How to Manage a Nasty Mom Fail
They always happen in the morning, just minutes before we’re due to leave for school. Something trips my mom-beast alarm, I bark (and growl and snap and bare my teeth), and a beautiful young person melts in a puddle of tears just when she’s supposed to be zipping her backpack and putting on her shoes.
Then I collapse into a puddle of my own variety—regret.
Ugh. Mom fails. We’ve all had them. And we’ll inevitably have them again, maybe tomorrow, or today. These shameful grown-up tantrums, sparked by any number of catalysts—disobedience, dawdling, our own touchy exhaustion, you name it—are sadly common among the mother set. But that doesn’t make them any easier to bear.
How is an otherwise sane and loving woman supposed to handle the aftermath of her weakest, ugliest moments? I don’t know all the answers. If I did, I wouldn’t need a clean-up plan in the first place. But from experience I can tell you there are wiser ways to approach our mistakes than others.
Through trial and error—and a lot of time spent with God—I’ve discovered some hard-fought advice on how to manage those wretched mom fails. I hope they will bless you and your victims alike.
1. Humble yourself—before the Lord and your children. Ask God to reveal your part in the mess, then own it, and back down. I call this the deflating moment. When I get all puffed up with anger and pride, and steam blows out my nose and nasty words spew out my mouth, I’m as jacked up as a rocket off a launch pad. There comes a moment when we must release the anger and free fall back into God’s waiting arms. Exhale. Crumple like a landed parachute and welcome your kids back into your safe space.
2. Acknowledge your mistake—and by this I mean talk about it. Tell your kids you messed up and you know it. Be vulnerable. If your kids are old enough to understand, explain to them how your own issues got in the way of you responding well. This doesn’t dilute your authority; it reveals your dependence on Jesus, which is one of the best lessons we can teach our kids by example. If you skip this step, the conflict can remain hanging in the air, hovering over your kids like a drone ready to capture their every mistake. Don’t let them live in fear. It’s up to us to shoot it down.
3. Ask forgiveness—and be amazed at how easily they give it. My kids often show me the untainted love of Christ in ways nothing else can, simply by how willing they are to forgive and move on. Yes, I may wish I hadn’t blown up in the first place, but heartfelt apologies can redeem the situation by showing our children how much we, too, depend on God’s grace—and then giving them a chance to share it.
4. Hold your child responsible—for her part in the blow-up. Mom fails are usually sparked by a child’s behavior or decision. Just because we didn’t handle it well doesn’t necessarily mean the problem isn’t still a problem. Usually my temper flares when my daughter behaves irresponsibly or refuses to do what she’s told. After I establish that I didn’t react well and ask for forgiveness, we talk through what she might have done differently, too. Not in a way that suggests she was to blame for my behavior, but as a calm and intentional mom who’s more interested in guiding than condemning. (Which is what I should’ve done in the first place.)
5. Brainstorm solutions together—Empower your child to help prevent these nasty blow-ups in the future by inviting him to be part of the solution. Ask, how can I help you (get ready for school on time, remember to finish your homework, say no to drugs—whatever the case may be)? Re-establish your relationship as a team. You’re on the same side.
6. And finally, remind your kids they are loved—unconditionally. Your love for them is not dependent on their behavior. Your acceptance does not hinge on their decisions. As moms, we’re called to love our kids as Jesus loves—especially when they’re naughty.
“While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).
I wish I could guarantee I’ll never need to use these six tips again myself, but I know I will. It’s part of being human in a fallen, selfish world. But thankfully the same promise Jesus gives our kids, He also gives to us. Grace, mercy and forgiveness—the pillars of His love.
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