“For the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.” (James 1:20)
We should be striving to produce the righteousness of God in our children. Our anger with them, even when it is just, will not do that.
As a mom, I have to hold this truth at the front of my mind when my daughter hears me ask her to do something, looks right at me, and does the exact opposite.
A normal human response is to be upset. I’ve been ignored and disobeyed.
But being a peaceful parent isn’t a normal response.
Peaceful parenting when your children are at their worst, takes intentionality, mindfulness, and intervention by the Holy Spirit.
We are called to respond to life differently than the world, which includes our parenting.
“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Romans 12:2)
Some of the intentionality has to start before we need it. We’ve got to be in God’s Word so our hearts and minds are being transformed to His ways.
When I expect her to sin, to rebel, and am prepared ahead of time with a response, I am better equipped to be the peaceful parent I want to be.
Sympathize with what they are feeling or needing.
While children are selfish sinners just like adults, kids are often being difficult because they are having a tough time.
Our children need us to demonstrate God’s unconditional love, grace, and instruction when struggling with their human nature.
Ask what is going on with them and listen. Are they tired? hungry? bored?
If your littles are not verbal yet, sometimes just stop and sit with them a moment.
What feels like a battle of wills, might be a physical issue that is hard for a little one to cope with.
I can’t tell you the number of meltdowns I’ve curbed by giving my daughter a snack. (Hint – even if that is not the issue, a drink or healthy snack can be a great distraction.)
If we assume it’s only an obedience issue, we miss a chance to love them in the struggle. Validate their feelings, even if you must constructively discipline their behavior.
Sometimes breaking the tension of a moment is a simple as a peaceful engagement. Try softening your voice to just above a whisper.
“A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” (Proverbs 15:1)
Another strategy is a trick I learned teaching high school. One secret great teachers use to maintain classroom discipline is proximity. Sometimes just being close to someone changes the entire dynamic.
Walk over to where your children are. Touch a shoulder. Get on her level. Look in his eyes. Hug her.
I’m constantly amazed at how this changes my heart, too. I can feel myself unfurl and calm down.
The times I’ve stopped in my anger and hugged my child deeply, I’ve seen the entire situation transform. Sometimes a sweet whisper during the hug helps too.
I’m having a hard time right now, too, but I love you so much.
If the situation is too volatile for a hug, try a joke.
Laughter is a great way to reset our hearts as well. A tickle, funny face, terrible pun are all wonderful ways to engage with your child peacefully to reset a tough situation.
Reset the entire tone of your home by turning on music. A dance party to worship music is so uplifting.
What about the children’s attitude and behavior?
Now that you’ve done all the things you can about controlling your feelings, keeping yourself peaceful, we need to address the part that is up to the kids: their attitude and behavior.
Like I mentioned earlier, we can’t control their behavior or hearts, but we can control how we respond when they don’t get it right.
Being Consistent is Key in Being a Peaceful Parent
Establish, clear and consistent consequences for misbehaviors and bad attitudes. Having a set consequence helps not disciplining from anger and helps her flex her self-control muscles because she knows the exact consequence she is facing and must decide if an action is worth it.
The more I parent consistently, the more I see my daughter knows what I expect of her.
Another teacher trick I like to use is to set procedures for how we do things instead of prohibitive rules about how not to do things.
Teach children the proper way to make the bed, feed the dog, respond to a request, even express frustration and hurt feelings.
Don’t expect your kids to get it right.
This is where we show them grace, undeserved love. When she is at her whiny worst, I remind myself of how deeply I love her, and respond to her as if she were being the best version of herself, kind of like how God sees Jesus when He looks at us.
*Also, that if whining works, it will be what she uses, so don’t allow it to get attention or results.
Show them how to be frustrated without being inappropriate.
If her tone is incorrect, I’ll model an appropriate tone and dialogue, then have her repeat it. The younger your children are the better this technique works. Give them the words to express hurt feelings, frustrations and you’ll build a healthy relationship in which feelings are validated even if behaviors need to be modified.
Modeling the correct tone, helps me keep mine calm, too.
Being a peaceful parent may not be easy, but it can be simple when we hit PAUSE to seek God’s face and search our own hearts.
At the end of the day, our children won’t remember many details from their childhood, but they will remember how we made them feel. Let’s try to get that part right.
This piece originally appeared at Heaven not Harvard, published with permission.