Well now, if you’ve been parenting long enough for the newness to have worn off you’ve likely been there. I know I have. People call them all sorts of things in jest: ankle biters, curtain climbers, monsters, little heathens. I like to call them children. And I try to call them softly, though it’s a decision and not a natural tendency.
Because if we’re going to talk straight, most of us would admit it’s easier to just yell. Skipping right over all that calling for the heart mumbo jumbo just gets the job done a little quicker. They’ll be time for mending bridges later. Like when they’re really sleepy. Or sick.
But seriously, how often do we stop to consider the way we’d respond if a person in authority over us was to resort to bullying or screaming to elicit a particular response from us?
Just imagine Jane in the workplace. Her boss isn’t terribly patient. But he’s okay with that because he’s just accepted the fact that patience isn’t a quality the Lord meted out to him in great measure. Why try to rewrite the script when you can utilize the strengths you do have? And so when he notices Jane is off her game one morning, he just goes with what comes naturally and lays into her.
“Hurry up, would you? I told you I needed that portfolio by 10am and it’s five after. You’re making me late and that really makes me mad. I want you to have it completed and in my hand in 10 seconds or…DON’T YOU GIVE ME THAT LOOK! Don’t you know it’s me who writes your paycheck? You should just be grateful you have a job. No, no, I don’t want to hear about your mother dying or your little boy who is sick again. You think I haven’t noticed how you’ve drained your bank of sick time? There is simply no excuse. You’re down to five seconds, by the way. 5..4..3……”
Beaten down and battered, Jane might manage to get that portfolio into her taskmasters hand before he finishes his countdown but the whole situation is still a bust. He’s killed a little part of her that will be very hard to resurrect. And it’s the part of her that wants to please him for the sake of pleasing him. The part that puts forth her best effort out of respect and the desire to do what is right and good. He has, however, kindled a fire under her inner rebel and that fire will rage with each subsequent verbal thrashing.
What we do to our children when we resort to yelling for discipline is very much the same. They might obey, but not likely and not well. Or at the very least, not for the right reasons.
But wait, I see you over there rolling your eyes. Another self-righteous mom telling me I need to stop yelling at my kids. Blah, blah, blah. Why won’t somebody tell me how to stop yelling. I come from a long line of yellers. If a body were to believe in generational sins, this would surely be one of them!
I get it. Honest, I do. I’d have to admit I’m a yeller by nature. Maybe even by genetics. Who knows. But really, who cares? It matters not so much why but what I’m going to do about it. And here’s what I do.
I start my day in the Word and in prayer. No, not everyday. I’m human and there are days I oversleep or just don’t get up because I can’t seem to force myself. God doesn’t abandon me on those days but He does ask that I make the effort. Even a nursing mother can have quiet time with the Lord as she gives suck to her babe. He doesn’t command a certain posture and He hears the most exhausted and desperate plea.
So I resolutely march into battle (which looks an awful lot like my kitchen) and go face to face with the enemy as he tries to seize my children. And believe me, there are many, many times in a day where I have to remind myself it really is the enemy I’m fighting and not my precious children. And because I have zero respect for satan I wouldn’t mind a bit giving him a good tongue lashing. But I have to remember…always remember…those words will first hit the delicate souls who have been placed in my care. And so I lower my voice. Or sometimes I don’t speak at all.
If you can’t be trusted in the moment, take that moment captive in prayer. Speak not until you’ve been subdued.
Yes, this means my children sometimes don’t get the message immediately. But usually I will ask them to come sit and I let them wait until it’s safe for me to talk. If your children haven’t yet been trained to respond to a command like “sit” and they’re slightly out-of-control, don’t despair. Hope is not lost. Still, don’t speak–don’t utter a single word–until you can do so in a calm voice that speaks to the heart rather than screaming at the habit. Behaviors don’t change. People do.
That first step is the same as the second and every step thereafter. You train yourself to run to the Lord first and tend to your child after. Wash, rinse, repeat.
The battle won’t be won in a day. It might not be won in a year. But each isolated victory where self (and screaming) is subdued is a stepping stone in the right direction. And each one of those steps will bring about a true heart change in your child that would never happen otherwise.
Take heart. You are truly NOT alone. There are countless screaming moms out there determined to slay the same dragon. Let’s walk through the Refiner’s Fire together…and let’s bring our children with us.