Show of hands…who does not find it natural, or easy, to be joyful? (I'm raising my hand). My resting face is contemplative, or so I've been told, so I often look mean even when I'm feeling fine. I recall in high school being asked if I was upset when I was just thinking. But in addition to the face, I get frustrated. Exasperated. Angry. I do all of these things frequently. The way I allow that frustration to overcome my face, my voice, and my patience levels definitely crosses into sinful territory.
So what's an average mama to do? I've come to the point where I've determined that I do NOT need to continue in my sin and my frustration. I do NOT need to subject my kids to my bad attitudes, and I do NOT need to feel overcome – and stuck – in my exasperation. What DO I need to do – and how can I motivate myself to do it?
I've had a few tips handed down to me by a few more experienced mamas out there, and I want to pass them on to you. I've seen some improvement so far, and I'm determined to keep working at it. Don't worry; it's nothing horrible or too hard, and it's totally worth the effort!
Tip #1: Get in the Word, mama! There are lots of Bible verses about being joyful, and lots of inspiration to be found. Here are some of my favorites:
Proverbs 17:22 – “A merry heart doeth good like a medicine: but a broken spirit drieth the bones.”
Proverbs 15:13 – “A merry heart maketh a cheerful countenance: but by sorrow of the heart the spirit is broken..”
Psalm 97:11-12 – “Light is sown for the righteous, and gladness for the upright in heart. Rejoice in the Lord, ye righteous; and give thanks at the remembrance of his holiness.”
Psalm 118:24 – “This is the day which the Lord hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.”
Tip #2: Check the attitude! I have an 11-year-old, and sometimes I see a look on her face, or hear a response that is NOT OK, and I can directly trace it back to something she has seen ME doing or heard me saying. Ouch. I have to examine my words, face, and actions on a regular basis to make sure that I am not filling my kids with a well of inspiration for bad attitudes.
Tip #3: Find the roots of your frustration, and work on yanking them out. Are you upset when your kids disobey? Maybe it's time to be more consistent with discipline. Do messes make you angry? Maybe it's time for a new housecleaning routine. Do your days feel out of control and crazy? Maybe you need to makeover your morning routine (check out this awesome e-course from Money Saving Mom on starting your days the right way).
Tip #4: Try for some alone time. Everyone needs time to refresh. If you feel like you are at the end of your rope, ready to snap, get some quiet time. Go into the next room and take a breather. Call a babysitter. Ask your husband to watch the kids while you get a cup of coffee. Refresh when you need it, and your family can enjoy the benefits of a relaxed mama.
Tip #5: Set the tone in your home. You know that saying, “When Mom's not happy, nobody's happy”? It's very, very true. Although I hate the connotations of that statement, implying that everyone should be nice and make mom happy OR ELSE, if you consider the fact that we set the tone in our homes, it's something to take very seriously. Because if I am grouchy and unhappy, so is the rest of my family. When I am joyful and cheerful, not only does it rub off on the rest of my family, but they want to be around me. We have much more pleasant days and time together when I am joyful.
To set the tone in my home for a calmer, sweeter mom and family, I play worship music. Or play a silly game. Or have an impromptu dance party with the kids. Sometimes we all need a laugh break. Or a knock-knock joke break. Whatever you choose, I've found that focusing on God, then enjoying a good laugh, can up the joyfulness in my home by quite a bit.
Tip #6: Use the mirror trick. I've been a long-time member of a local Bible study, and we've joked about the horror of this one quite a bit. I don't remember who mentioned it first, but someone stated that if we were to look in the mirror while we were in the middle of yelling at our kids, we would look hideous. The suggestion was to look in the mirror the next time we were upset with our kids our spouses.
So I tried it – the next time I felt like I was snarling at the kids, frustrated and angry, I ran into the bathroom. Literally, in the middle of a sentence, I took my angry self into the bathroom to see what I looked like. I'm not going to lie, people, it was gross. It was disturbing. And it was seriously unattractive. If you want motivation to choose joy, and to be sweet – try the mirror trick. If your angry face is as disturbing as mine, I can pretty much guarantee at least a small amount of motivation to never, ever look like that again.
Tip #7: Repent to your kids. This one hurts, and I've had to do it more than once, but in retrospect I'm thankful for each time I've apologized to my kids for choosing anything other than joy. I want THEM to be cheerful parents when they grow up, not grouchy, angry ones. And since I'm leading by example, if I choose to be grouchy or let my exasperation get the better of me, I'm teaching them to do the same. When I get angry, or have a bad attitude, the best thing for my relationship with my kids is to repent of it. Telling them I'm sorry is not only the right thing to do, but it gives me a refreshed perspective and gives them the opportunity to practice forgiveness.
Don't beat yourself up, moms. Seriously. But be motivated to choose joy, and to work hard at being happy. It's worth it. I'm working at it every day, so please pray for me if you think of it! I'll be praying for you, too, moms! Have you found anything to help you deal with frustration? How do you make your home a joyful one?