Today’s post can be read in two different ways: with conviction or condemnation. It’s conviction we’re shooting for though, because every parent has said these statements at one time or another. We all experience impatience or exhaustion and that seems to be when we say words we wish we could take back.

However, being reminded that these are not just impatient statements but actual words that wound hearts gives us the motivation to choose our words carefully or give ourselves a much-needed timeout before we say something we’ll quickly regret.

Lori Wildenberg understands. She’s the author of the new book The Messy Life of Parenting: Powerful and Practical Ways to Strengthen Family Connection. Today she’s lovingly holding us accountable to the words we use!

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I am not the perfect parent. I have had more than my share of parent fails. My own big bad mom messes have been great fodder for my parenting books. So…before reading this list say to yourself, “I am not the perfect parent. ______ (your role model parent) is not the perfect parent. Lori Wildenberg is not the perfect parent.”

In the heat of the moment, ALL of us have said things that have wounded our child’s heart with our words. And all of us can learn from our mistakes and work to make them happen less and less! 

Here are 15 statements that are commonly used by tired, overwhelmed parents.  Rather than feel shame as you read this list, feel motivated to interact differently. Thankfully, we have a God who is in the business of restoring and renewing people and relationships. We can choose a fresh start and begin by putting these word weapons down.

Have you…

  1. Disciplined in anger? “You are grounded for life.”
  2. Criticized rather than corrected? “That’s a stupid way to solve that problem.”
  3. Lectured rather than discussed? “Blah, blah, blah…”
  4. Expressed unreasonable expectations? “You are two years old and you need to sit perfectly still during church.”
  5. Compared one sibling to another? “Your sister was able to ______.”
  6. Brought up past failures? “Remember when you _______.”
  7. Used sarcasm? “Yah, right, you are so…
  8. Killed joy? “You could have done even better if you had_______.”
  9. Shamed?  “You are so clumsy.”
  10. Broadcasted failures? “You can’t believe what my son did.”
  11. Blamed? “It’s your fault I ran the red light.”
  12. Presented yourself as perfect? “When I was your age I never _______.”
  13. Stolen success? “You got your talent from my side of the family.”
  14. Not admitted you were wrong? “I’m the parent. I’m always right.”
  15. Not asked for forgiveness? (Ditto number 14.)

We set our brain on auto-pilot and get sloppy with our words when we are tired and distracted. Wouldn’t you agree that most parents would say their heart is to encourage their children? And…most parents have moments where their words don’t reflect that desire.

Moms and dads typically have a few goals while raising kids: a short-term goal (typically regarding acceptable behavior and cooperation) and two long-term goals (character building and family connection). In the craziness of life, the long-term goals are neglected, and instead, parents concentrate on the short-term goal of just getting through the day. Can you relate?

What I try to do is help parents to raise kids with the end goal in mind, a relationship that lasts a lifetime.  Powerful, practical, and easily applicable strategies help good-hearted moms and dads make simple tweaks here and there!

When unwelcome, unexpected things like disappointment, health issues, rebellion, and poor choices invade our world, we can still maintain strong connections with our kids. Strong family ties help all members when life gets chaotic and complicated.

I want a life that includes being in my kids’ sphere even after they leave home. Messages bathed in respect and kindness speak life into our children and breathe air into our parent-child relationship. When we choose to be kind, relationships are naturally drawn together.

The traits of humility, confidence, empathy, and kindness can be fostered and grown in our kids when we demonstrate them ourselves, pray for those qualities in ourselves and in our kids, and give our kids the support they need to develop those traits.

Let’s remember we are holding our child’s heart and spirit in our hands. Let’s hold on firmly and tenderly so he or she can flourish to be the person God created him or her to be.

Even when we mess up, it isn’t too late—we can always adjust our approach by asking for forgiveness and beginning anew. 

 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.
It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking,
it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.
Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.
 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
 Love never fails.

1 Corinthians 13: 4-8

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