Life is stressful. Being a parent is stressful. Homeschooling is stressful. Just about anything that we face in life is going to add a bit of stress. Teaching our children is less like the middle of Sound of Music where Maria is skipping through the fields playing a guitar and more like the end of the movie where there’s running and screaming and hiding. At least, that’s the way it is at my house.
Lately, my stress levels have been through the roof. Tensions have been high. Family drama and holiday pressure and medical issues have complied until some days I just want to hide under the covers and not get out of bed until next year.
I’d like to say that through these trials I have remained cool, calm, and in control. I could say that I’ve graciously dealt with backed up toilets flooding the bathroom and bleeding head wounds and incessantly fighting children. I could say that, but it would be a lie.
The truth is, my “go to” response to a stressful situation is to yell at someone. I call it “raising my voice” but hey, someone else might go so far as to call it screaming. Regardless of how I try to rationalize it, a raised voice, a yell, a scream, are not Christ-like. I’m acting like a little child who can’t control herself and lets off pressure by getting louder and louder.
School has been particularly frustrating lately. I found out that my son had been skipping quite a few of his math speed drills. Two other kids had been goofing off during history class and just about failed a test. And a third kid has been throwing a huge temper tantrum every time she is asked to do anything.
I had been applying my own personal method of dealing with this to little result. My kids would sit there, eyes on the ground, waiting for Mom to quit yelling, and then go and do exactly what it was they had just gotten in trouble for. On top of that they were at each other’s throats. The fighting and the name calling and the “accidental” pushes were way out of hand and my screaming and taking away privileges and threatening to call their father was not helping.
I was reading a parenting book one morning and a certain part struck me. It was about how our words can build our children up. Instead of telling them who we don’t want them to be, tell them who they are in Christ.
I had a chance to use it the next day. We were getting ready to leave for church on Wednesday night and one of my girls was being super grumpy and resistant to helping clean up. I heard two of her sisters taunting her that she was going to get in big trouble that night at church because there was no way she was going to behave. Now, normally, I agree with them. My daughter’s attitude was so horrible that the chance of her changing and not getting in trouble at church seemed impossible. But I remembered the parenting book.
I stopped her sisters and knelt down in from of my child with the bad attitude. I told her that I knew that she was going to be great that night. I said that I knew she was a generous, loving, little girl who was a great help to me around the house and that her teachers had, on occasion, told me how helpful she was in class. I told her I was proud of her and loved her and that I knew that she loved me too and that her heart desire was to please the Lord.
Her sisters stood there with mouths hanging open, but my problem child flushed and stared down at her hands. Her eyes welled up with tears and when I finished she gave me a big hug.
“I’m going to be on my best behavior tonight,” she promised and went on to help straighten up the house without arguing.
Now, it wasn’t a onetime fix. She’s still struggling with her attitude, but at that one moment I didn’t tear her down, or point out her many flaws. I told her who she was in Christ. I used my words to encourage rather than to berate, to build up rather than tear down, to bless rather than to curse.
In the book of James it says that the tongue is powerful. Too often I let mine loose like a machine gun indiscriminately blasting everything in sight. How much better our lives would be if we used our words to help our children see themselves as God sees them.
Do you ever find yourself yelling at your kids? How have you used your words to build them up instead? I’d love to hear from you!
You know that family that shows up to church in the 15 passenger van? The one that homeschools? Ever wondered how they make it through the day or wished you could be a fly on the wall of their house? Well, I'm inviting you in. I'm 36 and I ride herd on 8 children (oldest is 12), 3 cats, 2 bearded dragons, and one puppy. It's loud, chaotic, and imperfect. Welcome to Life in the Big House!