“Parenting is hard.” This sentence comes to my mind multiple times a week. We have four children ten and under, so we devote large portions of our day to playing, reading, teaching, correcting, consoling, and managing conflict. While few things in my life bring me as much joy as parenting, it can also be the source of some of my greatest difficulties. (In fact I took a break about 100 words into the post to play in a blanket fort. It was time well spent.)
What caught me the most off guard was how quickly our first child developed a will of her own and started disobeying. She did this by actively telling us she did not want to do what we told her to do and by ignoring what we told her to do. This only increased exponentially with each while. If I’m honest with myself, my children don’t present the greatest challenge to my parenting though; I do. My greatest struggles in parenting do not come from my children’s disobedience, but my responses to them that come from selfishness, impatience, and anger.
I have learned that I have to write a Bible verse over all of my interactions with my children when they are stubborn or disobedient. “for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.” These words from the Apostle James explain why we should be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger. Our anger cannot achieve God’s righteousness. In other words, our sinful anger cannot achieve God’s righteous aims.
This sentence contains an important implication for our parenting. Parents cannot produce godly character or behavior in our children by losing our temper. We cannot frustratingly berate them into loving other people more than themselves. Impatiently scolding them embitters their hearts rather than softening them. Repeated shaming leads begrudging obedience in the short term but no lasting change of heart.
In addition losing your temper in response to your child’s sin focuses their attention on your behavior instead of their own. If they have been startled by a yell or are scared of what you might do, they have forgotten what they have done and become fixed on you. This creates in them an unhealthy fear of us based on placating our anger instead of a genuine change of heart.
When we lose our temper or impatiently vent at our children we tear down by example what we have sought to teach them in our more level-headed moments. Our kids hear our words but watch what we do. We cannot teach them to control themselves when we do not.
Parents, I want to encourage you to spend much time remembering the grace God has shown you. I cannot count the number of times I have said something to my children and immediately thought “God could say the same thing to me.” I grow impatient with them because they have disobeyed in a particular way multiple times over the course of a few months but forget how patient God has been with me in areas where I have been disobeying for years. Recall how often God has forgiven you and extended his mercy, then parent with a spirit marked by this mercy. This does not mean you do not correct misbehavior, but it changes the tone and manner in which you correct it.
Also spend many hours reading and meditating on Proverbs. Calls to have a cool head and a cool spirit occur often in Proverbs. He shows in manifold ways the folly of anger and the exceeding benefits of a calm spirit. Commit these passages to memory and pray like you have never prayed for the Father to burn them into your heart.
For Further Reading:
Shepherding a Child’s Heart by Tedd Tripp