I made a big mistake with one of my kids when we were at the beach. After an entire day of dealing with his negative attitude and moodiness, I did exactly what I tell other parents not to do…l lost my temper. There was no shouting but my tone was highly exasperated and I grabbed hold if his face in an abrupt way to turn it to mine when I was addressing him and his attitude. “You need to stop acting this way!” I said in a very stern way.
Having grown up in a family where moodiness was not allowed (because we were taught that you need to be filled with the Holy Spirit and control your emotions), I tend to get frustrated when my children fuss or complain. The irony is that when I allow myself to get frustrated, it is just as bad as being moody because I am not controlled by the Holy Spirit either!
However, when I’m spirit-filled, I tend to deal with my kids’ pouting or sulking in a more constructive way. But I was not spiritually prepared when my son started acting up. He complained about not being able to swim at the beach because the red flag had been raised by the resort due to strong winds and waves; that the water slide at the pool was under repair; that the kids’ play room was closed and being renovated; and finally, when he swam in the pool he found it too cold. I tried to encourage him to think positively and make the most of what we were able to do since the resort was still an amazing place to be at. I also reminded him of his Bible verses and told him, “Look, we are all having fun! Just make the most of it. You are the only one upset.” (Bad, bad style!) He was so difficult to convince. He sat at a corner by himself trying not to cry. The irritation in my heart was building up so I just let him be and didn’t want to deal with him. Later on in the evening, when he started complaining about being tired and sleepy, I finally gave in to my pent up irritation and snapped at him.
That was the worst thing I could have done because it only added to his heightened emotions and he started crying. When I asked him why he had acted so negatively (which really was uncharacteristic of him), he said that he felt sad that things didn’t turn out the way he wanted them to. So once again I tried to reason with him so that he could properly process his emotions, but he couldn’t get over his disappointment. So I said, is there anything else wrong? “When you grabbed my cheeks…” He said, in between sobs, “I felt really hurt…” Sobbing again.Then he flung himself onto my lap and started to really cry.
I had really wounded my son’s heart when I scolded him in the wrong way. My intentions were to let him “snap out” of his moodiness but my method was not positive. So I looked at him in the eyes and I said the only thing I really could and should’ve at that point, “I’m sorry, hon. Mommy was wrong. I shouldn’t have done that. Will you forgive me? I did it because I was irritated and I was irritated because I felt disappointed that you were being so negative today. But that doesn’t make my actions right and I need to ask for your forgiveness. Will you forgive me.” He teared up again and said, “Yes.” I also said to him, “I want you to know that I will love you no matter what.”
After he had calmed down and accepted my apology, I then explained that we need to “trust God when things don’t always turn out the way we want them to. He is in control and he has reasons which we don’t always understand.” (The next day, he was fine and thoroughly enjoyed himself.)
If I could’ve relived what happened, I would have done it like this…as soon as he felt that his expectations were let down, instead of quoting bible verses and telling him what he should do, I would have just hugged him and said, “don’t worry babe, we are still going to have fun.” And I would have just held him for a while. He’s the type that appreciates affection and that would have made a big difference. I also would have avoided pointing out the fact that he had a bad attitude while everyone else did not. This did not make him feel any better.
Proverbs 15:1 A gentle answer turns away wrath, But a harsh word stirs up anger.
Our children will not always process experiences or circumstances in the way we want them to, but that doesn’t give us the excuse to become frustrated and temperamental towards them. This is not an effective way to encourage them to Christ-likeness. Instead, we need to ask ourselves, what do they need from me right now? We will eventually get the opportunity to guide their thinking and emotions, but most of the time, that happens only after they get what they really need and want from us — a hug or a kiss, a kind word, affirmation, or just our presence and silent support.
I failed in this area when I got irritated, but I also learned that a sincere apology and humbly asking for forgiveness gives you a fresh start with your kids (for as long as you don’t make losing your temper and getting irritated a daily habit!).