Bickering, Complaining, and Time Pressure – Part 1

Recently, I received a request for a Mom’s Corner. Since it asks questions that come up fairly frequently, I thought the e-mail would make a good Mom’s Corner introduction.

“I was just reading your latest Mom’s Corner and was wondering about you addressing something in the future. We are trying to raise five children, ages six years down to eight months, in the way God would want. I am having difficulty with bickering, bickering, and more bickering. The children complain about having to do chores and not getting enough play time because they have to do school. We are homeschooling. I try to explain that we help each other and should treat each other as we would have others treat us. Also of note . . . I feel my time is so divided, especially with twin eight-month-olds. I don’t feel like I have the time to do all the things that need to be done, such as when it comes to get the children to listen and be kind to each other. I know that this should be the priority, but it seems too hard.” Mom to Five

There are three key areas that were addressed in this e-mail that I believe any mom with more than one child will experience. The first has to do with how one deals with continual squabbling between siblings, especially young ones. The second question involves children who complain about having to work and do school. The final one is the mom’s issue rather than the children’s problem, but having children and homeschooling certainly compounds the struggle this mom is experiencing of time pressures.

The heart and root of the children’s difficulties can be nicely addressed during family Bible time. As the family is in the Word every day, Dad can draw the children’s attention to Scripture that applies to the problems at hand. In Steve’s Dad’s Corner this month, he is discussing this same e-mail and how Dad can be a part of the solution. He is giving dads ideas of how they can use family Bible time to help their children spiritually. It is important for Mom to be communicating with Dad the struggles she is seeing in the children’s lives because she is the one who is around the children the most, and she is aware of what is happening in the hearts of the children.

While I believe family Bible time is the starting place for attacking the heart issues that cause both bickering and complaining, we still need to know how to deal with it every time it happens in daily life. A key ingredient in this process is what we, as moms, do with our thoughts when we continually have to face sibling squabbles and a child’s complaining. We have two choices concerning our thoughts. Will we be filled with anger, self pity, and worry? Will we take our thoughts captive? “Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5).

One way to take our thoughts captive is to have correct expectations. Expect that raising children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord (Ephesians 6:4) is a long-term process. It is going to take time, consistency, perseverance, prayer, and just plain hard work. Don’t expect that you focus on the problem for a week and then have children who no longer are unkind to each other. Instead be grateful for each situation that arises and the opportunity it affords to pray for, disciple, and correct your children—all important aspects of raising them in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. When this is our mindset, it is easier to patiently respond to the situations that arise with the children throughout each day.

“Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us” (Hebrews 12:1). As mothers, bringing up our children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord is part of the spiritual race that is set before us. We must address the sin in our own lives, and then run that race with patience.

If we are regularly angry with the children over their wrong attitudes, then that is sin in our hearts that we must address. They are simply mirroring what they observe in us. “Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you” (Ephesians 4:31-32).

These verses not only tell us that anger is sin, but they also give us an antidote, which is particularly applicable to mothers, for that sin: kindness and tenderheartedness. When a mom is correcting her children for their bickering or complaining, if she will pull the child to her, hug the child, and put a few kisses on him before she begins to deal with the child’s problem, she will find her heart softening toward the child. It will help her not be angry with him and be able to gently admonish him, giving any necessary consequences without being harsh.

Are we crying out to the Lord Jesus for victory over the sin that we know is in our lives? We are dependent on the working of the Holy Spirit in our lives. “Therefore, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh. For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live” (Romans 8:12-13). It is through the Spirit that we take our thoughts captive and mortify the sin in our lives.

There is much more that I would like to share regarding the questions posed in the introductory e-mail of this article. The starting place is family time in the Word that takes Scripture and makes it applicable to the daily problems our children are facing. The next step involves Mom’s expectations of her children and her determination to see this project as a long-term one, which she tackles with perseverance and patience. She has to take her thoughts captive so that she isn’t dwelling on the negative. Then Mom wants to look into her own heart to evaluate whether there is sin in her life that might be contributing to the children’s sin. May we be women who use every difficulty we face to turn our faces to the One Who can help us, Jesus Christ.

A Father’s Role

This Dad’s Corner is to answer the dad’s side of a question posed to us in an e-mail with a request for a Mom’s Corner topic. Since the e-mail was written by a mom with concerns about her children’s behavior, Teri is responding in this month’s Mom’s Corner. However, the solution involves more than just Mom, so I wanted to address the father’s role in this process. In summary, the mom was writing and asking what to do about sibling rivalry and contention.

