When I speak with moms about making connections to our kid’s hearts, I often hear things such as: “How can you stay so calm? I’m way too fiery.” Or, “How do you know what to say? I could never think to say those kinds of things to my kids in the moment.”
I want to share with you a little secret. When my parenting paradigm began to shift to a more connected approach, I was fiery and didn’t know what to say either. To be totally truthful, I’m STILL fiery. My personality and temperament are a gift from God and they haven’t changed.
A change has taken place, not in my personality, but in my submission to God’s beautiful ways…which are not my own. As I understand more of who God truly is and what it really means to walk in unity with Him, I am able to trust and submit more of who I am, to let Him mold me.
I mess up. A lot. When I was beginning to learn the messages of connection from Connected Families…the mess ups were sometimes, literally, All. Day. Long. I wanted to communicate safety, love no matter what, that my kids were capable and responsible for their actions. However, that didn’t always happen.
My kids were just laughing about a day that I THOUGHT I was living out the messages. At the sweet age of 8, I told my son that because he argued with all of my instruction that he could live a day WITHOUT instruction and parent himself. I thought this was so creative. I was going to teach him to listen to me! What I ACTUALLY communicated was rejection, throughout the day. I remember talking to my friend Jim on the phone later in the afternoon telling him what I had done. I felt depressed, realizing I had pushed my boy away and did nothing to grow anything lasting in him. Jim helped me come up with ways to communicate better with my boy, and thankfully we ended the day with a strong message of acceptance and love.
Often times, though I WANTED to communicate grace-filled responses, my old responses of anger, control, conditional love, and “you aren’t capable,” would creep into my interactions with my kids. It isn’t in the natural part of my spirit to give life-giving, always loving messages.If I make a mistake and then tell myself, “I’ll never change, I just can’t do this. I’m too fiery. I don’t know what to say,” then I’m also saying, “My kids aren’t worth me sacrificing myself for better parenting.” I love my kids passionately…but I’m not able to walk in perfection. Letting go of perfection has helped.
So, let’s get practical. When I find myself responding with anger or sarcasm, saying or doing something that isn’t my new heart for parenting, I do the following: I stop. I remove myself from the situation and take time to calm myself before I say any more. I ask God for wisdom. Then I go back and practice what we call a “do-over.” I look at my child and simply say, “I’m sorry. When I was sarcastic just now, that isn’t that kind of parent I want to be, nor the message I want to give to you. Will you forgive me? May I have a do over?” Then, I try the interaction again, sharing the messages I want to share, in a manner that shows love and safety to my child.
In the beginning, my do-overs were numerous times a day. As I continued to practice this act of evaluating, repenting, apologizing, trying again, I started to notice something. Sometimes, I would stop myself right in the middle of an immature interaction and try again. Then, one day, I realized my do-overs were getting less and my wisdom-filled responses started becoming more of who I was.
An added bonus, I was communicating several strong messages to my kids:
- It’s OK to be authentic and bring mistakes to the light.
- Modeling repentance and asking for forgiveness has given them the tools to do this in their own relationships.
- Grace and truth are high values in our home.
- God changes our hearts, and sanctification takes time. We can be patient with each other as we grow.
After years of practicing do-overs, calming myself, and communicating unconditional love, safety, humility, and wisdom to my children, it has become more of who I am. It is more natural now. God has been using my continual trusting Him in the midst of my own misbehavior to change my heart, over time. So much so, that I don’t even recognize myself in the comments from the moms with whom I’m blessed to interact.
You can do this too. You don’t need to stay enslaved to a temperament that needs refining. Growing in wisdom takes time. I don’t have all the answers and say everything perfectly to my kids. However, I’m doing better. You can do better too. Let go of the perfectionistic thoughts that tell you, you have to do it right all the time to do it at all. Those are lies from an enemy who wants to steal our kid’s hearts. Fight it. The victory is already yours, waiting for you to pick it up and take it. You CAN connect with your kid’s hearts.