When I was about 8 years old my sweet mom was brushing my hair.
I had long, thick hair and it was seriously tangled. As my mom carefully helped me untangle the knots, my 8-year-old head only felt HORRIFYING PAIN and my mom was the one who was inflicting it.
So I spewed out, “I AM RUNNING AWAY!” just as she was untangling one final knot.
I called my mom a few months ago and apologized for that.
Because now that I am a mom – I know how those phrases can hurt coming out of the mouths of the precious, tiny people you created.
And I know that the easiest thing to do when your own flesh and blood looks you in the eye and says something mean, is to react. To get angry. To punish. To be wounded, hold a grudge, or give the silent treatment. You do SO much for this tiny person! How can they speak so harshly?
I have been in this position several times now as my boys grow and I have spent a long time trying to figure out a healthy and godly way to deal with it.
So here are a few ways that might help should you ever find yourself with a child saying unkind things to you…
First thing to do is not take what they say personally. Try to step away from the situation and look at the bigger picture.
A few weeks ago Noah came into the kitchen absolutely famished for dinner and when I told him what we were having, he looked at me and said, “I wish you weren’t here.”
Granted, he said it with hesitation because he knew as he was saying the words that he didn’t mean them, but I could have let his words hurt me deeply. I could have angrily said, “Well, no food for you then!” Instead, I took a step back and assessed the situation – he wasn’t saying those things because he honestly didn’t want me there. He was saying those things because he didn’t like the particular meal and vegetable combination I had chosen, and since I was the bearer of the food, I was the easiest person to attack.
When I told my mom that I wanted to run away, it wasn’t because I wanted to live on my own (although I probably thought it would be fun to not have to go to bed every night at 8:30) – it was because tangled hair hurts!
My kids are watching Finding Nemo as I write this post and Nemo just told his dad that he hated him. Does Nemo actually hate his dad? No. He hates that his dad is so overprotective. But did he know how to communicate that? Nope! As parents, we need to have wise ears.
Maybe your child is hungry, or hot, or tired. Maybe he is feeling scared, alone, or neglected. Maybe she is just saying things because they heard it from a friend or a TV show (thanks, Nemo). Or maybe he is just being a kid and hasn’t yet learned how to tame his tongue – I mean, have any of us figured that out yet? 🙂
Try to look past the hurtful words and into the heart of the child who said them.
Once you have accurately assessed your child’s words, make it your mission to move toward them in some way.
For me, I like to try 2 things…
The first is REMINDING MY KID WHO HE IS. I will say, “That’s not who you are. You are a kind boy/girl,” or, “That doesn’t sound like you.”
What I certainly don’t want happening is for my kids to believe that the words coming out of their mouths define who they are. No, no, no. They are covered by the blood of Christ. They are good boys and girls because of JESUS.
So point their wandering hearts back to the love of their Father.
Then, find a way to reconnect with them. I have found lightheartedness works wonders!
When Noah announced he wished I would leave, I dramatically threw my arms in the air and cried, “I could never leave you! I would miss you too much!!!” We had a good laugh/hug together and he apologized.
When Jet told me once that he didn’t want me to snuggle him before bed and after assessing his heart behind his words (my mom was visiting and without knowing how to ask for her directly, he decided to kick me to the curb), I could have gotten offended, or even jealous of my mom, but instead I said, “I love Mom-Mom too! Let’s go get her! Maybe she will snuggle me AND you!” Ha!
Choosing to infuse some light and grace into a tough moment ushers in freedom and joy!
At some point on the mothering journey, your child will probably say something that hurts your feelings, so when they do, it helps to keep in perspective that God loves and receives our honesty without anger. Sometimes I will say things to the Lord that I don’t mean when I am upset about things in my life that aren’t working out the way that I want.
I have found myself on many occasions repenting like the Psalmist in chapter 73 verse 22 where he writes, “I was senseless and ignorant; I was a brute beast before you.”
We don’t have to tell our kids that they are acting like brute beasts toward us, but we can talk about how their words were hurtful and disrespectful. We can gently shepherd them to see that they can’t fling their words around so carelessly. We need to train up future employees and spouses here!
But we can keep things in perspective remembering that we ALL have these moments and that love is always the best response to our kids’ misguided words.
Just make sure you don’t serve your child’s least favorite vegetable and comb their tangled hair on the same night. 😉
“Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.” Proverbs 12:18