The beginning place is for Dad to be informed of the needs of the home. Is a husband’s line of communication clearly open with his wife? Does she talk to him about the problems she is seeing with the children? I’ve yet to meet a mom who wasn’t willing to share the difficulties she encountered with the children during the day when her husband is a willing listener, and that is the way it should be. We can’t effectively disciple our families if we don’t know what the issues are.

Sometimes we dads can make our wives feel that they are a burden when they discuss the contentions of the day with us. This might be done directly by our words, or it may be more subtly through a facial expression, lack of interest, or even tuning her out. Then a dad may feel things are under control during the day with the children because Mom isn’t bringing him problems, when in fact, there are issues, but Mom has learned that Dad isn’t interested. It would be a good thing to ask your wife if she feels that you desire to know about the problems of her day.

When we come home are we careful to take our working hat off and put on our fathering hat? I know there have been times when Teri has told me about the children’s behavior, and I responded that I wasn’t aware of it. Then to my surprise, she explains a couple of recent times where they did it while I was standing right near them, but I wasn’t tuned into what was happening.

Do we own the job of discipling the children whom God has given us? “And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4). Fathers are given the responsibility of properly discipling their children. A large part of the discipling process is going to involve being aware of behavior and attitude problems when we are around the children, in addition to the ones a wife will observe. It seems that most dads are more cognizant of a slight anomaly with their cars than they are of significant character issues with their children. Certainly our children, who will spend eternity in either heaven or hell, are far, far more important than a vehicle we will use for a short time and get rid of. May we own the responsibility God has given us.

Often, a great frustration for Mom is not knowing what consequences to give for the children’s offenses. It can be greatly appreciated if Dad will take the time to work with his wife and prayerfully come up with appropriate consequences for various generic misbehaviors. It can relieve a mom of the emotional pressure of not knowing what consequence to use if she has a list of punishments readily available to use as needed.

It would also be good for each dad to evaluate his behavior in the home. If we are angry or proud, we can expect that to be replicated in the lives of our children. We learn the behavior of those with whom we closely associate. “Make no friendship with an angry man; and with a furious man thou shalt not go: Lest thou learn his ways, and get a snare to thy soul” (Proverbs 22:24-25). Often Dad will resort to anger when dealing with problems, and if so, we should not surprised to see anger in the children’s lives.

Are we proud? This verse in Proverbs tells us that contention stems from a root of pride. “Only by pride cometh contention: but with the well advised is wisdom” (Proverbs 13:10). May we not neglect careful self-examination in our desire to raise our children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. Pride is an abomination to the Lord and something to be repented of.

God’s Word must be the standard for all behavior. “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works” (2 Timothy 3:16-17). A key place to address family issues like contention, pride, and anger is in the family’s daily Bible time.

Family Bible time is a wonderful time to discuss “issues” in a comfortable, non-confrontational setting. I’m amazed how the Lord will provide a verse that sheds light on wrong behavior that occurred during the day. Especially suited for these types of discussions are problems that were observed by Dad or others in the family and shared with Dad. It is the perfect setting to lay on all the children’s minds what God’s Word says by discussing root issues of the heart and resulting conduct without being in the midst of a problem. For more information on how to do family Bible time, see the audio, Feed My Sheep.

As the family is in the Word every day, Dad can draw the children’s attention to Scripture that applies to the problems at hand. Because of his own observations and communication with Mom, he will be very aware of what is happening in the hearts of his children. He can move the family to sections of the Word that he wants to discuss with them, or he can pull the personal applications from where they are reading as they work their way through the books of the Bible they were already planning to be reading.

Family Bible time provides an opportunity to look into the Word and make it very practical to real life—the struggles that are happening on a daily basis in a home. These discussions aren’t a consequence or a punishment nor do they occur during the intensity of the moment when the problem occurred. They are simply what happens when the family reads the Word together.

As we use the Word in this way, it does the work for which it was designed. “For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12). Discussions with the children at Bible time about heart issues are simply the natural outgrowth of time in the Word and a desire to apply it to our lives.

What wonderful opportunities our children’s problems bring to the family in letting us disciple those children through the Word. We can encourage them and be encouraged ourselves by these words, “And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me” (2 Corinthians 12:9). As we pray with and for our children, we can help them see their need to rely on the Lord Jesus Christ to help them act the way He wants them to act.

“Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us” (Hebrews 12:1). Bringing our children up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord is part of the spiritual race that is set before us. We must address the sin in our own lives, disciple our children on a daily basis, and run that race with patience.

Posted in: Dad's Corner