I can be such a jerk sometimes.
I honestly don’t mean to be or even try to be. There’s just something inside of me that skews towards criticism.
Especially when it comes to my family.
My Big Fat Mouth, the series our church has been doing, has helped open my eyes and shut my mouth. As I’ve said before, I’ve been incredibly convicted by this current series and have had to make some life changes.
People have asked me what I would say that I feel guilty about. The answer is not so much about what I would say and more about how I would say it. It’s the tone of my voice that creates the cutting edge.
So I’m working hard at speaking life into my family instead of being a fault finder. I want my kids to remember their dad as their biggest cheerleader and not their biggest critic. When that broken record we have starts playing in their heads I want it to be one of praise and not put-downs.
So I’ve started really being intentional about a few things that maybe can help you in talking with your kids. My prayer is that what the Holy Spirit is doing in me blesses you as well.
Getting a good night’s sleep
Do not underestimate what a good night’s rest can do for your mood. I would make the mistake of staying up too late watching whatever and then being grouchy the moment I woke up. I would then take it out on the kids as we all tried to get ready for school and the day. I would snap at them for not being quick enough or not doing something how I thought it needed to be done. They would then get crabby and before the day even started I had just about ruined it.
All because I was watching TV.
I have made it a priority to get 7-8 hours of sleep every night. For me that’s the sweet spot. Yours might be different. But whatever it is make sure that you’re getting it. Don’t make the mistake I did and short change the rest you need to function in a productive way.
Starting my day with God
Every morning I start my day with God. I have to center myself in him to be able to head in the right direction. I pray about my attitude for the day and for opportunities to praise my family instead of being critical.
I have found that if I don’t center myself in Him I am off kilter for the day. Don’t neglect your soul. When I starve my spirit my family is the first to pay the price. If you need to go to sleep earlier then do so. Do whatever you have to so you can feed your spirit.
I hate this one. But it was necessary for me to move toward a healthier place. I had to hear what my family had been saying to me.
Once I owned my behavior and took responsibility for it I could make steps to change the behavior. For some of us that might mean addressing an issue with depression or anxiety with our doctors or a counselor. It might mean dealing with some sort of an addiction. Maybe you need to seek professional help of some kind.
If that’s you I would encourage you to start that process immediately.
Parenting is hard. And we all need help. There’s nothing wrong with recognizing where we fall short and reaching out for help. So apologize to your family and ask for their help. This made a huge difference in my relationship with my kids. When I sat down and sincerely apologized it deepened our bond. I’m not perfect but I wanted my kids to think I was. But that’s unrealistic and gives an unhealthy impression.
My kids now know that I struggle with my faith. They see that it’s real and not just something we do on Sunday mornings. They know that sometimes I fail and sometimes I succeed. But they experience it as something tangible. They see that we serve a God that specializes in broken people.
Look for opportunities to encourage
Once I recognized my sin and how it was affecting those closest to me I started looking for opportunities to encourage my family. Even in things that I normally would jump on the kids for I am now trying to find ways to encourage good behavior instead of just correcting the bad.
For instance, our oldest is starting to step up and take on more leadership roles in school and our student ministry. Sometimes she struggles with time management. In the past I would scold her for “being lazy”. Now I encourage her to keep pushing, acknowledging that it can be difficult and stressful but that we believe in her. Our youngest is doing really well in school after struggling last year. He’s started to really enjoy reading and working ahead. Last year I criticized so much that he stopped wanting to do his homework with me. This year I have encouraged him in what he’s doing and am slowly earning that trust back.
I continue to look for ways to speak life into my kids and wife. Letting them know I appreciate the little things they do. I tell them how proud of them I am. I tell my wife how thankful I am for all the work she does and that it makes a difference. I am celebrating not only the big wins but also all the little ones. There’s so many of those if you just start looking!
This has made maybe the biggest impact of anything I’ve done lately. I can tell an immediate difference in not just my attitude but also in my family’s. It’s been really good.
Nothing about My Big Fat Mouth has been easy. Each week I’ve been punched in the nose and have had to make changes. But I know that if you allow the Spirit to speak to you and change you that your family life will become so much richer.
When you mess up, apologize and just keep at it.
Together, as a church for the rest of us, we can do this!