A few weeks ago, I posted about something I’m working on in my own personal life and spiritually – specifically in the area of parenting and the frustrations that come along with that for me. I’m recognizing just how often I become frustrated as a parent. I don’t know if it’s just my personality type, my struggle with perfectionism, that I have a really challenging child, or if it’s just something God has pinpointed in my life right now to work on in me. Nevertheless, I’m aware of it now, so it’s something I’m working diligently on.
Let me tell you – since the very day that I published that post, it’s been pretty rough. I texted a friend and said, “Why on earth did I post that?” You know that’s exactly how this thing works. The thing you are praying for is exactly the thing you will get more of so that you can practice what you are learning and working through. So this month I’ve had a lot of time to practice what I preached in that last post.
And this book I’ve been reading this month, Pitchin’ a Fit by Israel & Brooke Wayne, has been preaching to me for sure. It’s one of those books that has so many good little nuggets, but “Ouch! My toes are getting stepped on repeatedly.”
These are the practical steps from Israel & Brook Wayne’s book, Pitchin’ a Fit that I’m reading and working through right now…
1. Evaluate where you are on the anger spectrum.
2. Recognize your need to change, and your inability to do it on your own.
3. Ask God to forgive you and change your heart.
4. Believe that God can and will change you.
5. Saturate your mind in God’s word; memorize, and apply it.
6. Recognize your own anger triggers.
7. Confess and repent every time you blow it.
8. Strategically practice speaking words of encouragement to others. It will help rewire your brain with thoughts of gratitude rather than bitterness and anger.
9. It generally takes 30 days to create a new habit. Disrupt your old patterns, and intentionally replace them with new ones.
10. Be will to seek accountability and prayer support from others.
11. Journal your progress (and setbacks). This will give your perspective over time.
12. Tenaciously guard your daily time alone with Jesus, and don’t neglect your spiritual disciplines.
I made a list of my own anger triggers – the things that set me off. We all have them, though they may differ from person to person. Here are mine…
-Clutter and Chaos
-When “stuff” becomes too much and needs to be decluttered (I’m bad about just re-organizing, when I really just need to declutter and get rid of things for good.)
-When we can’t find things (Currently, we are missing a pair of flip flops that weren’t put away properly after a trip to the creek so my child has had to wear his tennis shoes all week.)
-When I get behind on laundry and we can’t find the clothes we need
-When we are running late
-When my children don’t obey right away
-When my children hide from me (especially when we are already running late)
-When my children say, “I don’t want to…”
-When we are so busy and I have to either “just wing it” or leave things undone
Before I read the chapter on “Yelling Moms, Hollering Dads”, I really didn’t think I yelled that much, but I’ve since realized that I raise my voice at my children more than I should. You know when you say it calmly first, children don’t listen, so your voice gets louder and louder? Honestly, I don’t know why I even bother because the yelling really isn’t effective for me either. It’s just a way for me to let off some steam of my frustrations, but it really does no good – for anyone.
So here are some significant steps I’m taking (From the book Pitchin’ a Fit) to break the habit of yelling:
1. Make a plan ahead of time what you want to do differently next time you feel like raising your voice. Do the opposite of your instinct, and talk very quietly. You are retraining yourself to control your volume by doing this.
2. Be near your child. It is really hard to holler at someone you are a foot away from.
3. Save yelling for times of immediate danger. (“Stop running into the street!”)
4. Stop yourself if you find yourself yelling. If you need to take five minutes in a separate room, do it.
5. If your child is disobedient, address it right away. If you find that you are repeating your instructions frequently, it is because you are not following through with your commands, ensuring that they are followed. Constantly repeating yourself will lead to frustration.
6. If your children are old enough to read, write down your instructions for them. You’ll probably be more concise that way, and this can be useful as you reset your patterns. Children need to know what is required of them, and having their responsibilities in writing often removes the “forgetting” factor, or the “I didn’t know that” excuse.
7. Repent to your kids when you blow it. They know losing your cool isn’t very mature, but it can also do them a lot of good to hear you acknowledge that.
“One thing to remember is that when you have lost your control in an argument, someone else has it. When you are all out of sorts, they have you exactly where they want you. Rein it in, and be respectful. If you want respect, you can’t act like a child.”
Yall, I also learned some things about patience by reading this book…. what it is and what it isn’t. One of the things it is – is that it’s a door to relationship, whereas anger is what slams that door shut. As I’ve become frustrated and angry in my parenting, this month – God has reminded me that He’s never once yelled or lost it with me, no matter how bad I’ve messed up. He’s always there calmly waiting for me to learn my lesson and come back to Him, my safe place. It’s much easier to do that because I know that He loves me unconditionally. But what about our children? Am I that safe place that they want to run back to, even if they’ve messed up? Or are they afraid of me and how I will respond to them? Would it just be easier for them to hide from me instead? Ouch. Those were my toes, but I’m glad they got stepped on. I’m glad I’ve had this revelation.
I WANT to be that safe place for my children. I want to be the one that says “You may have done wrong, but I want to walk alongside you and encourage you to gain godly victory. I will persist in loving you to truth.” The old fashioned word for patience, “longsuffering” says it all.
