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When Your Child's Behavior Embarrasses You

Were you the mom who, pre-children, would see a child in the store throwing a temper tantrum and say to yourself "My child will NEVER do that???" I was. Little did I know that with five children, one of them was bound to throw their own tantrum in the store! It's a little embarrassing, isn't it? Or how about when you have older children who don't obey right away in public? What do you do when your child's behavior embarrasses you?

Today I am going to be very real with you. No hiding behind the perfect mom mask (and all the moms laugh!) or the highlight reel of social media. Authenticity in motherhood is so important! One of my favorite encouragers of motherhood, Heidi St. John, says this in her new book, Becoming MomStrong:

"Momstrong moms know that authentic living doesn't need a platform; it is the platform. Our children see the real mom. The only platform they're concerned about is the one we're raising them on—and it needs to be authentic. The real thing happens when we honor God's priorities. That's worth working for and worth protecting." 

Let me share some background information: I am the wife of a worship leader who has been blessed with an amazing opportunity to be on a trip to Israel for 10 days. Read that last part again. 10 whole days. We have five beautiful children who we homeschool, and when this request to join the church's group going to Israel came up the answer was an obvious "yes!" However, I wasn't really looking forward to being by myself with my five children for 10 days. I love them, but that's a long time as the only parent!

What do I do but call my parents! They live about three hours from us, and I am glad to report that I have been blessed to have them come and stay with me and my children while my husband is away. This leads us up to the current situation.

I like to think I have pretty good children and I hope you think that about your children too! It doesn't mean they are perfect by any means, but they aren't little terrors running around.... so I thought. Just this past Sunday, the day Greg left for Israel, we were really having a struggling of being obedient the very first time. The completing of a chore, the right way, the first time. OÍ. Here it was, day one, and I thought I might already go crazy.

Later in the evening, I was rearranging the girls' room a bit (all three of my girls share a room) so that I could sleep with them.  My parents were sleeping in my bed because we don't have a guest bedroom and I surely wasn't going to ask them to sleep on an air mattress the whole time they were here! I needed to move some things on the floor around and my daughter lost it. Lost it, y'all. This is not uncommon for her. She doesn't like change much, even when I had explained to her why I need to move some of her belongings.

Here my child is, crying uncontrollably in her bed because I moved a few of her belongings. It was not my proudest moment as a parent--it wasn't me worst, either-- but I told her that she is putting more value on her belongings than she is the people who she is living with. So we had that conversation, or rather, I talked and she, I hope, listened.

My children's behavior was embarrassing.

I came downstairs and shared my frustrations with my mom since this is a common theme. She reminded me to show some grace to her. I know that my children are having a hard time grasping what ten days without their dad looks like! It was definitely an emotionally charged day, and we all just needed a good night's rest.

So what are we left to do when our child's behavior is embarrassing us in public?

We have to go back to how they behave in private. Before my children were disobedient in public yesterday, they had been disobedient at home. And you know what?? I let it slide. My emotions were done for the day and I just wanted to take them where they would not argue, whine, and complain. Raise your hand if you know what I'm talking about!

I can't expect something from my children in public that I am not expecting from them in private.

As parents, don't we love to quote Ephesians 6:1-3 to our children? "Children obey your parents in the Lord for this is right. 'Honor your father and mother'- which is the first command with a promise- 'so that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.'" Tell me I'm not alone in reminding my children that "God says to obey your parents...."

Let's move on to verse 4 of the same chapter: "Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord." We all feel the holy ouch on that one. At least, I do!

Okay, let's tie this all together.

When was the last time you had to learn how to do something that went against the habit you already had? How long did it take you to train yourself to no longer, naturally, do what you did before? There's a reason we have this saying: Old habits die hard. Because it is hard to change our behavior, whether we are a child or an adult. Yet, it is clear in all of scripture that as parents, it is our responsibility to raise our children in the instruction of the Lord.

Mamas, this is going to take time. It is going to take selflessness. It is going to take a supernatural patience to tell our children the same thing for the umpteenth time and not lose it on them! The good news is, God has equipped us! He has given us the responsibility to parent our own children. No one can do this job for you. Motherhood and Fatherhood have been placed on you and your husband. This is not a responsibility we can hand off to another.

Other women can have a blog. There are other women who can run the children's ministry at church. Seas of women can keep house better than I can, and that's why there are housekeeping businesses! But no one, no one can be the mother I can be to my children. Even if I feel like I am failing. One bad day, week, month or even year doesn't make us  bad moms! I am the only one who can fulfil that calling. Y'all, motherhood is not for wimps. We have to put our sweat, blood, and tears into raising children who will follow hard after God and love Him with all their hearts, souls, minds, and strength!

And it starts in the home. We can't expect them to live out what we don't expect for them in the home. If we find that our child's public behavior is embarrassing us, we need to re-evaluate what we are letting slide in the home. We don't have to 'crack down' on them, but we do need to see where our own short-comings are as a parent when it comes to our training and discipline.

If you are in need of encouragement, I highly recommend the book I quoted at the beginning, Becoming MomStrong. Heidi brings us back to the Word of God in her book. Parenting books are great! I have read a lot and recommend a lot to my friends. But the Bible is the ultimate authority on parenting.

I hope this has encouraged you mama out there today!  You are not alone. The struggle is real. Let's come back to being present in our homes. Return to the Word of God. Let His words saturate your life. Serve your family from the overflow. You can't pour out of an empty cup. Fill yourself with God's love, grace, mercy, forgiveness, and word.

Gail Harris is a mama of 5 beautiful, energetic, sometimes crazy, children, ages 11-6. She been married to her jack-of-all-trades, worship leading husband Greg for 13 years! It's been an amazing journey and she truly wouldn't want to do life with anyone else. Gail is a homeschool mama- it isn't always easy, and somedays she wants to pull her hair out... but it's worth it! She is a certified Revelation Wellness® Instructor and licensed facilitator of The Wellness Revelation®. 

Gail is passionate about a whole lot of things: Jesus, coffee, homeschooling, Biblical marriage and womanhood, ministry, health and fitness...the list could keep on going! She hopes that you will find her to be real and authentic. In her free time, (and all the moms laugh!) she writes at