We've all been there. It's been a long day, and your child JUST. WON'T. OBEY. You feel your blood start to boil. Doesn't your child know how hard you've worked for him this week, how much you sacrificed for him? Yet his room is a mess, he's complaining about what he doesn't have, and he just won't obey.
You lose it. You explode on your child in an outburst of anger, feeling simultaneously justified for your anger and guilty for your lack of self-control.
Surely there has to be a better way. While one blog post could never solve all of our parenting problems, here are a few ideas for how to stop losing it with our kids. If you are wanting to know how to change your parenting patterns, consider the following:
We can do nothing without God's help. If you find that you keep yelling at your children, ask the Lord for help. He wants us to be good parents who love our children well. He gives us all we need for life and godliness. Ask that He would grow your patience, compassion, and self-control. Ask for wisdom on how to discipline your children.
But not only this, ask that the Lord would change your children. As parents, we are called to lovingly discipline our children, but sometimes we think it's all up to us. We forget that God is powerful, and He can change hearts. Ask God to help your child grow in the areas that you've noticed are lacking.
- Seek Godly Mentors and Friends
Especially if your upbringing has left much to be desired, seek godly mentors to disciple you in your parenting. An older woman in your local church can help you work through the specific details of your parenting. She can offer practical wisdom on how to shepherd your child with grace and truth. Books such as Shepherding a Child's Heart by Tedd Tripp can also help provide biblical parenting wisdom. Not only this, also find a trusted friend, and confess your sins of impatience, anger, or fear. Seek accountability with friends about how you react to your children in stressful moments of the day. Ask a friend to help you think through healthy parenting patterns, and evaluate methods to manage the stressful moments in your parenting day.
- Look for Idols in Your Heart
In Scripture, children are called to obey their parents. It is part of our role as parents to lovingly discipline our children and teach them to obey, in part, so that they can learn how to obey the Lord. But when we react with impulsive anger at our kid's disobedience, these moments often reveal something deeper in our hearts. Often, we are less concerned that our kids disobeyed God's law. We're mad that our kids disobeyed our law and disrupted the reigning idols of our hearts.
Consider for a moment: When you yell at your child, why do you yell? When you lose it on your children, what are you craving? In the heat of the moment, are you primarily concerned because your child isn't obeying the Lord, or because your child isn't obeying you? Are you wanting respect, quiet, or a clean house? Are you just wanting a break? All of these are good things, but when they become the ultimate things we are seeking, they become idols in our lives that are being threatened by our children. We will sin to get them, or sin when we don't get them.
If you are having trouble identifying your motives, consider your patterns of anger. For example, do you typically lose it on your child when he misbehaves in front of others, and you feel embarrassed? Or, is it primarily when your authority feels threatened through disobedience? Is it when the house is dirty or when the kids are loud? Our impatience in these moments often reveals sin within our hearts when our kingdom is being threatened.
To be clear, identifying our motives does not mean that we do not discipline our children. Rather, it gives us the time and space to shepherd our children with the right motives in mind–primarily for God's glory and the good of our children. For more on identifying idols, check out this blog post.
- Meditate on God's Mercy in Parenting
God is the perfect Father. He is quick to forgive. He does not explode with anger when we make a mistake. He is long-suffering, patient, and kind. He does not ignore right and wrong. God perfectly disciplines His children, and He does so out of love. Truly, God is the perfect parent–but we are not.
When we fail (and we will), we can model humble repentance before our children. We can apologize for our lack of patience or sinful anger and ask for their forgiveness. We can point to God's grace and remember that our role as a parent is not to be perfect but to point our kids to the perfect Savior. He equips us and sanctifies us as we parent. He will help us grow in patience, wisdom, and love. God's mercies are new every morning, and He gives strength for today.