The thing about parenting is that it’s not just a one and done thing. It’s not a sprint – it’s a marathon, and it takes a long time and lots of work to reach the end of it. It takes lots and lots of small victories to win our children’s hearts and teach them the things that they need to know.
What’s the opposite of anger that slams the door to relationship in our children’s face? It’s nurture, a deep, kind interest in helping another grow, and it promotes a softening of the heart.
Have you ever seen that one in action? I have. Just last week, Justin and I were both frustrated with one of our children, and I (because I’m practicing these tips I’m reading about) decided to take a different approach. I knew that my child was also upset because he had faced the consequence of losing some of his beloved toys for the evening when he refused to clean them up. So instead of yelling, I took the time to hold him and talk with him. He didn’t want to be held or to talk because he was angry, so I did the talking until he was ready. I tried to relate the situation to things I face now as an adult… such as what would happen if I don’t do things that are required of me – the consequences I would face and how I would feel. Honestly, I had no guidelines or plans for how this conversation would go or if it would even work, but I gave it a go, and you know what? After a minute or two of me just being genuine and talking to him, I saw him melt. He softened and came over to me with a big hug. He couldn’t get his words out at first because he was so upset, but I asked him simple questions to help him form his thoughts and words. “Did you feel angry when….?” “Do you understand why that happened?” “How can we do that differently next time?” and “What can we do right now to make it better?” And then, as he asked me to go with him to talk to Daddy about it again, Daddy offered him grace and let him try again. He gave him the opportunity to do the job he was required of cleaning up his toys so he was able to do that and earn them back. It was a beautiful moment. But that moment would’ve never happened if Daddy and I had kept ahold of our pride and just went on with things. We had to actually take that intentional time to lay our pride and anger aside and nurture our child until his little heart softened and we were able to have a great teaching moment with him, which I think He understood pretty well.
There are two ways that people (including our children) can be motivated: Intrinsic Motivation (From Within), which is our goal as parents that they learn to have their own values and embrace the things we’ve worked to teach them and Extrinsic Motivation (from without), where we are the ones making sure they do everything that they are supposed to do or not do the things we try to steer them away from, especially as they are young. In addition to these two types of motivation – there can either be a positive influence there or a negative one. So with the extrinsic motivation where we are diligently parenting our children to teach them these important lessons and values, are we doing it in a positive and affirming way, or in a negative, criticizing way? Think about that. In which of the two were you raised? In which of the two do you tend to do more with your children? And then think about it this way… the way in which you speak to your child becomes their inner voice and ultimately the way that they will speak to themselves when they begin to be motivated in more of an intrinsic way. So if we are always harsh and critical with them, then chances are that they will have a low self-esteem and be harsh and critical with themselves later on.
I’ll give you this secret that I gleaned from this chapter on “The Power of Affirmation”, and it might be eye-opening for you too. “Someone with a perennially negative attitude is acidic and repulsive to most people. People tend to try to get away from someone with such an outlook on life.” Don’t let that be you as a parent.
Do your children know that you are well pleased with them? Are you someone who has a pleasant disposition and a ready smile? Are you enjoyable to be around? If so, your home will be a haven of peace. In contrast, consider the woman of Proverbs 25:24, “It is better to live in a corner of the roof that in a house shared with a contentious woman.”
When your child needs to be corrected, there should be no severity, anger, or violence involved; no contempt or disgust. You should address the action or behavior without attacking the person.
“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen… Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.” Ephesians 4:29-31
Speaking gently and kindly to our children is not an area in which most of us excel. Sometimes we realize that we are not doing what is right, but we find ourselves resorting to a default mode of fault finding and being critical rather than being constructive.
Over time, the net result of this approach of negativity is that your children will disrespect you, tune out, quit trying, and seek to avoid contact and communication with you. People tend to seek out those who will affirm and inspire them, not those who will constantly point out their flaws and drag them down.
The goal is not to ignore sin and laziness in our children or avoid confrontation with them. There is no need to live in defeat in this area. “His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of Him who called us by his own glory and goodness.” 2 Peter 1:3 By God’s grace we learn to be encouragers (those who inspire courage) rather than those who discourage (take away courage and inspire defeat).
Thankfulness for our children plays a big part in our turning from angry parenting. When we truly realize that these children are not “our” children, but rather “God’s children, a sense of respect and carefulness is bound to enter into our parenting. He cares intensely how we treat these children of His. Gratefulness turns our attentions from us, and our rights or irritations, to the call of God on our lives to raise our children.
Loving our children in their unlovable moments may not come easily at first, but over time, doing the right thing can become our default position.
Yall, I can honestly say that this book and this month of practicing what I was learning from the book has been so good for me! I feel like I have turned a corner in my parenting. Yes, it does take much longer to discipline in a loving and positive way – a way in which will build my children up, but it’s going to be so worth it in the end when I look back. I just know it. I definitely don’t want to be the “woman who tears down her house with her own hands”… I want to be the wise woman who builds her home and builds her family up, not the opposite (Proverbs 14:1). We’ve already experienced some beautiful moments where I think I have been able to exemplify Christ in my parenting this month. I wasn’t doing that before. I didn’t know how, practically speaking. I think it’s something we probably all need to learn, and I’m very thankful that I’m learning it now, still early in my parenting journey. This is going to be good!