Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The Ups and Downs of Family Relationships

It's been busy in my neck of the woods. We've had family in town, and my mother is coming today. Sorry for not getting a Messy Monday post up yesterday. Today's post is not strictly about housekeeping per se, but about homemaking in general. It all starts in the attitude department.

We are homeschooling our oldest son in kindergarten this year. One of the joys of homeschooling is extra time during the day--time that would otherwise be spent in public or private school--to build close family relationships. One of the disadvantages of homeschooling is extra time to work on family relationships. Kidding aside, we all have varying tolerance levels for certain behaviors and attitudes, and the tolerance levels can vary from day to day and minute to minute.

While we chose our husband, most of us did not choose our children. Each child comes with his or her own unique personality, strengths and weaknesses. It is our job as parents to train and mold those little people into healthy and helpful adults. We teach them how to capitalize on their strengths and use them for good, and how to govern their weaknesses (like short-tempers, demanding things in a rude tone of voice, talking disrespectfully, hitting siblings when angry.) so they don't grow into disgraceful people. Some days we as moms have more patience and tolerance for the training, and some days we just don't.

Last week, I was having one such low-tolerance day. My son was not having a great attitude toward his school work (which, admittedly, is quite easy at the kindergarten level). So, fully aware that threatening is not a good parenting technique but quite flustered, I said to him, "Do I need to send you to real school so you can get an attitude adjustment and realize how good you have it to get to stay at home and learn?"

His response cracked me up. We live right next to a high school, so we witness students littering and coming off campus to smoke. My son thinks behaviors are deplorable.

Armed with this knowledge, he said, "Well, if you send me to real school, I'll...(pause) litter. (Longer pause) And [said with emphasis] smoke. And I'll never stop."

Hilarious! A five year old smoking. Can you just see the humor in it? I could. :)

Since that bad day last week, I have been reflecting quite a bit on how I can more effectively cope with all the behaviors and attitudes that drive me over the edge. I wish I could always respond calmly with a spirit of patient instruction, but I don't. I'm a mom in need of mercy, not a perfect mom. I'm so thankful that God is faithful to supply the grace and help we need in our mothering journeys.

One specific tip that has helped me is this: if we can't learn how to govern our own behavior, how can we expect our children to learn to govern theirs? So my challenge to myself (and to you) is--let's work on more effectively governing our own attitudes and actions, and then we can more calmly pass that training on.

I'll be blogging about this more in the coming days.

In the meantime, I'd love to hear how you deal with bad interpersonal days. What tips have you found to keep a positive family atmosphere?


  1. I enjoyed your honesty in this post. I don't always do a good job keeping my anger under wraps. In our last MOPS session, we had a counselor talk to us about anger. She said it's not anger that's the problem, but the way we handle it. The only way I've found to keep a positive attitude is to spend time with God and try to keep an eternal perspective about what's happening. My mood sets the tone for the whole house and if mine is good, things tend to go much better for my family. I look forward to the rest of your posts about this!

  2. Great post, thank you. It's hard to keep my temper under wraps sometimes, but God is always there pick me back up when I fall

  3. I had to chuckle with this one.

    We have had behaviour issues with our kindergartener as well but had a small breakthrough today. She and I decided that it wasn't fair that baby brother got a "big boy" chart and she didn't. So we created a "caught being good" chart, and when she is "caught" with good behavior (ie picking up a few items without being told in her room - a major step!) she gets the reward of a sticker. When the sheet is filled, she'll get a prize too - nails polished or other special reward.

  4. Thank you for the great laugh! It was funny enough when he threatened to litter, but then smoking...too cute. My interpersonal challenge is remaining "warm and friendly" as my husband calls it (versus snotty, rude, and unfriendly). I have given myself the excuse of being tired for too long (work 3rd shift and have a 18 month old who naps with mommy). I totally agree that my tone can change the whole tone of the house; and I have found the root of my bad moods and behaviors really comes down to selfishness. Embarassing to admit, but very true. My tip is going to be not to take ourselves too seriously. Can't wait for the rest of the series! God bless.