We’ve heard it said, “Hurt people, hurt people.” However, for the sake of this post, I prefer:
Perhaps you struggled through your afternoon today with a toddler refusing her nap, and a big boy melting-down over his multiplication tables; everyone left their socks on the floor and no one wants what you made for dinner. And your heart is coiled up tight like a spring that’s ’bout to pop, because you’re tired of the abuse. Eventually you do explode, throwing all of those wrong-doings back on your little tormentors. Yes, you pay them back tear for tear, fit for fit, complaint for complaint – abuse for abuse. Only thing is… they’re not really abusing you, mom.
There are many pitiful components to this victim mentality, here in the midst of motherhood. Of course, there’s the obvious grief moms experience on the backside of their anger, knowing that they’ve hurt their children. But long before they arrive at that sad place is this pathetic reality: all those things the children said and did, that hurt her heart and made her feel the victim, weren’t grounded in reality! Though they felt like real abuse, and caused her to really lash out, they were simply children being children… being children… being children… being children… all day long.
A wise woman once said, “Your child isn’t giving you a hard time, your child is having a hard time.”
But their hard time is hard on you, isn’t it? I understand that. But remember this, dear mom, they’re just being children, and they need you to just keep on being mom. Not a martyr, a mom. A mom who presses in then presses on – into Jesus and on into her long mothering days.
When we remember that we have been called to mother our children, moment by moment, and not march like a martyr through our days, we begin to see each challenge they present as an opportunity to parent them well. When we speak these words over ourselves throughout the days, “I am not their victim, I’m their mom” we start to see again, that they are not our enemies but our children. And as our eyes refocus on God’s good gifts, as well as His good plan for mother and child, our hearts begin to soften again.
When Your Child Is Having a Hard Time
Deep breath. “I am not a victim, I’m a mom.” Like a mantra.
Deep breath. “They are not my enemies, they’re my children.” Exhale.
Deep breath. “My children will act like children, and I must act like their loving mom…”
As this gentle self-talk works it’s way down into your mom-heart, you will begin responding once again to your children with compassion rather than passion.
Victims have a miserable time meeting their child’s tearful fits, whiney complaints, and strong-willed nature with compassion because they’re so focused on the negative way their children affect their own happiness.
Holy rather than happy
I’m reminded of the a book I read when I was a newlywed: Sacred Marriage by Gary Thomas. In those pages he posed the question, “What if God designed marriage to make us holy more than to make us happy?” It was a clever question, but didn’t resonate with me at the time, as I was still euphoric in the honeymoon phase of our love affair. However, within a few short years, we had moved across the country, had three strong-willed little boys, and were both overwhelmed by the challenges of our blessed life together. It was then, a variation of the words from the cover of that book came back to me: What if God designed motherhood to make me holy rather than to make me happy? What a thought!
What a thought. What a liberating thought!
If we go through our mothering days with the false expectation that it is our children’s job to make us happy (whether by their compliance, their achievements, or their agreeable personalities…) we will be PASSIONATELY disappointed – both with them and with our lives. However, if we wake up each new day with the expectation that God is more concerned with the process of making us Holy rather than happy, then we are on our way towards compassionate parenting, rather than parenting with passion.
Our kids are going to have a hard time, some time, here in the next few hours (or minutes.) Let’s remember that we’re not victims, we’re moms. The more we say it and believe it, the more compassion we will have to gently walk them through their childhood today.
For more on this topic, check out Triggers: Exchanging Parent’s Angry Reactions for Gentle Biblical Responses . If you struggle with anger in your home from the sheer effort of it all, if you find yourself yelling at your children and struggling with shame, I encourage you to order a copy of Triggers, by Wendy Speake and Amber Lia, published by BRU Publications.