Adjusting Our Attitudes - How to Be Kind When My Kids Talk Back ****By Elizabeth Cravillion (guest post)
“Because I said so! That’s final!” My self defenses shot through the roof. If you could see smoke coming out of my ears, you probably would. “That’s no way to talk to your mom. Go to your room now!”
My kid ran off, crying, and I may have slammed a kitchen cabinet. I hate when my kids ignore or confront my authority as a mom. For years of my life, to keep the people in charge happy, I shut my strong will in a box. But when my kids argue with me, it flies back out into their faces.
But I want to parent my kids with grace. And kindness. God doesn’t slam doors in my face when I don’t feel like obeying him. I’m the most important picture of God to my kids. How I treat them becomes how they see God.
I used to believe that God was sitting up in heaven saying, “Because I said so!” when he told us how to live. But in reality, God created us and he knows how we function best. Loving him and loving others is for our good. Life simply goes better when we obey him. So instead of mirroring some kind of cold authority to my kids, I get the privilege of coaching them to humbly trust God, our Maker.
Shift my heart perspective
I often tell my kids that they are not the center of the universe, then catch myself acting like I am. When they argue with me, I react in anger because I feel threatened. Somehow, I don’t feel heard or seen, and the little girl inside of me screams, “Not today! I’m a grown up now and you’re going to listen to me!”
But we don’t scare God, and he doesn’t fear our negative responses to him. When I remember that I’m safe and loved by him, I don’t have to be threatened either. My kids may argue with me but I don’t have to argue back.
1 Corinthians tell us some specific traits of love:
Love is patient and kind. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love endures through every circumstance.
Am I truly loving my kids when I step into the power struggle? When they argue with me, and I demand my own way, am I showing them how God responds to me? When I snap and say, “That’s it. I’m done!” am I enduring in love?
How this works in real life
We can shut down our kids in two ways. Most obviously, we yell at them to prove we can make them shut up and listen. So they bottle up their feelings and bite their tongues to get us to stop yelling. It gives them no room to voice their disappointments, their struggle with how hard it is to do what we’ve asked, or their ideas of new ways to do things. We’re no longer coaching them, but controlling them.
The second, less evident way happens when we give in to them begrudgingly. Maybe we don’t feel like following through with them in discussion or discipline, so we say, “Ok, whatever,” and let them win. So we turn into the victim. We make sure they know we aren’t happy about it. When we do this, we shut down our child’s spirit, manipulating their emotions to make them feel responsible for how we feel. They got their way but still didn’t learn healthy ways of interacting with authority. It’s a lose-lose situation. I feel guilt for letting them trump my better judgment and they’ve lost the fun of what they wanted.
So how do we handle arguments in a healthy way, from a heart that wants what’s best for our kids more than we want the easy way out?
We live out of grace.
Grace recognizes that my way of doing things is not always the best, perfect or even right way. We can always, implicitly obey God’s leading because he knows everything. I try to model this for my children. But I am not God. And when it comes to asking them to obey me, I can be flexible and humbly open to discussion.
At times I’ll need to stand strong in a decision and they need to know that I’m dying on that hill because it matters. Eating their peanut butter sandwich at the dining room or outside for a picnic doesn’t need to be our final battleground. If they know I respect them and am listening to their needs, they’re likely to be more respectful when it’s a more serious decision.
Grace takes a breath and says calmly, “Can you try that again?” And then maybe says it again 60 seconds later. 9 times out of 10, this simple breath and question exercise chills us both us out enough to talk rationally.
It’s tempting to think that if our kids would just listen to us, we’d all be okay. But God commissioned us to raise godly, healthy adults, not just compliant kids. So I daily have to open my hands to God and ask for wisdom and take the more challenging path of grace that leads to connecting with my kids’ hearts.
A simple prayer when I’m ready to explode:
(Breathe in) Lord, I need you.
(Breathe out) You are here with me.
(Breathe in) Help me, God
(Breathe out) I stand in your grace.
****Elizabeth's Bio: Elizabeth lives in Kentucky with her student minister husband and 3 superhero kids. She's a light-hearted, book-loving extrovert, a recovering perfectionist, a rescued legalist and a lover of rest and grace. She blogs at ElizabethCravillion.com, where she shines a light on the hard places in life. She hangs onto the truth that she is God's daughter before she's anything else and that he's holding onto her.
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Hi, I'm Kristen! Just a girl who loves all things Jesus, family, music and food!
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