Do you ever find that you are far more patient with other people’s children than you are with your own?
Do you sometimes find yourself demonstrating your best Love and Logic-style parenting with your children when other people are around…and often your worst when no one is around?
I can identify with both of those scenarios. Of course, there’s a lot to be said for accountability. We all need it. When my husband is around, or my mother, or a friend, I am more aware of my tone and my temper. I am mysteriously able to deal better with the chaos, the disobedience and my low energy.
Today I had the opportunity to have my sister’s boys over for the day. They are sweet boys, but naturally, sometimes their choices and behaviors are not what they should be. I find that I am very patient, and that I exercise all of my best parenting skills when I am caring for my nephews. I don’t ever “lose it” with them, the way that I might with my own children. I’m reminded of a blog I read a couple of months ago, published by Proverbs 31 Ministries. This honest Mom shared an experience she had which opened her eyes to exactly my experience today.
On a sunny spring day, I sat in my backyard with my friend Suzy and our kids. While we relaxed in lawn chairs, sipping lemonade, a few of the children played on the swing set. The rest sat at our bright yellow children’s picnic table, purchased just days earlier. They were happily creating masterpieces on the pages of several coloring books.When it came time to serve lunch, I helped the children clear their coloring supplies off the table. As I grabbed the crayons and coloring books, I spied a frightful sight. One of Suzy’s daughters had gone into the house and grabbed permanent markers to color with instead of the crayons. And colored with them she did – all over the brand new picnic table! She’d even written her name in her very best 7-year-old penmanship.I was angry that our newly purchased picnic table was now laden with red and purple permanent graffiti. I wanted to raise my voice and shout and scream my displeasure. But I didn’t. Instead, I leaned over and gently spoke to my friend’s child.“Oh, Kelly. Miss Karen wants you to use crayons when you color, not markers. Would you please go put them back in the house? Thank you, honey.”My eldest child’s jaw dropped when she saw how I reacted to the situation with kindness and a calm voice.Loud enough for everyone to hear, she said, “Man! It’s a good thing it was you, Kelly, and not one of us. Mom would’ve hollered at us something awful if we’d done that!”Ouch.My daughter simply vocalized a truth she noticed in my life: I tend to lose my cool with my family, but somehow manage to keep calm when I interact with others.
(For the full article, click here: Pause Before You Pounce, Proverbs 31 Devotional)
So why don’t I see my kids as the accountability that I need, the way I apparently receive it from others? Or more importantly, why I am I not more intimately aware of God’s presence with me, and the accountability that lies therein? He has, after all, equipped me with kindness, patience, self-control….and so much more. I am not alone in this giant, important job of Parent.
It really comes back to grace. Do we extend grace to our own loved ones (husbands included) the way we extend grace to others? In the case of my nephews’ behavior today, it was easy to extend grace and to give them my best. I suppose it could be said that I am not weary of their patterns of behavior, and perhaps I am weary of my girls’ repeated poor choices that tend to drive me insane…
But whatever the circumstances are which lead me to have a poor parenting moment, I need to learn (yet again) to pause before impulsively reacting to my loved ones. Most importantly, I need to learn (yet again) to pray and allow God to fill me up where I need it so that I can be the Mom I was designed to be.
As I said, we all need accountability in our lives. It sharpens us. So while you’re in the checkout line at Target, if you find yourself reprimanding your children in your most patient, kind tone of voice simply because there is a customer behind you in line who may judge you for raising your voice and threatening their lives, be proud of yourself anyway. It may feel like you’re “faking it” but actually, it’s just accountability. You’re reminded that you actually do have the skills to deal with your children’s behavior in a calm, reasonable way.
And again… On the subject of grace? Don’t forget to give some to yourself on a regular basis.
Unglued, by Lisa Terkeurst
I haven’t finished this one, yet, but does it ever feel like some of the chapters were written for me! It is a fantastic source of encouragement for women, where marriage, parenting and all relationships are concerned. The author is gut-wretchingly honest, and identifiable. She is also the founder of Proverbs 31 Ministries, whose daily devotional I receive via email (the blog I referenced above).