Can I be honest with you about something?
Sometimes I yell at my kids.
It is an ongoing struggle in my heart – I know it is sin, and yet I keep doing it. *
It’s the kind of struggle that makes me think “I’m failing as a mother.”
The kind of struggle that makes me think, “How can I expect that they obey me, when I mess up all the time? How can I tell them that yelling is not a kind way to speak, when I yell at them sometimes?”
It makes me feel like such a hypocrite.
What authority do I have to instruct and train and discipline these little ones?
Expecting obedience from our children can be a controversial topic these days.
My generation of parents tends to shun authority for the sake of authority. Perhaps we have bad memories of being told “because I’m the parent, that’s why” when we were kids. Perhaps we felt locked down and constrained by (seemingly arbitrary) rules. Perhaps we felt shamed into behaving a certain way.
So we can be left asking, “Why should I expect my child to obey me?”
But as Christian mothers, we need to base our parenting on God’s word, the Bible.
Is it because grown ups are better behaved than kids? Is it because we “did our time” being kids, and now it’s our turn to be the boss?
No, the authority given to Christian parents – like everything given to us as Christians – is a gift of God’s grace. It is not something we earn. It is not something we deserve. It is not based on our own merit or goodness.
This is so encouraging to me as a Mum who struggles with sin, even the horrible, ugly sin of yelling.
I don’t need to listen to the voices of doubt or the accusations that I am failing as a mother, that I don’t deserve to have these children under my care.
I am a sinner deeply in need of God’s grace, just like they are.
I don’t have authority over them because I deserve it or I’m better than they are. I might be further along the road than them in my walk with Jesus, but we are on the same road.
And when I sin, I don’t need to pretend I’m always right or be bull-headed with them. I can be free to humbly come before them and say “I’m sorry for yelling at you – that was wrong. Please forgive me.”
Because my authority does not come from myself. It doesn’t come from how good I am personally.
It is a gift from God for their protection, their training and ultimately to point to a good and perfect Father in heaven (in contrast with their imperfect earthly parents).
And that’s how we can expect and train our children to obey. We don’t appeal to “because I’m the parent, that’s why”. We teach them, “because God gave you parents to love you and train you, and obeying us is what God wants you to do.”
I know, it will sound weird and awkward at first. We live in a very anti-authority society. As we train our children to love and submit to God’s good authority, we often need to re-train our own brains as well.
I would just encourage you, whatever parenting articles you read or ideas you mull over, always take them back to the Bible and see whether they match or contradict what the Bible says.
* On the issue of yelling, I’ve seen many articles across Facebook and various blogs about how parents can stop yelling using a number of techniques like reducing stress, connecting with your kids more or finding different discipline techniques so you don’t use yelling as your fall-back option.
Most of these suggestions are good and helpful things – I definitely notice that I yell less when I take the time to be more connected, less rushed and more proactive on the discipline front. But there is a problematic assumption here – that yelling is merely something caused by outward circumstances, and if we just change those circumstances, then we won’t need to yell any more.
But the Bible teaches us that our mouths can only bring out what is already in our hearts – no one and no circumstance can “make” us yell or get angry. We yell and get angry because there is sin in our hearts. And that can’t be changed by following ten easy steps or doing yoga every morning.
Sure, we might seem to stop yelling as much and on the surface, it looks like those techniques work. But we have failed to deal with the deeper issue of a sinful heart. Jesus is the only one who can change hearts. The Bible prophecies about life in Jesus in the Old Testament with this amazing promise:
I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. (Ezekiel 36:26)
So let’s not settle for surface solutions to heart-deep issues!
Here is an article from Jess Connell about tackling the sin of yelling at the heart level, if this is a struggle for you also. I’ve personally found this article really helpful: http://jessconnell.com/make-no-provision-for-your-yelling/