Monday, November 10, 2008

Turn it down and add some sugar

The other day, the kids and I walked down the street to the park on the corner. A woman was walking her little dog and of course, the girls rushed over to see it. They were down low with the dog, ooohing and ahhing and getting all sorts of wet kisses. I soon found myself bent over, speaking in a high-pitched voice to the dog too.

"Oooohhh! Wook at those widdle ears! Oh, you are the softest widdle guy, aren't you? Boodooboodooboodoo! Ah-Boodooboodooboodoo!!" Why we do turn into blubbering mushpiles when we talk to puppies and babies?

Anyway, in the midst of all the silly puppy talk, I felt my heart sink to my stomach. I realized that I was treating this dog much kinder than I'd been treating my own kids lately. I listened to my tone of voice - as silly as it sounded - and realized that it was much sweeter than the gruff, impatient utterances they'd probably gotten used to.

And I wanted to cry.

In my mind, I want to be the mom with the patient, sing-song voice who never loses her temper, and always talks sweetly to her kids. But I'm not. In fact, I'm a yeller. And I'm impatient. And I say things I later regret. Throwing an occasional "honey" or "sweetie" into demands or reprimands that I'm yelling does not justify my tone.

Now, before you let your imaginations run wild and imagine me yelling all sorts of profanities at my children, I'll stop you. There are things I'd never dream of saying to my kids, or anyone for that matter. I never, ever have told them to "shut up." There are words that are off limits, like "stupid" and "hate." I don't put them down or verbally abuse them. I just don't honor them or encourage them with the words I say or how I say them.

It's not only what I sometimes say, it's the way I say things, that makes me sick to my stomach. And I'm afraid they're going to remember me as a drill sergeant, always telling them what to do. "Clean your room NOW! What's taking you so long? HURRY UP!! Can't you hear me!?!???!?!" (And of course they can hear me, given the fact that I'm usually YELLING these words.)

I talk to my children in tones I wouldn't dream of using on Gary. I'd be ashamed. I'd want to crawl in a hole if my friends heard how I talk to them.

When they do something great, I want to say, "Great job, Emma!" with sincere enthusiasm and joy, instead of my monotone, "Good job, Em." She deserves better than that.

When they do something naughty, I want the patience to breathe deeply and say, "Addie! Pouring water all over the table on purpose is naughty. Please clean it up now." Instead, I find myself too often yelling, "Addie! You are so naughty! Clean it up NOW!!! You make me so mad!" I get choked up even typing that, knowing that's too often the script (and it's sometimes accompanied by an aggravated, guttural, "Arrrggghhh!" - you know the one!).

It kills me to think of all the opportunities I've missed to encourage and edify my kids. I want to meet their enthusiasm with my own enthusiasm. I want to meet their anger with gentle correction and patience.

Addie was throwing a fit the other morning about what to wear. (Starts early, doesn't it?!) After vetoing the fifth outfit I put on her, I started yelling at her, proclaiming that we were going to be late, why couldn't she just make up her mind, doesn't she know I'M in charge... blah, blah, blah! I cringe thinking about what a monster I am sometimes. Emma was sitting there with us and quietly crawled over to my ear and whispered, "Mommy, sometimes you're really hard on Addie. Maybe you should just take a break." Wow. It's amazing what God can say through a five-year-old.

So, I've really been praying about the way I use my voice and my words with my kids. I feel great relief when I hear Emma and Addie playing house with each other, speaking so sweetly to one another and calling each other "sweetie pie" and "cutie bug." I know they're listening to the good stuff. But they're taking in all the bad stuff too.

I've specifically been praying for patience and gentleness with my kids. I don't want to get worked up over every little thing. I have three little hearts to nurture, and I need the tenderness to do it. I've been thinking about Psalm 103:8 which says, "The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love." There are days I could peg myself as the complete opposite of that. My yelling and harsh tones and anger bring nothing good to my home. Certainly not the peace and love my family deserves. It also doesn't not bring about the righteous life God desires for me (James 1:19-20). And really, the neighbors don't need to hear it. It's coincidence that a few neighbors have recently put their homes up for sale, right?

When we were little, my parents tape recorded my sisters and I fighting. We laugh now, but when they played it back for us years ago, it was embarrassing. And who am I kidding? It still is. I don't need to tape record myself yelling at my kids or speaking to them in tones I wouldn't use on a dog. I hear myself. And it makes me sick.

I was just trying to figure out how to end this and am sitting here quietly while the girls are watching a show together in the other room. Without prompting and for no reason, Addie just said, "I love you, Emma" in the most sincere, lovable voice you can imagine. So there you have it. I think I'll go hug them and whisper in their ears how much I love them. It won't make up for all the yelling, but it's a start.

Update: I went into the other room as I soon as I posted this to find that Addie had used scissors to cut lines in her shirt. Okay. Breathe... don't yell... breathe...!


  1. Angie, thanks for this post. I can relate so closely with everything you said. You are not alone in this. I don't know why it's so hard to be patient and use those loving words. It's scary how much they copy what we say, isn't it? Thank you for your openness with this. Remember that God gave you as their mommy for a reason and He always knows what He's doing.

