We frequently hear from parents, in coaching and in conversation, who say that it is really hard to break the habit of harsh responses and anger. They feel discouraged with themselves when there is conflict and they just aren’t sure how to get themselves out of the habit of angry responses.
Sound familiar? I know for myself, I felt that way a lot when our kids were young!
If this is resonates with you, we’ll prep you for your next game of “Two Truths and a Lie” 😉
- Truth: “There are frequent conflicts in my family.”
- Truth: “My response to conflict is discouraging to me.”
- Lie: “We are all stuck in this pattern.”
That last one is a big, bad, green slimy lie! God’s love for you includes promises to forgive, help, and transform you.
Since our early days of parenting, we’ve discovered three key steps forward that can bring transformation when you’ve really blown it with your kids. Each is anchored in God’s mercy, grace, and truth:
1) Grab hold of your abundant forgiveness in Christ.
Research shows that when people stay stuck in shame-filled self-criticism about a hurtful behavior, they are more likely to repeat the same behavior! In short: it’s shame that keeps us stuck. But the most effective way to release shame isn’t to muster your own self-compassion. It’s to take a deep dive into God’s compassion and mercy for you, anchored in the historical event of Christ’s death and resurrection. If we are discouraged and sour after we’ve blown it, this communicates to our kids that God’s forgiveness isn’t real when we need it.
The truth is – healthy guilt is designed to lead us to repentance. Repentance is guaranteed in scripture to bring forgiveness. And then the guilt should be gone, done, vanquished, conquered. CLAIM that forgiveness, and get a little angry at the lie (or the Liar) if you need to. For an article about the difference between shame and guilt, click here.
If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:9
2) Walk out your repentance with a do-over.
Think of your old, harsh, default responses (actually brain pathways) like ruts in a road. The more you travel the road, the more familiar it gets and the deeper and wider the ruts become. Soon it’s normal to travel down the road at high speed, and it’s difficult to get out of those deep ruts. Those harsh words are on the top of your brain and the tip of your tongue.When you are going down the road in deep ruts and you see the exit for “calm, insightful responses” but you blow right by the exit ramp, it would be easy to say, “Shoot, I blew it again, I’ll try harder next time.”
The things is, if this is your response, you will actually be more likely to do the same thing again next time, because you’ve re-lived your mistake in your mind and felt ashamed about it. That actually broadens and deepens the ruts!
The key to making new ruts in the road, that can lead to the exit ramp of calm and graceful insight, is to immediately STOP on the road, BACK UP, and then slowly drive onto the exit ramp by doing a DO-OVER.
Practically speaking it might go like this: “Hey, I didn’t like how I acted. I’m sorry. Can I try again?” Take a deep breath, repeat a short prayer, and consider physically backing up or sitting down. Then redo your response with an awareness of God’s grace for all of you.
Practicing do-overs is a great way to demonstrate to your child your sincere repentance. What is repentance? A decisive change in direction.
Learn more about repentance by reading this article in Christianity.com
3) Celebrate how much better that felt!
An important principle about the brain and behavior is that you get more of whatever you focus on. It’s why God has blessed us with the wonderful command in Philippians 4:8 to focus on whatever is true, noble, or right… anything excellent or praiseworthy.
Instead of repeating the wrong everyone did, give your biggest and best energy to describing what went right, maybe even with some high-fives, fist bumps, or big smiles. Celebration might look like:
- “That feels a lot better. That’s closer to how I’d like to respond.”
- “I’m so thankful that God has so much grace for us when we blow it!”
In this way, you’ll start forming new paths. Do it enough times and it will become the new normal. Like this:
Making a new habit of celebrating grace-filled DO-OVERS has been at the heart of many families’ journey of transformation. God’s grace in our messy, sinful conflicts gives us the power to change.
Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Romans 12:2
A blogger, Michelle Swanson, who has been closely reading our resources for many years tells this story:
“In the beginning, my do-overs were numerous times a day. As I continued to practice evaluating, repenting, apologizing, and trying again, I started to notice that sometimes I would stop myself right in the middle of an immature interaction and try again. Then, one day, I realized my do-overs were getting less and my wisdom-filled responses started becoming more of who I was… God has been using my continually trusting Him in the midst of my own misbehavior to change my heart, over time.”
We will blow it – a lot! But do-overs help forge new roads of grace, forgiveness, and practical skills. The more our kids see us BACK UP and try again, the more likely they will be to take us up on an invitation to do the same when they’ve blown it. And then your whole family can be on the road of God’s grace together!
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