These days, I process my thoughts about parenting and other topics best when I’m tapping out a caption on Instagram. There’s this magical sense of zero pressure and there’s no blinking cursor to taunt me on a blank computer screen that allows my mind to be freed up. So in recent months, I’ve taken to looking back at what I’ve shared of my real-life on social media when I’m brainstorming a writing topic.
A few days ago, I wrote this:
Do you ever just feel so proud of yourself and thankful to God for the ability to keep it together in the face of a super frustrating situation?
Tonight I kept my cool with one of the kids who pulled out one of their age-old defiances that used to send my blood pressure and my reaction through the roof. Through. The. Roof.
I mean, this is a years’ long struggle we haven’t seen manifest itself for months and months. But when it happened, I stayed calm and kind, gave the child one warning, then a great big hug and sent them for a super early bedtime when the warning wasn’t heeded and I feel so content. I’m sad my child chose this for themselves, but parents? We must separate ourselves from our kids’ behavior. Assigning consequences from a place of love rather than frustration is one of the best things we can do for them.
So here’s to the parents this weekend. Stay calm. Give a swift consequence you don’t stray from, then let it be. It might be your circus, and it might be your monkeys. But this is not the time to lose your junk over someone else’s bad choices.
Since I posted that caption, this same child has engaged in this same ultra-defiant behavior three more times. And three more times I’ve held it together, given a hug and removed the child from the situation without anger. This is so difficult, especially since the behavior and disrespect is aimed directly at me and only when Jeremy isn’t home. I happen to be this child’s bullseye and that’s something I’ve had to learn to navigate. I have not always done this well.
But to me, losing it became worse than the child’s offense. I’m the parent, not a child with no self-control and a skewed view of self and consequences. I felt horrible for my anger when I let it affect me. I was not reacting in a right way. Something had to change.
And I thought, what if we parented in a way that left our hearts and emotions untangled from our child’s behaviors? What if we stayed steady and calm and let them really feel their consequences without involving ourselves?
So often, I’ve seen that my more difficult children sort of “enjoy” that their poor behavior riles me up. A twisted part of them likes the power they can exert.
But I’m so over that. I’m so over joining their dysfunctional circus. (I mean that in the most loving and true way possible.)
I will not get tangled up in their sin. I will not add my sin to the mix.
I don’t think Jesus was kidding when He said we should turn the other cheek. It truly is the best way. We don’t allow others to walk all over us. No way. Behaviors must be dealt with. But we also shouldn’t allow the behavior of others to dictate our emotions and stability.
In Luke 6:27-36, Jesus says:
“But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also, and from one who takes away your cloak do not withhold your tunic either. Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back. And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them.
If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to get back the same amount. But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.”
It’s a wee bit painful to look at our kids as our enemies. But doesn’t it feel that way sometimes? So what do we do?
Love them. Expect nothing in return. Be merciful. Do good to them. Bless them. Pray for them. Give to them.
Jesus definitely isn’t recommending we enable their behavior, but we most certainly don’t have to join them at the crazy party.