Too often the kids hear me say, "You're wearing me out!" Or even worse, "You're getting on my nerves!"
This week Janet Lansbury authored a blog post titled "When Respect Becomes Indulgence." She cites specific examples that demonstrate the need for parents to set limits for children.
The part that stuck with me the most was the last paragraph. It's subtitled "The Annoyance Factor." She argues we should establish boundaries to prevent behavior we find irritating in order to protect our relationship with our children, which forms a model for all future relationships in our kids' lives.
She writes, "Do we want our children to grow up believing they are annoying, unpleasant people...and very possibly fulfilling that prophecy?"
That statement made me suck in my breath and feel shame's heat rise to my cheeks.
When I get irritated, annoyed, or impatient with them, what message does that send to the kids?
That they're irritating, annoying, and incompetent.
I'm a mirror for them. They hear what I say and see how I treat them, and that's how they believe they deserve to be treated. They're still young enough to look to us to establish their self-esteem.
What do I want them to believe?
They are precious, unique, and significant. They are valuable members of God's kingdom. They are perfectly made and perfectly flawed. They are accepted unconditionally in this house, and they, together with their Lord, determine their stories.
It's time to revise the words I'm putting on their hearts.
Lansbury writes, "If we don't want our daughter playing with our shoes, I don't believe we should allow it, and instead of feeling guilty we should feel good about taking care of ourselves and prioritizing our relationship." So, my first step when I'm annoyed is to see if it's because of behavior that warrants boundary-setting. Sometimes it will be.
Sometimes it will be my problem, not their behavior. Maybe I've been neglecting myself and need to run, get some sleep, or spend quiet time alone.
Look. I'm not perfect. I've finally learned how to be angry in a healthy way. I'm slowly, very slowly learning how to be patient. (Ironic, for sure.) Despite my best efforts, there will still be days I'm just irritable.
Rest assured, now I'll be more diligent and persistent about asking for forgiveness. Then I'll remind my kids how awesome they are because that's the message I want them to grow up believing. It's a truth and prophecy we can all celebrate.