"You need to stop coming out of your room!” I said. “Go back to bed, right now!" My eyes narrowed as I stared at my son, awaiting a response. He looked down at the floor. I continued, "It's bedtime. You are being disobedient!" I recited the script we replayed nearly every evening. I knew my tone was too harsh, but I felt incapable of bridling it.
Tears fell down his cheeks. He looked up from the floor and into my eyes and said: "You yelled at me like you didn't like me." Never had I felt such deep, aching shame as a mom.
How can I be a better mom to these children God has entrusted to my husband and me? I thought. That is the question that presses in on me when I feel like I’m failing as a mom. I want to do better, but how?
First steps to better
As I've allowed God to transform me, I've discovered two ways moms can utilize Christ's strength in their everyday lives.
Decide ahead of time how you will respond to a situation that could get out of hand. When my children argue, they have come to expect my consistent response: "We are a team, and this is not how a team works best. Please go together to your room until you resolve this. You can come back out when you find a solution."
Choose soft words
Proverbs 15:1 says, "A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger." As parents, we hold the power to diffuse anger. We can either heighten a situation with our own angry response or calm it with a gentle tone.
That evening when I spoke harshly to my son, the interaction caused me to make an intentional shift in our relationship. I have thought about it when I'm tempted to lose my patience again. And I've found myself more able to remain calm and respond in a controlled manner. God used my failure to refine me. I want my children to witness me becoming a better mom, as God brings His strength into my weaknesses.
Don't wait to apologize
That evening, with my son's heart bruised and my own clouded with shame, I welcomed him into my arms. Rubbing his back, I whispered, "I'm so sorry. The way I spoke to you was wrong. I should not have become so angry." I pulled back to look into his eyes. "When we mess up, Jesus forgives us and makes us stronger."
As soon as angry words leave my lips now, I say a quick prayer asking God to humble me. I apologize, and then pray with my child. As I pray out loud, I ask God to help me control my anger and thank Him for His grace and forgiveness.
I assure my children often that "God is working on Mom's heart too." Then I am age-appropriately open with them about my own struggles, and I remind them that God's grace is sufficient, and His power is perfected in weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9).
Accepting I’m not perfect
When my children see that it's OK not to be perfect, and that Jesus meets me in my weakness, they come to understand God's love and power in a whole new way. They see that it's Jesus who transforms all people's hearts and makes us better, even moms.
Someday when my son is grown, I pray he will look back on that evening when Mom lost her cool and realize that God's grace was there. I want him to notice how God has continually transformed my heart, so that he understands that God has the power to transform his heart, too.
In a world where pressures to be a perfect mother abound, I can find freedom in proclaiming that only Christ can make me a better mom. And, as I depend on Him, He will be faithful to do just that. Second Peter 1:3 says, "His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness." Everything for life and godliness — motherhood not excluded. Over time, I learned that it’s good for my children to grow up watching me depend on Jesus for all my needs. Through each struggle, as I have learned to place my successes and faults as a parent before God, I have become a better mom.