When I notice an underlying grouchiness in my spirit, a tendency to criticize all the people around me, that feeling that I can barely stand to be around anyone – then I know it’s time for me to do a little attitude-adjusting.
Lately, I’ve been feeling bristly. My kids have been accusing me of being too critical; they feel they can’t do anything right. They are bickering, fussing, pointing out each other’s every mistake. Sometimes I’m a little slow on the uptake because it just dawned on me this morning that they are nit-picking and tattling and criticizing because of the tone I am setting in our home. Oh, I know – they can behave that way all on their own with no help from me. Trust me! I know that. But negativity and criticism are contagious, and I’m afraid I am the one who started spreading it.
In the past few weeks, I’ve been a bit stingy with grace. Or rather – maybe I’ve been a bit lazy with actual instruction and guidance. So it felt like I was giving lots of grace and then their disobedience and arguing and sloppiness and disrespect piled on and piled on until I lost it. Sometimes this process took a couple hours or an entire afternoon, and sometimes it took fifteen minutes of spiraling out of control. As it turns out, ignoring bad behavior or horrible attitudes — hiding in my room to sip coffee and nibble on dark chocolate while reading a novel, pretending I don’t have six children — is not a feasible long-term parenting strategy. It’s also not grace.
Instead of patiently and methodically and gently teaching my children, I’ve expected perfect behavior. And then I’ve lost my ever-lovin’ mind when they haven’t delivered.
For some reason, I got it in my head that because I have told them their whole lives to handle conflict by kindly speaking to the person and then calmly coming to me if that doesn’t work, I expect they will always handle conflict this way. Because I always handle conflict in a calm, level-headed way. Right? Ha!
I want them to do their chores with no reminders and not ever forget to plug their phones in my room at bedtime. Yet I get busy and forget to pay a bill, and by December I’ll forget to sign a homework agenda several times a week! And, trust me, my kids are old enough to know I’m not perfect. And they are old enough to resent my double standards.
When I expect perfection from my children, I rob our relationship of joy. You see, nothing can kill a relationship like the expectation of perfection. And, more than anything else, I want authentic relationships with my kids. Every time I hold up perfection as the standard and withhold grace, I sabotage my true happiness, my true joy in knowing and loving my children.
When I expect perfection, my children feel the need to hide and guard entire parts of themselves for fear of my criticism. But when I create an atmosphere of grace, my kids feel safe to be themselves in my presence.
So this morning, I am praying for grace to wash over me and fill up every crevice of my dry, crusty, critical heart. I want to soak in grace so that I can pour out grace, so that I can re-set the tone in my home.