  2. This is a great reminder for all of us... thank you for sharing. I know that it's difficult to control how we communicate all of the time for a number of reasons, and I've heard it said that excellence is a great virtue but a terrible goal. I think we should always be striving to be better, but not perfect. I think our imperfections are what leave the biggest impact on others... It's how we handle our imperfections that matters. Some of the most teachable moments I've had in my life are when my parents have apologized to me or told me they didn't make the right decision. Those are the moments that formed my perception of right and wrong, and those lessons are the ones that stuck with me. In short (or long), don't be so hard on yourself... I think it sounds like they're getting the right message. :-)

  3. We can ALL relate...even that Mom on TLC with like 17 kids can't talk like that all the time.

    For me, my tone was the worst right when it needed to be the best - with a sweet, innocent newborn in the house. I wanted to fill his first days with just nice sounds, but oh boy, was I weak with my patience in that exhausting stage.

    This will probably be something we will struggle with the entire time we have kids in the house...thanks for the reminder today.

  4. I could have written that myself! I'm sorry that you are struggling also but it makes me feel better knowing that I am not alone. God must be smacking us both upside the head today because I was just apologizing to Isaac for yelling at him for something super silly. Children try our patience everyday, just imagine how God feels!! We, as adults, probably try his patience 10x worse than our kids could ever dream of! Thank goodness, he is patient and kind. Here's hoping he can teach us some of his tricks!

  5. I've been a "lurker" here for a few months now. I was afraid to introduce myself as I kind of felt guilty checking in on you and seeing how you're doing without even knowing you. I can TOTALLY relate to this post though. I have struggled with this same thing for a while now and it is so embarassing and scary to admit it. Thanks for putting into words what I (and apparently others too)have been feeling.

  6. I know that had to be difficult to share, but know that you're not alone. I fall into bed most nights and cry to my husband that I feel like that monster you describe. I want so much to be patient and soft spoken, but most times I'm not. You're not alone!

  7. great post angie! what a great reminder for me in the future, especially since my girls are so young right now. thanks for posting this!

  8. I'm so proud of you for having the courage to share this post. I can't even imagine how difficult it is, but don't be too hard on yourself. Perfection is impossible (weren't you telling me that recently), but striving to be better is completely within your realm. And if anyone has the grace to do that, it's you! Being brave enough to own that as your edge is really powerful. Keep doing your best and know that you are loved, supported, and admired.

  9. Thanks for sharing your heart. It is so genuine and is truly reminder to me to be softer spoken to my kids and not let "monster mama" be the image they best remember me as! Your doing great, and your kids are lucky to have a Mom who loves them so much.

  10. are SO not alone, not that it makes it okay, but it's helpful to know you aren't the only one who struggles with this. Before I had kids I never knew I had it in me to feel and say and do the things I do. It can be ugly. It's rough, and there are so many opportunities for our patience to be tried every day. Lately I've found the Love & Logic philosophy to be really helpful in the way I talk to Carson and Livi. I've been reading parts of one of their books every night before I go to bed, and trying to practice what I've been reading. It's a daily challenge, but this has helped me a little. Thanks for posting so honestly. I often think of the sweet names you call your girls, peaches especially sticks with me. You are such a great and sweet mama...and His mercies are new every morning. Hugs.

  11. I'll chime right in with agreement. It is so humbling and embarrassing to see the impatience and annoyance that is really in our hearts. Especially when it comes out on the ones we love the most.

    The good thing is we can apologize and ask for forgiveness. I think it is good for our kids to know we are not perfect and can admit it. I often pray that my kids will have a general sense that I wasn't perfect, but not remember the particulars:).

    This is an issue I really struggle with. Some days go so well and other days I act like I'm from another planet. I look forward to hearing your insights.

  12. Thank you for posting what I'm sure what a difficult thing to write. Your honesty is so refreshing. It hit a nerve with me and it's obvious from your comments that it did with many other moms as well. A friend and I were talking about this very thing recently and we both acknowledged that we were severely lacking in the patience department. When I fail, I find that the best thing I can do is sit Savannah down and, eye to eye, ask for forgiveness while re-affirming my love for her. It changes the atmosphere of our home instantly. Love you, Angie!

  13. Oh Angie I could have written the post and just changed the names. I have been praying the same prayers first in the morning before I get out of bed, then several times throughout the day until I am praying through clenched teeth. We have to be forgiving to ourselves as long as we learn from our missteps and you obviously are. We also need to be there to support one another and hold each other accountable. Call me the next time you are about to raise your voice and you can yell at me. ;)

  14. Hey Angie - I have been reading your blog for a couple weeks now and I am so grateful for this post from you! I really thought that I was the only one who could speak so harshly to my kids. Sometimes I hear Stephen yelling at Marek with the same words and tone that I speak to him - so not only am I treating Stephen harshly, but I am teaching him to do the same to others! Arg! But - it is so comforting to know that we CAN do better and receive help through prayer and the support of other Moms!

  15. I am so right there with you!

  16. Like everyone else has said -- thank you for posting this. It brought tears to my eyes because I am right there with you more days than not. I'm saying a prayer for all of us parents to have an extra measure of patience for our little ones!

  17. Thanks for posting this....... I needed to hear that, cause I could see myself completely in what you wrote, except the shirt cutting you wrote of can be interspersed with hair cutting or hopping in the crib with the sleeping toddler and promptly ending naptime..... LOL
    Thanks again for being brave and posting this!


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