“Children imitate what they see.”
I was struck between the eyes by this above quote from my devotional this morning.
It sent a painful stabbing to my heart as I soaked in the meaning behind these words, relating them to my current parenting struggles.
You see… lately, my kids have had a case of the “grumpies,” which has resulted in me being quite the grump around them as well.
At least, I always attested my own grumpiness due to their grumpiness. Until this morning.
I’ve attested their grumpiness due to what seems like the never-ending terrible three times three tantrums (for those that don’t remember, I have 3 year old twin boys and a nearly 2 year old daughter who acts like she’s 3). And while there’s some truth to this—the current stage of life where my children have difficulty processing their emotions in the moment, like when brother takes a toy forcefully away from sister—I’m beginning to see there are more yet-to-be-uncovered truths which I had been turning a blind eye to.
I felt a sense of conviction today as I read that first sentence, like God was tired of gently trying to tell me that the real issue is not with them but with me. So He ever so bluntly took a two by four to my face and put it in plain words when I read my devotional this morning.
Sadly, I have become a product of some of the things I try to teach my kids not to do. Like when I tell them not to yell at each other, when 20 minutes ago I was “loudly” directing them to their room for what we call a “reset” (similar to a timeout). When I tell my twin Gavin not to grab so forcefully at the toy that twin Rylan is playing with, when an hour before I snatched the toy away from him because I was tired of listening to the teapot song on repeat. Or when I’m trying to teach them patience as I put their shoes on one at a time before we all go outside to play when in the same moment I am visually losing my patience at their impatience.
Now I know I’m not perfect, yet oftentimes in my imperfections I forget to reach out to them and say “I’m sorry.” Or I forget to take a “mommy time-out” as I enter the losing-my-cool stage. When I look at my children and see the sometimes bitter actions they take during the day, I can’t help but see myself reflecting right back at me.
You might be thinking I’m being too hard on myself, yet I think you are giving me more grace than I deserve. Sure I’m not actively neglecting my kids, and I’m doing the best darn job I can on my own. But that’s my problem.
I’m relying too much on my own strength in parenting my children these days and not on The One who surpasses my own strength to provide unconditional love, respect, and compassion. I know I can improve my character; yet I know I cannot do it on my own.
I’ve been actively seeking God in many areas of my life lately, however I’ve neglected allowing Him to enter the areas of my home life where it needs pruning. I became so focused on trying to figure out the problem with my children, I lacked humility of my own to introspectively look at the problem from a different angle. God convicted me today of many things that need pruning with my parenting. Of course I truly, deeply and honestly love my children, care for their needs and respectfully use various forms of healthy discipline on them when needed (no need to go calling child protective services on me now).
However I’m starting to see clearly now that some of the frustrations I have with my children are due to their imitation of the unholy areas emanating from my character.
Although guilt and shame want to enter my heart, I’m remembering two beauties—forgiveness and grace—whom I will hold tight to and prayerfully they will become more permanent filters in my heart. Through my faith in God, I know He will give me the strength to move past my personal grumpiness and enter into a place where I can maintain authentic joy no matter what the day brings with my 3 little ones. Every day is a new day, therefore small persistent changes to my character will reflect more positive actions, hopefully gaining momentum to a more joyful state of God’s presence within our home.