I lost my temper at the 3-year-old’s constant whining and crying today. At one point I turned to her and said “You have GOT to quit crying at me!” Well, of course it didn’t help at all; just made her cry louder and feel unheard / unimportant. Flop.
Well, a few minutes later, I was asking the 4-year-old to stop doing something. In the exact same tone of voice I had used with her sister, she looked at me and said “Mama. You have GOT to quit saying ‘stop’ at me.” Well, of course there was an instantaneous flash of anger and I stepped out the room for a second to cool off. But then I realized… she’s actually kind of right!
When my kids haven’t been having a fussy day, I respond immediately and compassionately when they cry. But when they have been fussing, whining and crying all day, I tend to respond with annoyance when they are crying. again. for the eighty-thousandth time since lunch.
It just becomes annoying background noise that is discouraging and extremely difficult for me to respond appropriately to… And I’m an adult!
So, when every time my kids turn around, I’m saying “stop it. stop it. stop. stop. stop.” how can I expect them, young children, to respond appropriately? At this point, I have become just annoying background noise! How discouraging it must be to them! No wonder they just stop trying!
Colossians 3:21 Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged.
So, what to do?
When I think about what circumstances make it easy for me to respond to my children’s requests (after all, crying and fussing is just a request of some kind), three things stand out:
1) They haven’t already worn me out with previous constant requests.
2) They ask in a personal, polite and clear way, making eye contact (not screaming at me from across the room or house).
3) They have been satisfied or grateful with the previous requests that I’ve met that day.
The more these 3 requirements are off, the harder and harder it becomes to respond to them with kindness! So then, why do I not try to frame my requests of them in the same way?
Here’s to working on being more than just annoying, discouraging background noise to my children!
Lord, fill me always with Your grace.