Monday, January 28, 2019

The problem with discipline

In my last blog post I talked about how having children taught me discipline and I explained some of the things I do to manage my household. I am now going to talk about the other side of the coin: how I rage against the need of discipline, and how my own selfish nature throws darts in the cogs of my well-ordered life.

Raising a family and being a mother is a lot of work. I love it 85 percent of the time but the other 15 percent leaves me curled up in my armchair throwing a pity party. I vacillate from anger over our tight finances, anxiety about our cluttered house, my lack of free time and the never ending laundry rotation. I want a break. I deserve a break, I tell myself. Because sometimes after working hard to feed, teach, clothe and love my children, I am emotionally and mentally worn out. And I have to feed, teach, clothe and love my children every day. Parenting is 24/hrs around the clock.

As a mother, I often get stuck in this self-defeating negative cycle. I am worn out, so I crab at my kids. My kids act up because I am crabby causing me to loose my temper and yell at them. Then after I apologize and calm down, I need a break. Trying to find a break takes all day only for me to be too worn out to cook supper, leaving me frustrated and angry. Husband comes home to a frazzled mess of a house with no food to greet him and a snappy, anxious wife who desperately wants him to hold a baby so she can escape. I will also mention that the above cycle makes me feel like a bad mom, causing guilt and anger to simmer in my soul. Why can't I manage everything like everyone else? Why is this such a struggle?

During this time I just want my husband to take both kids (no matter how tired he may be) while I go check out at a coffee shop and relax on the internet. Or knit. Or crochet. All my discipline goes right out the window and I throw what I like to call an “adult tantrum”. I want to be left alone. I want to do something for myself. My kids bother me and I am easily annoyed and angry over every small thing. Instead of thinking of all the things my husband does for us, I start obsessing over everything he does not do. I'm not a pretty person when I am stuck in that negative mindset, nor am I easy to be around.

After several rotations through the above cycle I finally (with the help of my counselor) began to recognize the lies I get caught up in. And while I still get stuck in my pity party mode, I now am working on breaking the cycle and escaping my negative thinking and attempting to generate more positive reactions to the things I can't control. My counselor is helping me identify the cognitive distortions I am allowing to control my life.

For one, I am participating in all or nothing thinking. I am seeing things as black and white (I'm a bad mom because I didn't make dinner/ yelled at my kids). I am allowing that tiny fact to color my perception of myself. I'm no longer a struggling sinner, saved by grace. With my black and white thinking I am a total failure for not making dinner. This is a huge overgeneralizaion. I am allowing this single negative event to cast me into the depths of a guilty pity-party. My mental filter is skewed as I obsess over a single detail and dwell on it exclusively, like one moment eclipses all others in a day.

Motherhood is not the sum of one moment. Yes, I yell at my kids sometimes when I get frustrated. Yes, sometimes I am too tired to make dinner. But I need to stop jumping to conclusions when things go different than I imagined! I should not allow the fact that I lost my temper to discolor my entire reality and destroy my entire day.

If I am honest with you and with myself, though: sometimes a small thing that goes wrong does destroy my entire day, or days.

Where is God when this happens? Right where he as always been. It is me who has moved away from my biblical foundations and forgotten his promises. It's me who is is trying to manage my own life without anchoring myself in the word and surrendering my purpose to his glory.

I am forgetting that everything comes to me by the loving hand of the father. God is with me. Many are the afflictions of the righteous (Psalm 34). Trials show us how to live by faith. And faith conquers kingdoms ( Hebrews 11:32). Don't forget, dear mother, that the Lord disciplines the ones he loves as a father disciplines as son (Hebrews 12:3).

Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer (Romans 12:12). Don't let one moment destroy the future or one tragedy blot out all the light.