Caleb, my 12-year-old son, stormed into the kitchen and sat at the counter with a scowl as he declared, "I'm so tired of Tim — he always gets everything anytime he asks for it. It's not fair!"
I'd never seen Caleb so upset. Tim was a family friend, and it was true that his family liked to buy things. Although I understood why our family saves for things, in my heart I had to agree that it was hard being around others who didn't have to wait for what they wanted.
Still, as much as I wanted to agree about the unfairness of it all, I knew there could be a lesson for my son — a lesson about the satisfaction that comes with earning something. I knew that my mothering in this moment had the potential to be influential, so I reminded Caleb about the math test he'd just aced.
"You worked pretty hard for that grade, didn't you?" I asked him. He stared back as he nodded, a stern expression still on his face. I returned a sympathetic smile and continued, "If your teacher just gave that A to you, would it mean as much?"
I watched Caleb's scowl soften as he looked down, thinking about my words. We talked about appreciating what God gives us and not comparing it to what He gives others. Caleb agreed with me that we shouldn't want what others have, but he still struggled to appreciate the value of contentment. Some lessons take longer to learn than others.
Influencing Caleb to think wisely and pursue godly choices is a daily challenge. As a mom, I don't ever have the luxury to be "off." Every day I set the example with my words, whether they're loving or harsh; by my actions, whether they're kind or selfish; even by my decisions, whether they're right or wrong.
Just think about the impact our choices have on our children. What do they notice when we talk on the phone with a friend? Are we an encouragement or a gossip? When we watch television — does it take time away from family time? Or when we interact with people in public — are we polite or rude?
Proverbs 31:26 tells us that a great wife and mom "opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue." I'm not sure the loving part, or the wisdom, always comes out of my mouth, but I desperately want them to. So how can we be intentional and sensitive when it comes to our influence as mothers?
Influence starts with availability. Intentional availability — fully present. We can be in the same room as our children and not really paying attention to them. Consider sitting next to your kids when they're watching a movie, or inviting them to help cook dinner. A mother's presence in her children's lives means more to them than we know and sets the foundation for relationship in years to come.
Be a godly example
Our children watch us, and they don't just notice when we do things right; they notice when we mess up, too. We need to apologize when we lose our temper. We need to teach and practice grace. Our kids need to see our relationship with Christ as authentic and real.
Be an encouragement
It's often easier to spot the flaws in our kids than to be sensitive to what they're doing well. Make a point to encourage your child in what she does right and not just correct her when she does wrong. It's best for us to be direct in our actions but cautious in our reactions, helping our kids believe that we will be their lifelong cheerleader.
Sara Horn is the founder of the military wives ministry Wives of Faith and the author of My So-Called Life as a Proverbs 31 Wife.