You’re reheating your coffee in the microwave for the third time this morning, when you glance out the kitchen window at your five year old son standing in the middle of the yard, shirtless, caked in mud, pants around his knees, PEEING on your favorite hydrangea bush.
How the…he was clean and dressed for preschool the last time you checked on him and that couldn’t have been more than five minutes ago!
You can feel the blood pulsing behind your eyes. You unlatch the back door and notice, to your horror, that he’s tracked muddy footprints all over your newly refinished wood porch in the sneakers you JUST paid too much for last week.
Before you can bite your tongue, your son’s first, middle and last name erupt, like a battle cry, from your throat.
But then, he looks up at you with those big, beautiful, apologetic eyes.
Sound familiar? Whether you’re a parent of one child or twelve, you’ve had days when your unique little snowflakes bring your reign of authority to its knees by the sheer force of their little wills (and the power of repetition.) You’re ready to resign and call the Super Nanny and it’s not even 9am.
It often feels like a cruel practical joke that overwhelmed, under-qualified, exhausted moms and dads are handed the responsibility of transforming tiny human hell-raisers into kind, well-adjusted adult citizens. Add to that, we fall in love with these juvenile delinquents.
You see, that’s the crazy paradox that parents face: We love our children exactly as they are, but we also love them too much to let them stay that way!
Grace-based parents refuse to let their kids grow up to be jerks in a world that doesn’t suffer fools!
Rise To The Challenge
What we do or say in the moments when our kid’s behavior lights our fuse can define our relationship with them, for better or worse. And we’re all just trying to get through this marathon of parenting without screwing up our kids.
Here’s 5 quick tips to help you rise to this monumental challenge:
#1: Stop and ask questions…
We know our kids need rules, boundaries, structure and consequences to shape them into the adults we hope they’ll become someday. It’s just that we don’t always know what that looks like when we’re staring down the barrel of our kid’s latest behavior crisis. What exactly should happen after you march down those muddy porch steps toward your son? Do you scold him? Do you put him in timeout? Do you ignore it? Do you hose him down right there in the backyard and make him do chores to pay you back for his ruined shoes?
Well, that depends. I mean, did you specifically tell him not to get in the mud or pee in the backyard yet he did it anyway? Maybe he fell in the mud accidently. Or perhaps his brother pushed him in and the cold shock of mud gave him the overwhelming urge to pee. Couldn’t he just be a curious little boy who enjoys the feel of fresh mud between his fingers and he got carried away?
Those are the types of questions we need to ask ourselves and our kids because context and intentions determine consequences.
#2: Respond, don’t react…
Ideally, we’re supposed to respond to our kids’ disobedience, rebellion and immaturity like a cop calmly writing a ticket on a routine traffic stop. Only, we often feel a whole lot more like the hostage who is bound and gagged in our kids’ trunk!
It’s hard to stay calm when we feel like, and often are, the victim of our kids’ behavior. That’s why we’ve got to be intentional to overcome our initial reactions of anger, hurt, or fear so we can give our kids the response they need: loving boundaries, kind consequences and grace-based discipline.
#3: Don’t take your kids behavior personally, even if it is…
If we take our kids behavior personally, we end up getting defensive and we react to the junk our kids do out of self-protection and retaliation. When we let our emotions drive, they almost always steer us toward what’s best for us, rather than what’s best for them. In gray-hair inducing moments, we’ve got to choose not to take the stuff our kids do to us personally, even if it is. That might not be our automatic default, but we can train ourselves to pause, breathe and put our emotions in their proper place.
#4: Focus on the Golden Rule…
The Golden Rule, a.k.a. grace, is essential in helping us decide what to do in tough situations. Grace means treating our kids the way we would want to be treated on our worst day. It requires acting in their best interest even when it’s hard, inconvenient and messy for us. Sometimes grace gives mercy but often it gives uncomfortable consequences so they can learn from their mistakes. Grace-based parents refuse to let their kids grow up to be jerks in a world that doesn’t suffer fools!
#5: Celebrate imperfect progress…
As a parent you’re going to discipline your kids. Why not make it count toward shaping them into better people. None of us will ever balance this all perfectly, but we can all celebrate imperfect progress toward our goal of responding rather than reacting to our kids when they misbehave. The good news is that our kids don’t need perfect parents, they just need grace-based imperfect parents. Even if we’re only able to successfully use these strategies a few times out of ten, that’s still progress that can have a huge, positive impact on our kids. Over time we can learn, despite our imperfections, to be at our best, even when our kids are at their worst. So, microwave that coffee as many times as it takes, weary parent, because the days are long but the years are short.
For more effective, loving discipline strategies like these, check out Karis’ new book, Grace Based Discipline, available in paperback and Kindle format.
About Karis Kimmel Murray
Karis Kimmel Murray is the oldest daughter of Christian relationship expert and bestselling, award winning author Dr. Tim Kimmel. Karis grew up in the family that was the proving ground for the philosophy that turned traditional Christian parenting advice on its head. Her parent’s radical message has helped transform relationships in tens of thousands of Christian families through her father’s book, Grace Based Parenting®, as well as the Grace-Based Parenting ™ and Grace-Filled Marriage training events and video studies. Her debut book, Grace Based Discipline, builds on her family heritage and insider authority to shed light on what radical, grace-based discipline looks like in a Gospel-centered home. Her step-by-step, grace-based approach to discipline empowers parents to be at their best, even when their kids are at their worst. As the Creative Director for Family Matters® (the ministry behind the “grace message”,) Karis writes and speaks to a growing global audience to testify to the powerful influence grace-based parenting had on her upbringing, and as a parent now herself, why she and her husband are raising their daughters the same way. With conversational style and humor, Karis connects with her readers and audiences on a heart level and swaps stories of trial and triumph…straight from the trenches of parenting. Karis is the writer and co-host of the Family Matters Minute, a daily, one-minute radio segment heard by nearly 4.5 Million people every weekday. Karis and her husband Mike reside in Scottsdale, Arizona with their two teenage daughters and a menagerie of pets