Growing Pains

One lazy Sunday morning I walked into my son’s bedroom and noticed he wasn’t there.  When I entered my daughter’s room, the scene that I saw would touch any parent’s heart. Emma was gently cuddling her brother so that he could fall back asleep, as he was still sleepy. My husband and I later commented on how sweet our children were with each other and how we were so blessed that they got along so well.  We may have spoken too soon that day as later that morning they had a huge fight that led to many tears and hurt feelings. When I heard the fight begin I did what I usually do which is to try to let them figure it out on their own before I intervene. However, this time the feelings and voices were escalating pretty quickly with no nearsighted resolution.  One child was red with anger and the other was crying inconsolably. I decided everyone needed a “time out” to process their feelings and calm down. After everyone had some alone time, we came back together to talk about what had happened. Elam’s feeling were hurt because he felt that Emma had blamed him and judged him for not building the right roof in Minecraft. Emma was mad because she felt that Elam was blaming her for the fight. 

After I dealt with the children and we came to a resolution, I realized something about the situation. I saw my own actions in the root of this fight, which is being quick to judge.  My sweet children were replicating what they see in me. Ouch!  I reflected back on times in which my first response is often a judgment statement instead of a question to clarify behavior. If I’m talking to my daughter about something and I see her make a face, I will say, “Change your bad attitude” without first inquiring what she is experiencing. On many occasions it is not a bad attitude it might be that she is feeling bad about what she did. 

One of the many challenges of parenting is observing your children replicate your faults and weaknesses. It’s so hard to witness that.  So what is a parent to do when this happens? Well, the first step is admitting and acknowledging that there is an area for growth and even confess it to your children.  During our talk after the big fight, I confessed to the children that I had been so guilty of judging their behavior on many occasions and they had learned that from me. I strongly believe that being a perfect parent is not attainable and being a parent who admits when he/she fails it is far more impacting on a child’s life that the ideal of unattainable perfection. Admitting our need for growth in a certain area is an essential point in growing into a better parent and a godly person. It is amazing how God can use parenting to help us see areas in our lives that don’t honor him. Admittance is an important step to growth.

When I observe an incident with my children and see my own behavior in theirs, I often feel guilty. I feel so bad and often think that I have scarred my children for the rest of their lives. How could I let this happen? Those are often my initial thoughts, but then I am reminded how God’s grace is always sufficient. An important step in growing as a parent is allowing you to feel God’s grace and to forgive yourself. Being hard on yourself will not promote change like the way grace does. Grace prompts us and empowers us to change. Guilt helps us realize there needs to be a change but the guilt itself will not change anything. When I am too hard on myself or am constantly apologizing to my children for the same offense, I am essentially teaching them to be hard on themselves. It is another behavior that I am emulating to them. I don’t want my children to grow up being hard on themselves so I need to show them to have grace on themselves by showing grace to myself. The feeling of guilt itself will not lead to growth, but it can prompt us to want to change. Ultimately, it is through God’s grace that we can find everything we need to be able to change.

I have learned I am more apt to change when I have a game plan. When I see my children behaving like I do, I realized I need an action plan so that I don’t commit the same mistakes. That day my kids and I memorized James 1: 19 that reminds us to “be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger.” Reminding myself to listen first before placing judgment on one’s actions would help me in growing in that area.  I went back to God’s word. What does God say about this issue and what honors Him? These are the questions we need to ask ourselves when we are seeking to grow in a certain area. I now ask questions before I make statements.  For example, when my daughter is making faces when I am talking to her, instead of stating you have a bad attitude, I ask, “Can you tell me what you are feeling?” or “ You are making a face and I am not sure what it means.” My action plan has helped me in taking the right steps to change and grow into a better person that honors God.  You may also find it helpful to do some research by asking other parents on how they handle certain issues or behaviors. Your area of growth may be the same as mine or it may be different. Whatever that area is, determine an action plan so that when you are in trigger situations you will react differently.  

Ultimately, growth comes from God. It is through His grace and His word that we can change. Ask God to help you grow. Ask Him to help you listen to His gentle reminder when we aren’t honoring Him. Remind yourself that you will make mistakes along the way but with the help of God you can become the mother that God has destined you to be.