My family and I went on a camping trip recently and while we were enjoying our time at the beach, my attention was drawn to a mother yelling at her child. It was the type of situation where you cringe, because you know that she is causing all of this damage, but nothing you can report to CPS. I was afraid of this mother. I wanted to take her aside and guide her into looking at how she was speaking and treating her “treasures”, but I knew that from her body language any attempt on mine would be wasted and just escalate her already bad mood.
She was yelling at her 5-year-old son for running through the sand when they were leaving the lake. I have worked with kindergarteners (as a teacher, substitute, etc) and know by observing this child that he really was not trying to be disobedient. He just got excited and forgot to exit the lake and walk on the grass so he did not get sandy. But the mother was at her limit and screamed at him while grabbing his arm roughly.
Mother: I am never taking you camping again. When you ask to come to the lake or camping, you can forget it, because it is not happening. You cannot even listen to me when I ask you to walk in the grass. You know when we get to the camper what will happen to you (as she glared at him).
Her daughter then did something that I did not see and she threw the beach towel at the 4-year-old. Both of these children had slumped shoulders and walked back with the saddest faces.
I wish I was making this up. I can still see the scene in my mind and my heart breaks. It breaks for these children whose mother treats them this way. It breaks for this mother who does not know how to manage the children obeying her without having to become so angry and hateful towards them.
I wanted this post to be about how I can tear apart her parenting, but in reality, it is about me taking a look in the mirror and finding that I have things to work on too.
I have never done what this mother did, but I have yelled at my kids, tore them down with a tone of voice, an angry look, I have been angry in my heart and not always liked my child in the moment. So I really do not want this post to be about finger-pointing, but to try to bring my faults, sin, ugly messes to God to have Him forgive, wipe away, cleanse me from my anger. I have come a long way when it comes to get angry. Adding more children to our family has forced me to look deeply at my own issues and sin and find answers on how to deal with my children when I can feel very upset and angry.
First it helps to understand when a child is acting childish: spilling milk, walking in the sand, forgetting his hat on the bus, etc.
Or when a child is clearly disobeying your authority. I have a couple of strong-willed children who will clearly disobey to see what will happen.
I need to know when to overlook childish behaviors, while always trying to teach the child to mature in those areas. In other words, milk will be spilled, mittens will be lost, but we can still teach them to be careful when handling a glass, and teach them to be responsible for their items without getting angry at them each time they mess up. As an adult I have spilled milk, broken dishes, had accidents and I was being careful! Accidents happen!
And I need to know what kind of responses/discipline I will have before my children disobey and push the limits; because they will. The more prepared I am before hand, the more my anger can stay in check and I can stay in control and loving, but firm. I like to model scenarios with the kids quite frequently to practice good behavior and responses, so that they can practice what kind of response to acceptable. The same goes for me. If I have not thought about and envisioned what my reaction will be when a child is breaking the rules, or stomping up the stairs, or hitting his brother, etc then I am more likely to be out of control because I am not sure what to do, I just know I want the action to stop. It reminds me of drivers training. I remember learning in class, watching videos, reading books and scenarios about how to respond when a certain situation happens and that helped me and other drivers in training to know what to do. The more you practice being prepared for the what ifs, the more in control and better you feel how to handle them. Imagine if my family had never practiced a fire drill before (this is reminding me that it has been too long, so I need to practice the drill again…lol) and we had a fire. This could be a very dangerous situation of chaos for the kids to be in, if they had never had any training at all. This is the same with parenting. I do not want anger, chaos, and uncertainty to cloud my thinking when responding to my children. They need to know that mom and dad are in control and will lovingly correct them for disobedience. I know that my kids react to my discipline so much better when I am in control and not angry with them. If they sense that I am angry and I yell, they fall apart and the situation really unravels with me feeling guilty afterwards.
I remember reading before that, the mom never had an anger problem until she had children. As funny as that sounds, it rings true. I would say that the anger comes about when we are pushed, but really it was there before my children came but they know how to push the buttons to trigger an angry reaction.
Another way I try to stay calm with my kids is to take deep breaths when I can feel my heart rate rising. I have taught my kids how to try to use techniques to calm down. Like hugging a pillow, a stuffed animal, rocking with mama, reading, taking deep breaths, praying, etc so therefore I can use some of those same tips when I start to become angry. I really do not want to get unglued and end up yelling and feeling bad afterwards.
I also try to make sure that I am taking care of me! I need to eat, drink water, get adequate sleep and rest, having time with the Lord, and exercise and when I have done those things, I know that my mood and blood sugar levels will help quite a bit with how I react to my children and situations. I owe it to my kids to make sure I am taking care of myself, or how can I care for my family on an empty tank? I would always be running on fumes!
So these are the tips to trying to keep my cool, and respond with love, instead of anger:
1. Train my kids to obey
2. Practice how to handle when my kids do not obey (act out how different situations my come about and how to handle them).
3. Using calming strategies and recognizing when I need to cool down before it gets out of hand
4. Taking care of me
I never want to become the mom on the beach who verbally abused her children and came across that she did not like her role as mother. God entrusted these children to me. They are precious to Him! I want to honor Him and treat them with the gentle care they deserve!~ They are TREASURES! So I need to look in the mirror and confront any areas of my parenting/mothering that might not be glorifying to Him and repent of those ways. God continues to teach me through His word and my children what I need to work on, and how to mother these treasures!