My daughter — 14 at the time — and I were having a heated exchange.
I can’t even remember what it was about. During those early teen years, we had a lot of “heated” discussions.
Common ground seemed impossible to find.
Sometimes she’d take the complete opposite viewpoint — just to see how I’d react. Which is pretty normal for teenagers.
And pretty aggravating for mothers.
Other times, I’d have in my head how she should be acting, what she should be doing — based on my expectations. That’s not all bad … but I would often not take into account her personality, her tendencies and how God made her.
I’d start out all rational. So controlled. Determined to not use sarcasm or become angry.
And then all “me” would break loose. You know, the “me” that isn’t listening to the Holy Spirit’s guidance. The “me” that just wants my way — and to get the last word.
Because I’m the parent, don’t ya know.
But in the middle of this particular day’s battle, my daughter just stopped cold. She was on the verge of tears. And she said simply, “Mom, I just need you to be calm.”
That conversation happened almost three years ago. But I still think of her words often when I feel myself starting to come unglued. (Sometimes it works better than others. I’m still a work in progress.)
What she was saying was, “I’m a kid. I need YOU to be the calm one, the rock solid voice of reason, the one I can go to for wisdom and comfort when everything inside me and around me is going crazy.”
Our mouth isn’t the only part of our body that needs to be under control as we mother our kids. Self-control — from head to toe — can make a big impact on our contentment. And on our children and families.
Self control requires repetition. We have to be intentional. Because if we don’t have a plan, we’ll just do what comes naturally. And, at least for me, that rarely ends well.
So, here’s a few ways that we can exercise self-control. It’s a workout from head to toe. But when we’re disciplined, everybody wins:
Quit feeding negative thoughts. We often can’t help what thoughts pop into our head. They might be worried thoughts about our kids’ well-being or academics. Or hostile thoughts about our kids or our husband.
We can choose to keep dwelling on and feeding those thoughts. Which just feeds our worry, anger, fear, etc. And those thoughts end up spilling out of my mouth.
Or, we can stop them in their tracks. Stopping those thoughts before they get rolling isn’t easy. I actually think that’s the hardest part. I say a quick prayer. I’ve memorized Scripture that addresses the area(s) I tend to obsess about. So, I’ll repeat those in my mind. Or, I’ll physically do something else to get my mind refocused. With practice, it gets easier — and more automatic.
Find some cheerleaders. We all know people — both in real life and online — that mostly complain and rant about their kids or their marriages. Before we know it, we’re joining in. It feels good to let it all out. But does it improve our attitude? Make us feel more positive about our family? Give us encouragement and solutions for our struggles?
Nope. Nope. And nope.
We have to choose to steer clear or walk away from those negative voices whenever we encounter them. It does not enahance our attitude or ability to work through the challenges of motherhood. Spend time with people that encourage and inspire you to be better.
Share the heavy lifting. For years, I could have sported the title of “Enabling Queen.” Rescuing when the project when my child didn’t finish their project. Not giving appropriate responsibilities around the house. Making excuses instead of enforcing boundaries.
In the long run, we’re not doing them any favors. Quite the opposite. We have to stop doing for our kids when they should be doing for themselves.
Walk away regularly. We’re human. Losing our cool? Well, it’s going to happen sometimes. And I’ve found that it’s helpful to just walk away before I say something I regret. I’ve told my teenagers many times, “I can’t talk to you about this right now. When I cool down in a few minutes, we’ll discuss it.” I’ve never regretted walking away.
Like any exercise plan, self-control is hard. It doesn’t feel good. Sometimes we can’t always see the benefits immediately.
But when we finally do, all those workouts will be worth it.
This post is part of our eight-week series, “Spirited Mom: A Fruity Look at Mothering.” We’re focusing on a different Fruit of the Spirit each week, as it applies to mothering.
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