very way we don’t want them to respond (when their buttons are pushed). This should not be, and we know it.
Our impatience and snappiness seem justified. (I mean, we are not snappy at just anything — we are snappy when our kids do the wrong thing!) But most likely, the irritation we show our children is not our godliness shining forth. Don’t get me wrong; we need to deal with our children’s sin. But I wonder whether we often deal with their sin sinfully.
Galatians 5:22-23 describes the characteristics of a Christian. In this passage, the Apostle Paul says,
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control… – Galatians 5:22-23
Any of these traits might call our bad mom moments into question, but I want to highlight three of them — Patience, kindness, and self-control. Regardless of what our kids do, we should remain patient. No matter how much they irritate us, we should remain kind. Even when they blatantly sin, we should have self-control. As Christian moms, these three traits should be evident regardless of our children’s behavior. We should not deal with our children's sin, sinfully. Click To Tweet
Perhaps the reason we are less than godly when our kids do wrong, is our less-than-godly motives for correcting our children. It is easy to assume our motives are pure, but that’s not always the case. Sometimes we correct our kids because they are bugging us. Or embarrassing us. Or inconveniencing us. Or straight up making us angry. No wonder we speak in an irritated or annoyed manner — our “snappy” response merely shows our hearts!
Another reason for a heart check is to ensure we have appropriate expectations. I notice it’s easy to get frustrated when I (once again) have to stop what I’m doing to deal with disobedient children. They just keep sinning! (ha, I wonder where they get that from?) In these moments, my frustration shows I’ve forgotten that teaching and correcting my children is a God-given job. I should expect them to do things that need correcting!
Every once in a while we should stop and examine our expectations and motives. We ought to train our kids because we love them — And we should expect there to be lots of training to do. Furthermore, we should train them because we love God and we want to point our kids to him and his ways. Let’s be sure to keep these thoughts at the forefront of our parenting.
When our motives and expectations are right, godly responses will more naturally flow.
Will Patient, Kind, Self-Controlled Responses Work?
It might be hard to imagine your children responding to a calm tone of voice. Maybe it seems they only listen when you get angry or blurt out threats. However, your calm manner doesn’t mean you don’t take wrong behavior seriously. You can, and you should.
With a patient, kind, and self-controlled demeanor, simply help your child understand how their behavior was wrong. Express appropriate disapproval, and carry out whatever consequence corresponds with the offense.
No yelling needed. No threatening, no counting to 3, no annoyed facial expressions, no mean comments, or frustrated breaths (you know that irritated “uggghhhhh” noise we make), or any other sign of snappy, impatient irritation needed.
When we train our children in this way, they not only learn to correct their wrong behavior — They learn what it looks like to be patient, kind, and self-controlled from their moms who are filled with the fruit of the Spirit!
How to Unlearn Sinful Responses
Many of us haven’t grown up with parents who exemplified godly responses, thus we go into parenting bent towards unnecessary impatience. But even if we had good examples, our sinful natures quickly cause us to err towards impatience. In all likelihood, we are frequently unaware of how impatient and unkind we can be. Consequently, we have to work to unlearn any sinful, irritable, harsh parenting tones that have become a habit.
As always, the first tool in our toolbox is prayer. If you struggle with exemplifying the fruits of the Spirit in the difficult moments of parenting, ask God to help you.
We also need reminders from God’s word. Maybe there are some passages (Galatians 5:22-23 for example) that you could memorize, or place in a key spot.
Then we need to retrain ourselves. Basically, we have to do what we tell our kids to do: “think before you speak.” When we feel the irritation welling up, we need to remind ourselves of truth. We need to remember how God wants us to respond. We need to keep in mind that frustrated responses don’t help the situation. And we can’t forget what our actions are teaching our kids. If we can remember those truths, we’ll be much slower to “snap.”
Don’t Give Up
If you’ve been operating with a feisty tone of voice for some time, it may take you a while to feel successful at showing patience, kindness, and self-control. Your children might even be a little confused about your new calm demeanor. But keep pressing on. (You may even need to explain to your children why you seem so weird — so calm, and yet still so serious about their wrong behavior.)
In time, Lord willing, it will be your new normal. And who doesn’t want patience, kindness, and self-control to characterize their new normal?!