Emotions: How parenting can cause a heart change

Written by Kate Stevens
Published on December 31, 2021

I think one of the most annoying parts of parenting is when you are disciplining a kid, and you know that it’s something you are personally terrible at. Like you can hear yourself, and the most mature part of your being is saying you need this lesson more than your kid. 

For instance: 

  • In a very hasty voice, with angry eyebrows, you tell the 7 year old to have patience with the 5 year old
  • You tell the 10 year old no snacking before dinner
  • With that same hasty, impatient voice you loudly tell that middle child they cannot give full vent to their anger
  • How many times do I hear this from my mouth: You have to be able to hear the word “no”
  • This one goes out to all my children: “In your presence there is fullness of joy” and if Jesus is everywhere, then we are to always have joy—even when we don’t want to
  • You may have to say this one to just that one kiddo: Just because you want to say something doesn’t mean you should 
  • You tell all three of the girls, multiple times a day, that their feelings aren’t accurate; that they cannot be run by their emotions; that if you follow your feelings in life you surely won’t make it past the 6th grade; that emotions tell you what you value but they don’t tell you the truth; tell your emotions: Peace be still! . . . 

My sanctifying child

Oof—that’s been the most sanctifying part of having three daughters. The emotions. And I’m not strictly talking about tears here. I mean, there have been plenty of those. But if something is to be felt in the Stevens home then something is surely to be said about it. 

I say it’s been sanctifying because I have big feelings. Huge, in fact. I never knew this about myself until my middle daughter came into this world. She has been a little mirror into my soul.  

I discovered this when I found myself saying things to her that I wish were said to me at her age because of what those unchecked emotions have turned into as an adult. I was never as expressive as she is—I think I desired to please people too much at that age. But my Eliza—well, she don’t even care. 

Restlessness

I bring all this up because I’ve been struggling with not wanting to do anything lately.  Part of it has to do with getting over COVID—it had me in bed for 8 days. It’s funny what a short amount of time it takes to develop a new habit, like wanting to nap every single day and not ever put on real pants. 

But honestly, another part of it is just having a restless spirit. I recently left teaching after 14 years, and trying to find a new rhythm is something I’ve been dreading. I’ve always run off the school calendar and the bell schedule. My personal goals have generally been tied to learning outcomes. The majority of what I read and study is for lectures and student gain. 

It’s not that I feel like I’m losing my identity by not teaching—I’m grateful the Lord heard and answered my prayer for protection against that. It’s simply that I’m a bit aimless and therefore I don’t feel like doing anything. 

I’m not bored. But nothing is immediate like it once was. Maybe it’s that I don’t have any energy bouncing back from others. Who knows. . .

Discipline of simplicity

But—this is where I feel like the Lord wants me to use my parenting words on myself.  Peace be still (Mark 4:39). This is my “go to phrase” with Eliza, the middle one. She’s actually written it down and hung it over her bed. She asked if she could get it tattooed on her arm, and I told her absolutely.

All this overthinking about schedules, rhythms, productivity, desires fulfilled, apathy, FOMO, relevance, idleness, overtaxing . . . Just because my feelings look like aimless and even contradictory splotches on a canvas doesn’t mean that I have to operate that way.

This is when my current time in the Old Testament saves the day. “You shall walk after the LORD your God and fear him and keep his commandments and obey his voice, and you shall serve him and hold fast to him” (Deuteronomy 13:4 ESV).

Hmmm. That’s all. 

I mean, I know that is a steep list—but it’s the spiritual discipline of simplicity. And it quiets my emotions immediately. 

Fleeting emotions

It’s wild to me how that works. When Eliza and I are both in a tailspin of what ifs and I don’t like how this is going and snap, that makes me so angry—it’s usually because we aren’t walking after the Lord. Correction—it’s always because we aren’t walking after the Lord.

We’re trying to control, will, panic, self-serve, fight, and punk out. We have forgotten our list of walk, fear, keep, obey, serve, and hold fast. 

So right now I don’t feel like doing anything. And right now Eliza has a lot of joy—she’s even been actively practicing working around the house with a cheerful spirit. Are either of these emotions permanent? Definitely not. 

However, the Lord is always good and never capricious. I must keep feasting on his Word to be reminded to walk, fear, keep, obey, serve, and hold fast to my God. I must also keep parenting my girls, specifically Eliza, in the same way. 

I never ever ever thought I would be grateful for that dark-eyed, wild hair, gap-toothed girl’s emotions the way I am right now. 


Consider a few extra resources:

 

Practical Help for Parents Raising Teens

‘Meet them with Jesus’: Responding Biblically to Our Kids’ Problems

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Kate Stevens

Kate Stevens is a worshiper, wife, and mom. By vocation, she teaches high school students English, Bible, and debate, and has been doing so for fourteen years.  In addition, she serves as a freelance editor.  You can read more from her as she develops her newly published blog: “HEM-ology: Somewhere between zoology and theology.”

Read more about Kate

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