Mommy and Jonathan – 8.5 months old

Last week, I presented a challenge for us as moms to set an example for our children in godly speech. I was so encouraged by how many of you responded! So let’s check in – how did your week go?

Mine was not as good as I would have liked it to be. Obviously, habits of speech take more than a week to change, so this challenge was just a starting point. I will definitely be continuing on from here. I think that the initial stage of trying to break a habit actually seems worse because I have a heightened awareness of the behavior I am trying to change.

As I reflected back on the week, I realized that there were two problem areas:

1. I struggle with speaking kindly to my children when we are in a hurry or when I am under pressure to get things done. To help remedy this, I am working to keep our life simple and free of unnecessary commitments. Taking care of four children under the age of 10, keeping up with the house, and maintaining a quality relationship with my husband is a full-time job as it is. I don’t need a lot of other commitments. But at the same time, part of my problem here is pure selfishness – wanting the house to look the way I want it to, wanting to get done what I’d like to do rather than deal with yet another temper tantrum, etc. I need to be willing to love my children just the way are at the stages they are at. I also need to be willing to spend my time and efforts the way God wants me to spend it.

2. I also realized that I have been allowing one of my children to be a manipulator, which leads to frustration and anger both on my part and his. I pulled out a book from our shelf that has been very helpful in parenting: The Heart of Anger by Lou Priolo. I highly recommend this book for all parents, not just parents of children who have a problem with anger. Priolo addresses not only Scripture and Biblical principles for instructing our children, but also ways that parents may be contributing to the problem. In his chapter on disrespect and manipulation, Priolo instructs parents not to “answer a fool according to his folly.”

“Do not answer a fool according to his folly,

Or you will also be like him.

Answer a fool as his folly deserves,

That he not be wise in his own eyes.”

Proverbs 26:4-5

It is so easy to get sucked into arguing with a manipulative child.

“Please stop hitting your brother with that light saber.”

“I’m not bothering him. He likes what I’m doing.”

“No he doesn’t!”

“Yes he does. He was laughing when I was doing it.”

This is answering a fool according to his folly! When my son says things like this, he is basically saying that I am mistaken in saying that he needs to do (or stop doing) something. God has not given him the authority to analyze my parenting. A better answer on my part would be, “Son, you may not argue with me. Your responsibility before God is to obey, and I have asked you to stop hitting with the light saber.” We have taught him that if he’d like to appeal something that we have said, that he may do so respectfully. There may be times that I am truly mistaken. When he is asked to do something, he should respond with “Yes, Mom” first. Then he may respectfully ask me to consider other information that he might have. However, he should not be appealing for us to reconsider every request that is made of him.

If you have a child who struggles with anger, disrepect, or manipulation, I recommend getting a copy of The Heart of Anger because there is a lot of good stuff there, much more than I can cover here.

So to sum up, this week I want to continue working on speaking kind words, especially under stress. I also will work on staying calm with my manipulator and not answering him the way he speaks to me.

Now it’s your turn – I’d love to hear how your week went!


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  1. Anna Sep 23, 2012

    This was a very good reminder! I struggle with this as well; thank you for the book recommendation!

  2. Christine Sep 24, 2012

    I'm planning to check out the book you mentioned, too. I have been struggling with how to teach my 3 1/2 year old to be respectful. I'm not looking for yes sir/no sir, but a certain level of respect when speaking to parents is expected! I don't understand how to get this through to him. Where do I start? I like your response about "your responsibility before God is to obey, ..." but where do we start so that makes sense to him?

    1. Sarah Sep 24, 2012

      For that age, I would recommend reading Shepherding a Child's Heart by Tedd Tripp. It is one of the best and most biblical parenting books out there!

      We taught our kids to memorize Ephesians 6:1 when they were old enough to say the words - usually 2 and a half or so. Then we would ask them, "What does Ephesians 6:1 say? They don't need to agree with you or understand why, although it's fine to explain why at times. "Yes ma'am" sounds too formal to me, but there is something to be said for teaching them a way to respond, so we do "Yes Mom" and "Yes Dad." We have taught them that when we ask them to do something they need to say "Yes Mom" or "Yes Dad" and obey right away. Not "Okay" or "Yeah" or "In a minute." I think that the verbal response helps them to start obeying. Then they need to actually do what we said to do the first time with a happy attitude. Don't accept whining or stalling or excuses - have a consequence planned out for lack of obedience. Age 3 is the time to train for this. I wish that I had been more consistent with my oldest son because it's hard to get them to respond the right way when they are in the habit of doing something else. Well, that ended up being longer than I intended - I hope that helps!

      1. Christine Sep 25, 2012

        Thanks, that is very helpful. That is exactly what I have been telling him lately ... when I ask him to do something, the first word out of his mouth is "no" and that just isn't ok. Need to establish a Biblical basis for that not being ok! I will try both books. Thanks for responding, I really enjoy your blog.

  3. Christel Sep 25, 2012

    Thank you for this post! I stumbled across your blog looking for an acorn craft idea and saw this entry and it's really helpful. I have a 5 year old stepson who has lately been becoming very manipulative with everyone, as well as disrespectful to me. I've really been struggling to find a way for him to see me as an authority figure when he's at my house (as I am his primary care giver when he's here since my husband works). He tries to suck me into arguing with him. The last few months he has been just as disrespectful and disobedient with his dad as he is to me so it's becoming a really big issue. I think I'll try getting his us to sit down with him and do the "Yes Dad, Yes Mama B" approach.

  4. Angelia Aug 13, 2013

    Hi Sarah,

    Your blog is filled with practical biblical living application!Praise The Lord for your homeschooling efforts and honest sharing. I am from Singapore and am very much encouraged by your blog. I have 2 boys and a girl, 5,4 and 2 yrs old respectively. I stumbled on the book on the heart of anger and i purchased it online swiftly. After devouring the book, i applied the principles. It was an answered prayer and brought much clarity into my own life. My boys had suddenly manifested anger outbursts and aggression i never knew. Now, the Lord has firstly, changed me from an angry mum to a more gentle in spirit mum which in turn translated to now, an amazing change in my sons' behaviour. Just sharing to let you know how the Lord has blessed me and i am sure many through your sharing. God bless! By the way, i also strongly recommend Praying for your Children by Elmer L.Towns and Dave Early. This book has provided me a dynamic platform in actively prayng and blessing my children!

    Sincerely, Angelia

    1. Sarah Aug 15, 2013

      Thank you so much for sharing your story! I have often found that the Lord begins to work in my children when I am learning from Him first. So glad to hear about the changes in your home!


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