I grew up in a home where my mother yelled and screamed about everything. I swore I'd never do that to my kids, but sometimes in the chaos of life with a 7-year-old son (who’s recently picked up a sarcastic streak) and a 5-year-old daughter (who likes to play loudly), I just lose it. This is not who I want to be. Any ideas for getting it under control?
We can’t count the number of parents who swore (figuratively speaking) that they’d parent differently than their mom and dad only to discover that, in times of pressure, stress, and weariness, they look and sound a whole lot more like their parents than they ever thought they would.
One of the great challenges of parenting, and in every relationship, is to allow God to teach us how to respond and not just react. When we react, we are allowing the situation and/or the person to control us. When we react, we are more likely to say things we will regret and do things we will need to ask forgiveness for. Reactors open their mouths and then as the words come flying out, wish they’d taken a few minutes to think about it.
A simple first step would be to focus on how you want to be. What does it look like when you get it right? Is your tone of voice different? What’s different about the times when you are able to respond rather than react? Have you had more rest or exercise? Were you under less stress and pressure? Have you spent more time reading the word or in prayer?
The next step is to identify the times when you are most vulnerable to responding in unhealthy ways. When do you get it wrong? When our boys were young, I realized that when I was under stress and pressure at work, I was more vulnerable to reacting than responding. Is it a certain time of the day or certain days of the week? If you are aware of certain times when you are more vulnerable, then you can prepare your heart for those chaotic times.
Responders have learned how to listen to their emotions. When they feel the emotions churning, they have taught themselves to stop, acknowledge what they are feeling, thank God that with His help they are free to respond and not just react, ask for His strength and guidance in the moment, and then say something that is more likely to build bridges than build walls.
When it comes to the sarcasm, whatever you do, don’t react to the sarcasm with more sarcasm. That’s like pouring gas on a fire. When your son is sarcastic you might tell him that there are kinder ways to say what he has to say and let him know he has your permission to go to his room and stay there until he can think of a better way to express himself. If what he has said has wounded someone, then he needs to be taught how to apologize and ask forgiveness for what he has said.
As you are better able to understand and manage your own emotions, you will probably find your kids doing a better job of handling their emotions. Norm Wright and I have written a book, A Woman’s Forbidden Emotion, which will give you many more specific ideas as well as some Bible references you’ll want to read and apply in your home. Be encouraged. Many parents have been down this road before you, and with God’s help, they’ve been able to turn it into a growth opportunity. So can you!