I want my kids to see me modeling the things I try to teach them—love, patience, grace, kindness. But in the stress of most mornings, I do the exact opposite. What do you suggest?
Most days, I wake up fairly happy. And then I encounter a tweenager's bad hair day or a forgotten something for school, and suddenly I'm a little off kilter and a little less nice. Okay, some days I'm a lot less nice.
Last spring I'd had a string of these "lot less nice" mornings. I was starting to feel like a failure as a mom. I imagined other moms doing devotions with their kids while I'd been yelling at mine all morning.
On one of those mornings I pulled up to the school and instructed my 13-year-old, Brooke, to throw away her napkin filled with toast crumbs.
"That's embarrassing," Brooke replied. "I don't want to throw it away in front of everyone."
"I don't want crumbs spilling all over the car. Do it with a happy heart." Of course, I spoke these words with anything but a happy heart.
"I can't do something with a happy heart if I don't feel happy. And I don't feel happy about this."
"Well, Brooke, that's why it's a good thing our feelings are indicators, not dictators. Our feelings can indicate what we're facing but they shouldn't dictate how we react. Now, choose to have a happy heart as you throw your napkin away."
Have you ever corrected your child and realized that's exactly what the Lord has been trying to teach you? This was one of those times. My feelings should be indicators—not dictators. That's exactly what I needed to hear, understand, and apply.
If I react out of defiance or anger, it's like lighting a spark near a puddle of gasoline. Even the smallest spark can ignite a fire, which will spread and feel much bigger than the situation should have been. Be it a kid's bad attitude, tight finances, a misunderstood statement, or millions of other things, we have a choice of how we will respond.
I was tired of "feelings" dictating our mornings. So I decided to implement James 1:19 and see what kind of difference it would make: "You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry."
The Message puts it this way:
"Post this at all the intersections, dear friends. Lead with your ears, follow up with your tongue, and let anger straggle along in the rear. God's righteousness doesn't grow from human anger. So throw all spoiled virtue and cancerous evil in the garbage. In simple humility, let our gardener, God, landscape you with the Word, making a salvation garden of your life" (James 1:19-21).
To model this for my kids, I decided to read this verse every day before I interacted with them. I needed to exchange whispers with God before shouts with the world. I let him show me how to:
- lead with my ears;
- follow up with my tongue;
- let anger straggle along in the rear;
- throw all cancerous evil in the garbage;
- let God landscape me with his Word.
My mornings weren't instantly great. But they slowly got better. And best of all, this new perspective started rubbing off on my kids.
About a month later, Brooke sighed one of those "I'm going through something, but unless you ask me, I'm not freely revealing this information" kind of sighs.
"Tell me the high and low from your day," I said.
"Mom." She groaned, letting me know she secretly loved that I was asking.
I waited quietly, knowing she'd eventually tell me. And she did.
I put my hand on hers and said, "I'm sorry, sweetheart. I know that makes you sad."
To my surprise, this normally emotional child said, "Actually no. I've decided sometimes being sad or mad over stuff like this is a complete waste of time."
And just like that she smiled and was ready to get on with her day. No tears. No tirade. No wearing herself out with a tidal wave of emotion while over-processing the situation.
Suddenly I saw the truth that had been changing me was now changing her. Even the little progress we moms make can have a huge impact with our kids.