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Patience With Kids: Avoiding the Rut of Reacting

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It was a typical evening at our house. My wife and I were trying to discuss our plans for the upcoming week. My 5-year-old was singing in the background while my 2-year-old was attempting to let us know that he was done eating his dinner in progressively louder volumes. Both my wife and I were trying to gently remind the children that mommy and daddy needed a minute to finish talking. However, on that particular night, neither child felt compelled to give us those precious moments of uninterrupted calm.

That’s when it happened. In no uncertain terms and in no uncertain volume, I let both of my boys know that if they didn’t “obey right away,” they would receive the proper consequences. I lost self-control and I reacted to the chaos around me. Suffice to say, I did not show patience towards my kids.

Now hear me when I say this, I love my kids, I love Jesus, and I love God’s word, but in that moment, I was not reflecting my love for any of those things. Rather, I was reflecting the love of something else, love of the peace-and-quiet necessary to finish that conversation with my wife.

In retrospect, the problem wasn’t that I wanted something altogether wrong, but that I wanted something too much. I momentarily, abandoned my commitment to train my kids in the way of the Lord (Proverbs 22:6) I wanted immediate compliance from my kids. In a real sense, I was loving myself more than anyone else in the room, at that moment. That may sound strong, but my personal happiness was undeniably driving my behavior in that moment.

So how do we avoid the rut of reacting? How do we show patience with our kids? By looking for insights from scripture, making a plan to intentionally apply those insights to the next situation, and practicing that plan.

The Bible Provides a Clear Perspective

It was a few days later, when I was looking at some of the differences between the way Adam responded to temptation in Genesis 3 and the way Jesus responded in Luke 4, that I realized more fully what had happened at the dinner table. Here are three key observations that can help us move from reacting in sinful ways to interacting in loving ways with our kids.

  1. Remember that the enemy actively looks to cause disunity at our dinner tables. In Genesis 3:1, we see that Satan is crafty or sneaky in his attempts to get us to disobey God’s commands Additionally, in Luke 4:13, we see that he looks for the most opportune times to tempt us. He wants to see us hurt each other relationally and if we do not stand guard, we can begin to look at times of rest as times of entitlement and lash out at our kids when they interrupt that rest.
  2. The enemy influences us with lies like he did to Adam and Eve in the garden and to Jesus in the wilderness. “You deserve to have everything go your way,” or “You don’t deserve to be inconvenienced,” are two of the most common lies I feel tempted to believe. When I start to believe one of these lies, for even a moment, I become more susceptible to reacting in harshness to my kids when things don’t go my way, or I am inconvenienced. 
  3. Fight lies with truth. When you know the truth of scripture so well that you can spot a lie a mile away, you will be less susceptible to believing the lies. As a former banker, the primary way that I was taught to spot a counterfeit $20 was to be so incredibly familiar with the marks of a real one, that the fake stuck out. Similarly, Jesus knew the truth of scripture so well that when Satan tempted him, he immediately identified his statements as lies. If we think upon the truth of scripture consistently and intentionally, we will be able to spot the temptation to be selfish, more readily.

For me, remembering that the enemy was actively seeking to hurt my family and using my own desires to do it, made me want to be more vigilant to protect my family.

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Patience With Kids: Develop a Plan

Practicing patience with our kids requires that we be intentional about interacting with our kids in a manner that is informed by scripture. We need to be intentional to remember that the enemy actively tries to hurt our families and our relationship with God. Knowing the truth of God’s word is our best resource for fighting the lies that he would use to hurt our families and tempt us towards selfishness.

So right about now, you should be asking yourself, “How do I go about finding and applying the truth of scripture to my parenting?” Great question. Start by reading books of the Bible that describe how Jesus lived. Matthew, Mark, Luke and John describe how Jesus responded to people and different situations. As Christians, we should want to be like Jesus in every thought, word, attitude and action. So, reading about how He lived is the best way to start that process. Seek to know the scriptures so well, that you can fight temptation like Jesus did.

Third, consider how you should have responded in the situation when you fell into the rut of reacting. Think through what you should have said differently, the volume, tone, and body language of how you wish you would have responded. Then commit to respond that way next time.

Lastly, make being a part of a church community a non-negotiable for your family. Hebrews 3:13 says that we should, “Encourage one another daily.” We need people who will remind us of truth, point out lies we are believing and encourage us when we fail to live out the truth we know. Gather with a Bible preaching church each Sunday but also build community with the people of that church and give some of them permission to speak words of truth into your life.

Patience With Kids: Practice the Plan

Schedule time daily to be in the word and read good books. It is easy to want to change but it is hard to make it happen. Scheduling time into your day, for reading, will help to make the intake of scripture more likely and consistent.

Make looking at scripture together, a part of your family meal routine. My wife and I try to start each day by looking at one or two verses with our kids during breakfast. We simply read the verse and explain it in an age appropriate way. If they do not understand a word, we explain it in a way that makes sense to them. Over time, they will learn to tuck those truths in their hearts.

If you fell into the rut of reacting, seek forgiveness from your kids and ask for a “do-over.” After they have granted you forgiveness, tell them, “If I could do it again, I would have said…” By asking for forgiveness, you get a chance to reconcile with your child. By acting it out, you practice building a better habit of intentional parenting, and you will begin to demonstrate a higher level of patience with your kids.

Our kids will see us fail but they will remember how we respond. Show humility by admitting when you failed and display the change that you want them to see. As we reflect on the truth of scripture and practice our plan for parenting, we can demonstrate patience with our kids and avoid the rut of reacting.

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