I have shared before, on this blog, and with many of my 'real life' friends how I am much more easily frustrated and impatient as a mother than I ever thought I would be. This is something that I have really struggled with, especially lately. At a Bible study that I attend along with some ladies from our church, we are going through a book called Becoming a Woman of Excellence. It is a great book, and is definitely spurring me on to a more excellent life in Christ!
Anyhow, last week, there was a quote in our chapter that was even more convicting than usual. The author was discussing the importance of discretion and of being 'slow to anger', and she included a quote from Jerry Bridges that said (in discussing the parable of the Unmerciful Servant, found in Matthew 18:21-35) "We are like the unmerciful servant when we lose our patience under provocation. We ignore God's extreme patience with us. We discipline our children out of anger, while God disciplines us out of love. We are eager to punish the person who provokes us, while God is eager to forgive. This kind of patience does not ignore the provocations of others; it simply seeks to respond to them in a godly manner."
So, during our small group prayer time, I asked my prayer partners to specifically pray for me this week as I discipline and care for my children, that I would respond to them in a godly manner, and not in an angry, selfish way as I have too often. Throughout the week, I have been specifically praying that God would give me wisdom in each situation, and help me to see each annoying, frustrating, disobedient action as an opportunity instead of an annoyance or an interruption.
And He has really done that! Just this morning, Zachary had been happily using a wipe-off marker to write on a wipe-off book at the dining room table for several minutes while I cleaned the kitchen after breakfast, when he chose to climb down and draw instead on the seat of my dining room chair (which is covered in cream colored fabric). In case you were wondering, nope, wipe-off markers do NOT wipe off of fabric. Or wash out. Ever. As you can imagine, I was not very happy.
I immediately sent him to sit on his bed and set a timer for 3 minutes, to give me time to calm down & him time to think about what he had done. When the timer went off, he came out, and I gave him a wet washcloth and we worked together, wiping at the black stains on the chair seat. Of course, it did no good, and I explained that this kind of marker will not ever come off of this chair seat. God led me to take a minute to sit with Z on the hearth and discuss the way that our daily words and actions are like the black marks on the chair - they can never be taken back, and we can't do anything on our own to cleanse ourselves from the sinful actions and words that we do!
It turned out to become a great object lesson, and a truly teachable moment, when it could have so easily been just yet another instance when I had lost my patience and responded in anger. God has also led my husband and I to view Zachary's frustrated responses - he often yells or screams out in anger when something doesn't go his way or something he's trying to do isn't working for him - as opportunities to discuss the fruit of the Spirit that is called self-control. I believe that as young toddlers, children use tantrums to express their emotions, and before children are verbal, crying and even yelling are the only ways they have to express their needs and feelings. Natalie, for example, often cries or tantrums when she's hungry - she is 14 months old and doesn't know any better. However, at age 3, Zachary is very verbal! He is ready to begin choosing to control his actions and respond in more constructive ways when he is frustrated, such as asking for help or expressing his feelings with calm words.
One of the discipline situations that frustrates me the most is when Z is unkind to his little sister. My children truly love each other, and typically play together very well, but when Z pushes or hurts little Natalie, it makes me so sad! This afternoon, Z was frustrated with Natalie because he was attempting to build a block tower and Natalie kept knocking it down (and then laughing, she thought it was hilarious). Zachary got angry & pushed Natalie down. After comforting her, I had Z come sit on my lap, and we discussed the concept of 'What is more important to God? Building a big block tower, or choosing to be kind to your sister?' I wasn't sure if he really understood, but the next time he built a tower, he cheerfully allowed her to knock it down, so that's something. :)
I am not sharing this so that my friends will pat me on the back and say, "Wow, great job! Way to go not yelling at your kids!". I share the ways that God is working in my life so that others who may be struggling with the same things can see that God can help - and maybe this can be a reminder for someone else that those daily discipline frustrations really are meant to be opportunities and learning experiences for both us and our children! I also share in order to keep myself accountable - I don't want this to be the only week that I see God working in me and helping me control my responses to my children! I didn't say I did a good job all week, either...there is still plenty of opportunity for growth, believe me! :)
How have any of you dealt with similar situations in your parenting careers? Do you have similar success stories to share? Or any encouragement would be appreciated! :)