For years I have struggled with the mess that our lively, spontaneous, creative, frequently disorganized children made at high speed. I used to call it “Trash and Dash.”
Since their father has somewhat more “relaxed” standards of housekeeping than I do, household messes were a constant battle in which I felt hurt, alone, and resentful.
I knew it was good to help my children to learn orderliness, but my energy to teach them good habits was fueled by my own feelings and beliefs. At times I interpreted every toy, dirty sock, jacket, and backpack left on the floor as a personal attack on me. I believed that everyone thought that keeping the house clean was my job, and that the kids’ messes meant I was failing.
My anger would easily flare as I engaged with the kids to get them to clean up. Sensing my anger, they would grow angry and resentful in return. One child would complain, “I’m tired of your programs” (of rewards and consequences); another would moan, “I can’t stand your nagging.” This left me more discouraged, and the cycle continued.
When I started praying about my beliefs and inviting God’s truth to define me, I realized that God loved and valued me — that I could be okay — even if the house was a disaster and the kids weren’t responding well to my training.
As I grew to embrace this truth, I began to see the God-given gifts behind my kids’ misbehavior — and I could fully value their spontaneous, creative strengths that contributed to the problem. By learning to be okay even when my kids left huge messes, I was better able to coach my children and hold them accountable in this area for their benefit – not for mine. I still get frustrated, but never enraged, a change that has brought freedom and peace. And, of course, the more peaceful I am, the easier it is to help them learn.
As I let go of the need for my children to be successful, the freer I am to value and connect with them as I teach them. This increases their motivation to learn and my joy in teaching, as we engage in this whole process of passing on the values and skills they need for life.
Apply It Now:
- What is one area where you frequently struggle or feel quickly frustrated with your children?
- What unhelpful core beliefs might you have about them or about yourself? (For help on this, check out our post on core beliefs.)
- What are some gifts your children might have that are underneath this struggle or misbehavior? (For help on this, check out our post on God-given gifts behind misbehavior.)
- To learn more about teaching kids to be responsible for themselves, check out our most popular post ever.
This post is an excerpt from our book, How to Grow a Connected Family.